The 2010 BMW X6 Active Hybrid is the quickest hybrid vehicle in the world. Lurking under its hood is a 4.4 liter, twin turbo V8; combined with two electric motors, the X6 ActiveHybrid makes some 480 horsepower and 575 foot pounds of torque. Despite a weight pushing three tons (5,700 pounds), the X6 ActiveHybrid will get to 60 miles per hour from a standing start in under 5.5 seconds. That’s damn quick for something massive enough to have its own gravitational pull.
The reviews I’ve read (and in fairness, I haven’t driven the X6 Active Hybrid myself) praise the portly crossover for it’s handling, which is often equated to a sport sedan. I’m not sure I buy into this, but the X6’s handling isn’t what leaves me perplexed: instead, it’s the whole “Active Hybrid” thing that has me confused. I just don’t understand why anyone would buy a hybrid version of the X6.
Hybrids are typically purchased by those looking for sensible, economical commuter cars. The X6 Active Hybrid is neither, and its fuel economy of 17 mpg city and 19 mpg highway is less than impressive. Sure, that’s about 20% better than the X6’s non-hybrid sibling, but it’ll take one hell of a long time before you recap the hybrid’s additional cost of nearly $22,000 compared to a base model X6. It seems like you could buy a base model and write a hefty check to Greenpeace each year if you wanted to do something good for the planet.
Thanks to newly implemented fuel economy requirements in both the U.S. and the E.U., hybrids are about to go mainstream. They’re one of the ways that manufacturers will be able to boost fuel economy across a product range, so you’ll be seeing a variety of hybrid models in dealer showrooms over the next five years. The next Mitsubishi Evo is supposed to be a hybrid, as is the next Infiniti G series. From a driving enthusiast’s point of view, I’m not convinced that’s a good thing, especially when there are other sound choices (turbo diesel motors, for example) available.
There’s a down side to hybrids that no one really wants to address, and that’s technology and obsolescence. Hybrids require complex power delivery and management systems, and require onboard computers to track a significant amount of additional data. Take any system and make it more complex, and you increase the chance of system failure. Maybe I’m paranoid, but with so many more bells and whistles on hybrid vehicles, something is bound to fail sooner than on an equivalent fossil fueled vehicle. As for the “environmentally friendly” aspect of hybrids, what happens to the batteries when they reach end of life? Are there plans in place for wholesale recycling of hybrid batteries? What’s the cost of replacing the batteries on an X6 Active Hybrid ten years down the road, and will it adversely impact the resale value? My guess is yes.