Some cars have straightforward advantages: pickups give you towing capacity, hatchbacks are practical, and sports cars give performance. Then there are cars like the 2018 BMW X6. Is it a crossover? Not quite, it’s a little too big. Is it an SUV? Technically, yes, but the roofline will have you thinking otherwise. Is it a sports car? It’s certainly fast, but it’s not one of those either. It’s hard to categorize, and it’s a polarizing design. The X6 has some winning features, and in today’s world of all-in-one promises, why not have an SUV that looks like a coupe? All the same, the elements of the X6 are disparate enough that they bring substantial compromises. The right buyer might love it, but for more straightforward value…well, we’d look somewhere else.

Best Value

The X6 can dial its performance up to the absurd with the X6 M, but it’s too big and pricy to be lovable as a pure performance car. For value, stick to the base engine – 300 horsepower is still enough to do zero to 60 mph in six seconds, which is quicker than most SUVs on the road. Plus, most of the important options and packages are available from the get-go.

Of these, we would select all-wheel drive and the Premium Tier for niceties like keyless entry and four-zone automatic climate control, then add the first of BMW’s two safety packages. The latter adds a host of useful safety features, all of which can pop up in a head-up display. And don’t worry, the X6 doesn’t skimp on the luxury: standard features include vehicle setting memory, parking assistance, dynamic headlights, and all-leather, power-adjustable heated seats.

So equipped, our BMW X6 still slides in at just under $70,000:

  • Model: 2018 BMW X6 xDrive35i
  • Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder
  • Output: 300 hp / 300 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 18 City / 24 Hwy
  • Options: Premium Tier ($1,150, keyless entry, four-zone automatic climate control, XM satellite radio), Driving Assistance Package ($1,700, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, speed limit information, head-up display)
  • Base Price: $66,245 (including a $995 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price: $69,095

Performance

BMW X6

Although the base engine is competent, the X6 has plenty of accommodation for speed demons. The xDrive50i carries a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 pumping out 445 hp, and it’s excellent in combination with the X6’s quick eight-speed automatic. If that’s somehow not enough, the X6 M tunes the same engine up to 553 hp, which is enough to bring the zero-to-60 time under four seconds. For how big it is, the X6 controls its bulk well, and body roll is minimal.

But in spite of a firm suspension, the X6 never quite manages to become fun in the corners. The steering wheel doesn’t deliver much feedback from the tires, which means that it’s accurate but not engaging. Fuel economy ranges from mildly thirsty to downright greedy, with the X6 M managing only 16 miles per gallon combined. You probably aren’t buying this car for its efficiency, but still – the X5 offers most of the performance at a lower price, and with the additional options of diesel or electric.

Style

Styling is where the X6 separates itself from the herd. Like it or hate it, it gets people talking – which is part of the point, right? The X6 has the foundation of a crossover and the swooping roofline of a coupe. The design is more refined than previous generations, and it’s sleek and clean when viewed from the right angle. From other angles, the X6 struggles to hide its bulk. We appreciate a daring look, and being distinctive is part of this car’s allure. The interior is classy, the features are plentiful, and customizability is easy.

While that profile draws the eye, it does cut into attributes that would usually be the strengths of an SUV. The rear seat is harder to enter or exit, and head room suffers. So does cargo space: the X6 has about nine cubic feet fewer than an X5, and the shape of the roof means that carrying tall objects is a no-go. The front seats are very pleasant places to sit, but the rest of the vehicle is about form more than function.

The Best and Worst Things

Distinctive looks and the V8 engines are alluring, but only if you’re okay with an SUV that doesn’t carry cargo (or passengers) particularly well.

Right For? Wrong For?

BMW X6

The X6 is a statement car. Tired of getting shown up by all those fancy SUVs and sleek coupes? Now you can one-up them all by having both at the same time. An X6 is like a peacock’s tail: it’s about having enough resources that you don’t need utility. It’s about turning heads.

For those who need a car to pull family duty (or just want to be able to fit a big-screen TV in the car), better options exist. They begin with the X5, but alternatives range from cheaper luxury crossovers to more utilitarian full-size SUVs. Driving enthusiasts are also better off elsewhere – the X6 is fast, but that’s not the same as fun.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 BMW X6 is sleeker and faster than ever, and it remains one of a few truly recognizable options in the increasingly uniform landscape of SUVs. But it’s a hard purchase to justify, partially because of the expense, but mostly because it doesn’t excel at anything in particular. Buyers who like a status symbol will enjoy the curb appeal, but for the rest, the compromises may be too great.