First Drive: 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

Follow John

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, Bal Harbour, Florida

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, Bal Harbour, Florida

Enlarge Photo

"Our goal was to fundamentally change the view of hybrids," said Peter Tünnermann, project manager for the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6. "We wanted to make a 'non-hybrid' hybrid."

In other words, a hybrid that didn't drive like a hybrid. And in that goal, BMW has succeeded admirably.

Drivers at the international launch of BMW's first hybrid-electric vehicle agreed that if the badges and instruments had been removed, they would have been hard-pressed to know that this latest X6 had electric motors and all sorts of software wizardry between its engine and the wheels.

Their only clue, in fact, would have been the fuel economy. No other X6 even comes close to achieving 20 miles per gallon in mixed use.

Engine and transmission

BMW's clear goal was "to build the BMW of hybrids," as Tünnermann said. There could be no compromise in power, performance, or driving experience.

The result turned out to be the most world's most powerful hybrid car. It has overall power of 485 horsepower and 575 foot-pounds of torque, from a combination of a 407-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine and two electric motors of 67 and 63 kilowatts (91 and 86 hp).

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 engine

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 engine

Enlarge Photo

That's the same engine used in the X6 xDrive 50i, minus belt-driven air-conditioning compressor and power steering pump, now both electrically operated so they work when the car runs on electricity alone. The engine's only remaining belt, in fact, operates the water pump.

The hybrid system uses similar components and much of the software of the Two-Mode Hybrid system developed jointly by General Motors, Chrysler, Daimler, and BMW.

But the Two-Mode in the BMW is light-years away in feel from the version found in such plebian transport as the full-size 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid pickup trucks.

In fact, two families of Two-Mode development have arisen. And the version built by BMW and Mercedes-Benz differs quite a lot from the one used in GM and Chrysler sport utilities and pickups.

It uses a differently shaped housing, for one thing, since the tunnel for BMW's standard six-speed automatic in the X6 is longer and narrower than those in General Motors trucks. And it's built for both German partners in Stuttgart, by Mercedes-Benz, rather than in Cincinnati, Ohio.

More importantly, BMW has eliminated all "hybrid feel" by simulating seven fixed ratios. First, third, fifth, and seventh ratios are the four fixed gears of the Two-Mode transmission, while second, fourth, and sixth are simulated "gears" that programmed into the electronic continuously variable transmission, or eCVT.


It works. Under light, moderate, and full acceleration, the ActiveHybrid system's up- and down-shifts felt just like a standard automatic transmission. Engine speed was directly proportional to road speed in each "gear," rising and falling with throttle input.

Acceleration from 0 to 62 miles per hour is 5.6 seconds, equivalent to the xDrive 50i.

But the ActiveHybrid X6's liquid-cooled, 2.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack can also propel the car in electric-only mode up to 37 miles per hour and, under specific circumstances, for up to 1.6 miles.

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

Enlarge Photo

Fuel economy

The gas mileage far exceeds any X6 with a V8 and BMW's standard six-speed automatic. During 120 miles of mixed driving, including freeway travel and a few brief speed runs, we averaged 20.4 miles per gallon.

The most economical mode was freeway travel using the cruise control, where we saw close to 21 mpg. Most hybrids typically get better fuel efficiency in the city than on the highway, but the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 can take advantage of electric assistance even at high speed.

Follow Us

Comments (9)
  1. Wow, thats pathetic. Ford already gets 20mpg with a V6 Twin Turbo and GM managed 22 city with a freaking TAHOE! Between the looks and the mpg, epic fail BMW. Ugly inefficient car.

  2. Apples and Oranges. Why compare a Tahoe or Ford Fusion to a PERFORMANCE SUV(or SAV... whatever)?
    Besides, isn't BMW the most green car company? They have their 50mpg diesel. Based on their goal of making a big, heavy vehicle that: looks good, is fast, handles well and the gas bill won't kill you - I call that a win.
    Please don't get on a podium and take things out of context like a politician.

  3. $95,000 after realistically all is said and done!!! For a Taureg-looking SUV, the engine/electronics/etc really better be the major leap forward you describe as that is some pretty hefty coin for an SUV. Have no doubt BMW has done a fantastic job with this one. Again, just thinking that may be getting close to the upper limit even for the segment this car is clearly aimed at.

  4. I love the look of the X6 - you have to see one to know what it looks like. It rides so much higher than a sedan so it really looks like an SUV up close, and a beautiful one. While mileage is not a major consideration for me, 12 mpg for the 5.0 is too low and the 3.5 does not have enough horse power. The ActiveHybrid solves the mileage issue and I love this car!

  5. Agree. Epic Fail.
    For the money you can buy TWO
    Ford Taurus SHOs and get same 0-62 times and much better fuel consumption (17/25MPG),
    AWD and a higher seating position with a massive trunk.
    I tried hard to justify another Bimmer but my money is going elsewhere.

  6. Yeah yeah... I can see how this is cool, but check this out. Goss132
    Now THAT is awesome!

  7. Beemerboy: You assume that a Taurus SHO could be on the same level as any BMW - lets not forget the SHO is still a Ford, and for a bit more than the SHO you could get a 3-series that would offer better handeing, ride, and similar performance.
    I do agree the price for the X6 is out of my range but I would not compare the car to any offering by the "Big 3." BMW sells expensive sports vehicles and I think BMW acomplished its goal and kept with the "Ultimate Driving Machine" principles.

  8. Mark... That has got to be the best looking EV I've seen. Very nice. Thanks for posting! I wonder how much the Goss132 EV will cost. A mid-size, and with that kind of style. As long as it can get me to work and back; who cares, but will NOT be paying any more than 40K for an EV. Though Goss132 has me thinking about it.

  9. Cory... just added the SHO to my stable.
    The 3 (or any BMW) would out slalom the SHO on a very tight winding road, but the SHO is surprisingly nimble with a decent turning radius given it's size and weight. It also cost less and can still keep up with the 335xi while running 87 octane. Not bad at all.
    For 99% of my driving, the SHO offers a more satisfying ride. Amazing power when needed, good fuel economy, way more comfort, most advanced music/phone interface (Ford Sync) I have ever test driven, and the radar cross alert warning system (along with cooled/massaging seats)is simply not available on any 3 series. Maybe the new 5 series may justify the price difference.
    As far as "SHO is still a Ford"... Let's just say that my BMW service manager and I know each other very very well (and a check of any BMW forum will show others have had similar experiences).
    Ford has come a long way in the dynamics department. Apparently their quality has also been improving. Time will tell how well it does in the quality department.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.