2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid Review

BMW’s new hybrid X6 model is both awesome and irrelevant

2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid Review
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BMW’s new X6 ActiveHybrid is easily the most offensive-to-Greenpeace use of the gasoline-electric technology to date. But it might also be the fastest, most knuckle-dragging, testosterone-pumping hybrid ever made. In short, it’s an idiotic waste and… it’s a lot of fun.

FAST FACTS

1. Fuel economy is rated at 17/19-mpg (city/hwy), which averages out to about the same as the six-cylinder xDrive35i model at 15/21-mpg.

2. With an additional 400 lbs to lug around, the 480-hp and 575 ft-lb X6 hybrid is actually slower to 60 mph than the less powerful xDrive50i model at 5.4 vs. 5.2 seconds.

3. Pricing starts at $88,900 – just $100 less than the X6 M.

The look of BMW’s X6 has grown on us considerably since the vehicle first launched and so we’ve over harping about the strange look and less-than-ideal rearward visibility. Still, shoppers shouldn’t settle for less, especially at this price range.

With its design drawbacks, we still love how unique this vehicle is. About the only thing we’d change on the outside of the X6 are the aerodynamically designed wheels. They’re unpleasant to look at on their own, and certainly don’t compliment the overall style of the vehicle. They are, however, about the only thing that separates the hybrid version from its traditionally motivated siblings; other than the small badges of course. (The ostentatiously offensive hybrid decals on our test car are, thankfully, neither standard nor optional).

The lack of an original design for the hybrid model speaks to BMW’s hopes for the vehicle and just how few of them they intend to sell – hinting that it’s not even worth the designers’ time.

A HYBRID THAT WILL HAUL ASS AND HIT APEXES

Fitted with 255 tires front and rear, those 19-inch light weight wheels do make for an excellent partner in helping the almost 5,700 lb SUV turn corners with finesse. BMW must employ the automotive engineering equivalent to alchemists, because this tremendously heavy SUV dances around like an anorexic ballerina.

But make no mistake, what’s under the hood of the X6 hybrid will put its apex clipping driving dynamics to shame, with 480-hp and 575 ft-lbs of carbon dioxide-emitting fun. In fact, it’s so powerful that the X6 ActiveHybrid, (which we’ve already mentioned weights as much as a dozen Land Rovers), can hit 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. And it doesn’t stop there, with the electric motor and twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 combining to deliver a tremendous whoosh of seamless power far, far beyond the legal limit.

But wait? Isn’t this a hybrid and shouldn’t we be talking about fuel economy, mpgs, and how many miles to a tank it gets?

If we have to.

IMPROVED FUEL ECONOMY IS IRRELEVANT

The official ratings for the hybrid X6 are 17-mpg city and 19-mpg highway, both of which are unimpressive. The average between them is roughly the same as the 15/21-mpg 6-cyliner xDrive35i model, which speaks more to an overall lack of efficiency for the X6, than to the hybrid model’s green-ness.

Besides, with a new 8-speed transmission for 2011 we’re sure to see an improvement for the xDrive35i model. And at 6.3 seconds to 60 mph and a price of $56,500 it’s hard to see why you’d opt for the $88,900 hybrid.

Now the X6 hybrid does deliver a noticeable fuel economy improvement over the standard 400-hp xDrive50i model’s 13/18-mpg rating, although again at a huge premium, the standard V8 model priced at $67,200. And while it is positioned above the xDrive50i and boasts plenty more power, acceleration is actually a tenth of a second slower due to the added 400 lbs of electric weight.

For comparison’s sake the better more accurate rival in the BMW lineup is the X6 M, with the closest power and price. That model delivers 555-hp and 501 ft-lbs of torque and costs… wait for it… just $100 more. It also makes even the 5.4 second blast to 60 mph look tame with a 4.5 second time. It will not, however, win you favor with the Prius crowd, with dreadful fuel economy in our tests that dipped into the single digit range.

After our week long stint behind the wheel and a solid 1,000 miles on the odometer we are pleased to report our average fuel economy totaled just over 20-mpg – better than the BMW estimates. This surprised us as regardless of the fact that those estimates usually don’t live up to real-word testing, we found it tremendously difficult to drive the car in pure electric mode, the SUV’s weight proving too hefty on all but flat roads where we had plenty of time to get up to speed.

NO DENYING THE TRUE LUXURY INTERIOR

All those miles also gave us an excellent chance to evaluate the rest of the car. For starters, the interior is stunning with our tester showcasing the Ivory White leather on as many surfaces as possible. We’ve seen this look on several new BMWs and it seems as though the execs back in Munch have finally gotten the message and are building genuine luxury interiors – at least on their pricier models.

As for the every day driving experience, the SUV just floats out on the highway and makes for an ideal companion on longer road trips. In fact, when another vehicle launch was held within a few hundred miles of the office, we opted to drive rather than fly.  Over the period we did, however, notice that BMW’s cruise control stick is located in a particularly awkward position.

As for the rest of the vehicle, everything was easy to use and there’s adequate (although hardly plentiful) space in the rear. We mention this because the sloping rear roofline makes it look like there’s no room for a full-sized adult in back – something we complained bitterly about with the Acura ZDX.

One major gripe is the braking system. BMW has a penchant for overly aggressive regenerative braking setups and the X6 might just be the worst. We actually don’t mind how grippy it is, that is, until just before you come to a stop. At low speed it grabs hard and as the wheels stop moving the chassis bounces back and forth on the suspension for a moment like the earth has turned to a wobbly Jell-o mold.

THE VERDICT

We thoroughly enjoyed BMW’s X6 ActiveHybrid, from the luxury appointments, to its unique style, to its tremendous power and incredible driving dynamics. However, it is also a terrible waste of technology, money and even fuel. Besides, with a new 8-speed automatic transmission for the 2011 model year xDrive35i and xDrive50i that is certain to deliver improved fuel economy, the X6 ActiveHybrid is about to be even more obsolete than it already is.

LOVE IT

  • Beautiful and luxurious interior
  • Loads of power
  • Incredible handling for such a large, tall and heavy machine

LEAVE IT

  • Not all that efficient
  • Incredibly expensive
  • An extra $100 will get you an X6 M
  • Brakes grab hard at a stop, leaving the car to bob on its suspension

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