2018 BMW X6 xDrive35i
Introduced for the 2008 model year, the BMW X6 amalgamated the X5 sport-utility with what BMW characterized as four-door-coupe fastback styling. That was 10 years and one 2015 redesign ago, a period during which we’ve failed to warm to the species even as it spawned imitators and rivals.
Action on the dealership floor says most BMW buyers prefer the more traditional look and greater utility of the X5. Of combined X5/X6 sales in the United States last year (including the high-performance M versions), the X6 accounted for about 12 percent of the total. That has pretty much been the story for the past decade—an incremental addition to the bottom line stemming from an exterior design tweak applied to an existing platform. That said, the X6 does sell quite well in overseas markets, adding plenty of volume and keeping the line solvent.
But it is action on the road rather than in showrooms that matters most to us. We last tested an xDrive35i version like this example back in 2015, stating that “there’s a BMW under there,” with regard to the mechanical specification, which remains unchanged for 2018. It gets 300 horsepower from a wonderfully smooth and torque-rich turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. That engine sends 300 lb-ft of torque through a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system (the only less expensive X6 is the rear-wheel-drive sDrive35i).
It Still Scoots
Our 2015 example was a wink or two quicker across the board, but even this test car’s 5.8-second dash to 60 mph and quarter-mile run in 14.4 seconds at 96 mph can’t be called slow for a tall, heavy, SUV-like thing weighing 4704 pounds (14 pounds lighter than the earlier example). The X6 has that element of a fun-to-drive vehicle pretty well covered—tramp on the throttle and something gratifying happens.
As in many other BMWs, the eight-speed automatic enhances the driving experience. Shifts are smooth and swift when left to itself, and the transmission answers with even more vigor in manual mode. As automatics go, this ZF-sourced unit is among the best. Sure, we prefer manual transmissions, but you’ll never see them in vehicles like this one. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA estimates 18 mpg city and 24 highway for the xDrive35i; we averaged 21 mpg, the same as in 2015, or 1 mpg better than the EPA combined estimate of 20. Similarly, in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test the 2018 X6 achieved 25 mpg.
Our dynamic assessment is where things get a little blurry. For example, the X6’s braking performance is strong and fade free, with excellent pedal modulation. But a 172-foot stopping distance from 70 mph is merely so-so.
Handling, too, finds form dominating over function. Grip from a set of Pirelli Scorpion All Season Run Flats (size 255/50R-19) was modest on the skidpad at 0.84 g—not the figure of an ultimate driving machine—but the X6 can be herded around fast corners at surprisingly high speeds and with increasing confidence, although it sometimes feels ponderous.
The X6 carries its weight SUV-high, and there’s significant body motion in quick maneuvers; recovery in rapid left-right-left series could be called leisurely. Engaging the Sport driving mode makes a tangible improvement here, but the impression persists.
Ride quality on pavement is pleasant—surprisingly so considering the run-flat tires, the damping smoothing off the road’s hard edges even in Sport mode. However, it’s not so pleasant on washboard sections of dirt road, where the damping can’t quite keep pace with the suspension oscillations.
Steering is another gray area. Effort is there, but tactile information is muffled and a little vague.
Limited Lateral Support
Similarly, the interior of the X6 isn’t what one might associate with a four-door GT. This applies in particular to the front seats, which have a relaxed fit. They’re all-day comfortable, widely adjustable, and beautifully upholstered in high-grade hides but only modestly bolstered and not noteworthy for lateral support when the g-loads start coming at odd angles.
The interior is generally roomy, although rear-seat headroom is compromised by the slope of the roof, something that’s also true of cargo space. The center rear seat is not fit for adults.
And as in our 2015 report, many find BMW’s now-ubiquitous electronic shift lever nothing if not annoying, especially in ordinary daily driving, although that complaint is mitigated by the paddle shifters if you get your dander up.