2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i review: The answer, question or not

2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i

2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i in Marrakesh Brown Metallic

The easy thing to say about the BMW X6 is that it’s an answer to a question that hadn’t been asked. After all, who asked for a sports coupe on stilts?

Of course, no one asked for the steam locomotive, the airplane or the microchip, either.

And while the BMW X6 is not the agent of societal change that those three inventions were, just because no one asked for it is no reason it should not exist.

On the other hand, now that it’s here, it’s fair to ask what purpose the BMW X6 serves?  Because compared to the BMW X5, which shares most componentry with the X6, there are things the X6 simply doesn’t do as well.

2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i wit dark wood and Sand Perforated Nevada Leather

2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i wit dark wood and Sand Perforated Nevada Leather (click to enlarge)

Underneath it all, the two are mechanically similar, with the same engine choices and suspension. The X6 is largely a rebodied X5. The BMW X5, however, has a traditional SUV profile—though BMW, never a slave to conventionality (or to build anything as plebian as a sport-utility vehicle) calls the X5 a “sport activity vehicle”, or SAV. The X6, however, was dubbed a Sport Activity Coupe, a description sufficiently novel that BMW felt compelled to trademark it, lest any other car company wish to duplicate it.

The coupe part of the designation is obvious. It looks like one, although it has four doors. Rather that the squarish roofline of the X5, the BMW X6 has a steeply raked windshield, a low greenhouse  that peaks over the B-pillar and continues to the rear of the vehicle in what was once called a fastback roofline.

The sloping roof cuts about two inches from the rear seat headroom, though a six-foot-two passenger rode in back of our test X6 with no complaints. Getting in and out, however, is another matter, and that includes front and back seats. The steep slope of the A-pillar and the C-pillar, which requires ducking to get in or out,  is a feat that’s complicated by a running board of sorts (a $300 option!) that must be stepped over because it’s too small to be stepped on. The best way to get in and out gracefully? Be a Chinese acrobat.

2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i engine

The 2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i engine is a rare configuration, an inline six with a twin-inlet turbocharger. (click to enlarge)

Once in, however, the 2013 BMW X6 is comfy like a $60k BMW should be. Our test 2013 BMW X6 xDrive35i was equipped with the Luxury Seating Package, a $1,700 bundle of bun pleasing goodness. The active ventilated (for the driver only) has nine axial flow fans integrated into foam padding inside the seat, four in the backrest and five in the seat bottom. The fans draw in cabin air and blow it through perforations in the leather seat covers, cooling the seat in hot weather and, as BMW notes, keeping you fresh and unrumpled on the longest of drives. If being unrumpled is worth the price of a Volkswagen ( at 1960’s prices), there’s your option.

The interior design will be no surprise to anyone who knows BMW, with a lot of horizontal lines and such, and on our test X6, dark wood as a no-cost trim choice. The navigation system is part of a $3,300 Premium Package that also includes a rearview camera with “Top View,” an all-around camera system that lets the driver see what’s alongside the vehicle and out of view from the driver’s seat, a definite safety plus in a tall-sided vehicle.

The nav system, which includes real-time traffic information, shares a wide multi-function display with the usual range of features, and although BMW has pulled some functions out of iDrive, it’s still a complex system that we didn’t learn in a week. Even changing radio stations— and presets at—was a challenge, with a lot of side movements and twisting of the control knob. We want to like iDrive, and no doubt once learned, it’s acceptable. But it’s a very steep learning curve.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.