BMW X6 ActiveHybrid

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With many cars available as a hybrid, the question is whether or not to go for the hybrid powertrain. In the case of the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, that’s not the question.

The hybrid system—which adds two electric motors to the X6 xDrive50i’s 4.4-liter, 400-hp twin-turbo V-8—operates seamlessly, with no shudder during engine start-up or shut down. The car can roll along in electric mode at low speeds (up to 37 mph, BMW says). Despite a total of 480 hp (80 hp more than the non-hybrid V-8 version), the X6 hybrid doesn’t feel like a machine capable of BMW’s claimed 5.4-second 0-to-60 mph time; I did, however, get an indicated 18.5 mpg in a week of mixed driving, which seems pretty good for a vehicle that weighs more than two-and-a-half tons. (EPA ratings are 17/19 mpg, versus 13/18 for the standard V-8.) The regenerative brakes make for a strangely springy pedal, which takes some getting used to. The hybrid stickers for some twenty grand more than the xDrive50i, but the hybrid comes standard with thousands of dollars of additional equipment that costs extra on the V-8 car.

Still, with the X6 ActiveHybrid, the question isn’t, “Why the hybrid?” It’s really “Why the X6?”

The styling is strange at best. Rear visibility is predictably awful; the rear-view camera is a necessity. The power-operating hatch opens of reveal a fairly large trunk, but liftover is very high. Getting in and out is awkward for people too. In front, one has to step over the too-wide (and totally unnecessary) running board; in back, you have to duck under the sloping roofline and squirm around the invasive wheel wells. A low rear seat cushion allows just enough head clearance for a six-footer but it compromises legroom, and the X6 is strictly a 4-seater. It’s not all bad inside, though: The two-tone ivory-and-black color scheme in my example is impressively rich looking. Padded surfaces upholstered in smooth Nappa leather are everywhere. And this latest iteration of iDrive is actually easy to use.

This heavy, high-riding machine requires a very stiff suspension to enable the X6 to corner like a BMW—which it does—rather than like a drunken linebacker. The price is a sharp twack! over every bump, made worse by the fact that the ultra-low-profile, twenty-inch tires do nothing to dampen impacts.

A sporty SUV would seem to be a contradiction, but BMW actually does it quite well with the X5. But a sporty SUV coupe, it seems, is too at odds with itself for even BMW to pull off.

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