The BMW X6 is one of those cars it’s impossible not have an opinion about. A cursory surf of social media might lead you to believe the general sentiment leans toward the negative, and yet a little over a decade after the original X6 was launched here we are with BMW well on its way to chalking up half a million sales of its big coupe-SUV. Not bad at all for a huge car with a no doubt healthy profit margin built in.
MEET THE ALL-NEW X6
This third generation of X6, codenamed G06 and once again based on the X5, adopts what is basically the same silhouette as its predecessors. Stylistically this SUV/coupe mash-up seems so contrived, and yet clearly it’s not only buyers that it strikes a chord with, but also rival car-makers. It’s not only the obvious competitors, either; even Porsche, which you might imagine would resist this kind of vehicle more than most, now builds a coupe version of the Cayenne.
It’s no surprise then that BMW deemed an all-new version of the X6 as worthwhile. Nor is it surprising, perhaps, that in an age when many cars are getting smaller and lighter with each new generation, the X6 has grown marginally larger and heavier. That some versions come with 22-inch wheels as standard – and that these huge rims look in proportion with the rest of the car – kind of says all you need to know about priorities in a vehicle of this type.
ILLUMINATED GRILLES AND SKY LOUNGE
As, perhaps, does the availability of an illuminated kidney grille, as manufacturers continue to explore just how many LEDs they can squeeze into their cars. Admire the concept or not, it’s hard to dispute BMW’s logic for offering it, which is simply that a lot of X6 customers like to get tick-happy with the options list. Same goes for the laser headlights, heated cupholders and ‘Crafted clarity’ glass elements such as the gear-lever.
In an X6, even the already optional panoramic sunroof can be made more extravagant: simply tick the box marked ‘Sky Lounge’ and for £2,440 your roof will light up (courtesy of more LEDs) like a starlit sky lit.
BMW X6 ENGINE LINE-UP
You can probably see by now that the X6 sits very much towards the more extravagant end of BMW’s product offering. The engine line-up reflects as much, with not a four-cylinder in sight. Instead, the range kicks off with either the six-cylinder xDrive30d diesel, or the six-cylinder xDrive40i petrol, each of which comes in at around £60,000.
With even the imposing xDrive30d able to get from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds it’s hard to imagine how or why you’d want your enormous SUV to look any tougher or travel any quicker. However, you can do both of those things by opting for the M50d or the V8 petrol-powered M50i, which get from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and 4.3 seconds respectively.
A LOT OF MONEY FOR A LOT OF CAR
Our test car was the M50d, which with a healthy selection of options weighed in at £90,360, versus the £74,335 list price. Clearly, that’s an awful lot of money, but in its defence the X6 does feel like an awful lot of car. That’s both in its size, which is never less than shocking, but also the quality on display. Climb up into the cabin and what’s not leather is either a screen, carbon-fibre, metal, or glass. It won’t be to all tastes, but in terms of design and finish it’s really quite hard to fault.
At 12.3 inches, the central infotainment screen with iDrive’s Operating System 7.0 looks giant. As we are familiar with in the latest generation of BMWs, it can be operated by touch, voice, gesture or the traditional rotary controller, and remains one of the more intuitive of these systems to use. Less successful is BMW’s busy digital dial display, which continues to make one yearn for those elegant analogue needles of simpler models.
As far as interior space goes, the X6 is not nearly as compromised as you might expect given the sharply sloping roofline. The boot is still cavernous (at 580 litres there’s about as much room as you’d get in a decently proportioned estate car), and if you’re in one of the outer two rear seats you’ll find that headroom and legroom are in good supply. Only if you’re in the middle rear seat might you find that headroom is a bit pinched, but the X6 was never designed to be a full five-seater in the way an X5 is anyway.
No, it was designed to stand out – and you can’t deny it does just that.
DRIVING THE M50d
While not a V8 like in the Audi SQ8, the M50d’s engine is still a monster. Three litres, six cylinders and quadruple-turbocharged (a pair each of low pressure and high pressure items) to produce 400hp and 560lb ft of torque, it feels every bit as fast as you’d expect. More impressive still are the vigour with which it pulls past 4,500rpm, and the immediacy with which the torque arrives, giving the X6 a level of throttle response that is almost like an electric car’s. Difference is, where an EV glides along in silence, the M50d emits the kind of menacing rumble that makes the 30mpg you’ll get on a gentle run actually seem quite reasonable.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is a treat, too. Whether you’re pulling away, asking for it to kickdown, slipping along gently, or snapping on the paddles to take manual control, the software configuration is simply superb.
Needless to say, with drive channelled to all four wheels, traction and grip are incredible. The handling, too, is utterly BMW-like. By the standards of a big SUV, the X6 responds faithfully, turns in keenly and can carry more speed than you’d ever strictly need. So competent is it that you can imagine an X6 M50d coping just fine on a race circuit.
A ROUGH RIDE
In other regards BMW’s flagship diesel is more troubled. On our test route, which admittedly featured its fair share of typically tricky British B roads, the ride was at best fidgety and at worst plain uncomfortable. Even with the adaptive M suspension in its softest mode the M50d jostled and jiggled its way down the road, and the thumps through those 22-inch wheels as you hit larger bumps were enough to elicit a wince.
In this comfort setting the car’s body movements weren’t particularly well controlled either, and so travelling at speed you are well aware of the M50d’s weight and centre of gravity. Selecting Sport mode, or even the Adaptive setting, largely cured this, only by that point the ride is so firm it was a bit like travelling via pogo stick. No doubt smoother roads would have been a lot kinder to our test vehicle, but I was left with the impression that a lower spec X6, which comes with air suspension and smaller wheels, is probably going to be a better bet for the UK.
While the M50d perhaps doesn’t represent the X6 at its most rounded, this is clearly still an extremely impressive vehicle. Not one to convert the cynics, perhaps, but in terms of offering more of what X6 buyers love, this third-generation model ticks pretty much every box. It is more luxurious, better finished, more powerful and packed with more technology than ever. And all of this is wrapped in an evolution of what is clearly a popular design – regardless of what you might read on social media.
BMW X6 M50d
Price: Range from £59,340, M50d from £74,335. As tested £90,360
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 39.2-40.9mpg (combined). On test 29mpg
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