That’s right, someone asked the question this time, so no jokes about the new BMW ActiveHybrid X6 being the motoring world’s oxymoronic rhetorical answer.
After its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, BMW has released the full details of its latest niche filler, due for release in Europe and America before the end of the year.
From the outset it’s clear this is a hybrid unlike all others.
The ActiveHybrid X6 is powered by a turbocharged 4.4-litre 300kW V8 and two electric motors, one producing 67kW, the other 63kW.
All this combines for a maximum output of 357kW and peak torque of 780Nm – making the X6 the most powerful hybrid in the world – and launching it from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds.
But does it actually do the hybrid thing?
Well, yeah, sort of. European testing saw the X6 hybrid consume 9.9 litres/100km combined and emit CO? at a rate of 231 g/km, improvements of up to 20 per cent over the range-topping xDrive 50i.
BMW is spruiking the fact that the X6 is its first car that can run solely on electric power, meaning zero emissions.
Indeed it can, for the super impressive maximum range of 2.5 kilometres anyway, and at a cruisey maximum speed of 60km/h.
Most of the time the electric motors are working with the combustion engine, to reduce its required power output.
With the two electric motors, three planetary gearsets and four multiple-plate clutches, drive is transmitted through a seven-gear automatic transmission operated via an electronic gear selector lever and shift paddles on the steering wheel.
The two-mode active transmission is based on an ECVT (electric continuously variable transmission) operating in two separate modes. One mode is for setting off and driving at low speeds while the other is for motoring at high speeds.
At lower speeds, just one of the electric motors is activated. As more power is required the second electric motor activates the combustion engine and then serves as a generator providing a permanent supply of electric power.
When the driver requires more power at higher speeds the two electric motors supply additional torque without any increase in fuel consumption.
The ActiveHybrid X6 features an enhanced version of Brake Energy Regeneration already used in BMW’s current models.
The electric motors act as generators in overrun when applying the brakes in order to feed electric power into the battery.
The high-voltage nickel-metal hydrid (NiMH) battery has a capacity is 2.4 kWh, with 1.4 kWh available actively for practical use. Maximum output is 57 kW.
Despite all the extra gear, the battery is positioned beneath the floor of the luggage compartment meaning capacity is the same as on the standard X6.
Other than its stealthy silence in traffic jams, the easiest way to spot the hybrid is the rectangular “Powerdome” bonnet bulge which gives it a more muscular appearance.
“ActiveHybrid” badges and optional 20-inch light-alloy, aerodynamically optimised wheels round out the subtle design changes.
Safety features include front, side and head airbags, adaptive bi-xenon headlights and an Enhanced Emergency Call function which provides information of the vehicle’s location when in trouble.
Park distance control, satellite navigation, an 80GB hard drive for music and an automatic tailgate are among the standard features, with a head-up display and sliding glass vent roof among the more exclusive options.
Expect prices to start at over $150,000 if the ActiveHybrid X6 ever makes its way down under.
By Tim Beissmann