The X6 represents an odd entrant into the crossover market from BMW--and a pretty unnecessary one, what with the already crossover-like X3 and X5 in the model line-up. But it may appeal to a few who appreciate the unique styling. The tech under the hood and in the cabin is all pure BMW.
The grille, hood, and headlights give the X6 the look of a BMW sedan, but it falls apart with the strange gap between hood and bumper, which gets filled in with a diamond grating. The tall front fascia has a more SUV look, with fog light-embedded side ports.
The xDrive35i version uses BMW's excellent 300 horsepower twin-turbo 3-liter in-line six cylinder engine, although it doesn't give dramatic performance in the near-5,000 pound car. Another version of the X6, the xDrive50i, comes with a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, which should be more impressive.
The profile is where the unique look of the X6 really sets in. The steep rear slope inspired BMW marketing to call this car a coupe. That roofline makes the rear seat poor territory for people over 6 feet tall.
The term xDrive in the car's name refers to the all-wheel drive system, designed to give the car better handling in slippery conditions. We were impressed by the car's ability to take hard corners, where it showed virtually no lean. The traction control let the rear wheels come out a little, but not to the point of control loss.
The sloping roofline also hampers rearview visibility: the driver only gets a narrow slit to look at through the rearview mirror. Fortunately, the car can be had with a rearview camera and a sonar parking system.
The dashboard design looks like most other BMW models. The car's glove box is nicely hidden by pieces that fit together well and look just like trim. When you push a button on the center stack, the the trim opens clam shell-style to reveal the glove box, where the six disc changer is mounted.
BMW keeps the steering wheel controls to a minimum, with audio volume, phone, and voice command on the left spoke. The right spoke includes two buttons that can be programmed to do various tasks, such as change the audio source.
This organically styled shifter has become a standard in BMW models. To use it, you push a button on the side then push it forward for reverse and pull it back for drive. In drive, you can pull it to the side for sport and manual-shift modes. In sport, this transmission does an excellent job of aggressively downshifting before corners.
The navigation system includes traffic information. On this map, you can see traffic flow indicated by a series of arrows. These arrows indicate traffic is moving slowly--between 20 and 40 mph. If the arrows were spaced more tightly together, it would mean the traffic is moving very slowly or is stopped.
iPod integration became our preferred music source as we tested the X6. The interface lets you browse by album, artist, or genre. But we did find the system lagged a little each time it tried to get information from the iPod's library.
Bluetooth cell phone integration remains one of the high points in BMW cabin electronics. After we paired a phone, the system imported the cell phone's contact list. This makes placing calls while on the road easier and safer.