BMW X6 review
Second-generation BMW X6 is still a niche car, but improvements will boost its appeal
The second-generation X6 builds on the success of its predecessor with a striking body shape, luxurious interior and great handling for such a large car. New design cues bring it into line with the X4 and its sister car, the X5, while improved aerodynamics and other efficiency tweaks have cut fuel consumption by up to 22 per cent.
Despite its plunging roofline, there’s enough head and legroom in the back for three adults, while boot space has grown compared to the previous model. A 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine is available in the xDrive50i model, but it’s the diesels that are the big sellers, specifically the 30d which is expected to make up as much as 80 per cent of total sales in the UK. A 306bhp xDrive 40d will appear early in 2015.
Our choice: BMW X6 30d
Considering it’s essentially an X5 underneath, but with significantly less interior space, the X6 will mainly be chosen for its design. BMW’s designers haven’t strayed too far from the shape of the original car with the same squat stance and swooping roofline, but the big changes are in the details.
At the front there’s a larger, more upright kidney grille that joins the sharper headlights either side, while the bumper has a more aggressive design than the X5. ‘Air-breather’ vents behind the front wheels help to smooth airflow down the side of the car, plus there’s a new downturned crease over the rear wheel arch – a cue taken from the X4.
Inside the dash is virtually identical to the X5, with a large widescreen display controlled by the latest iDrive rotating dial. Go for M Sport trim and the wheels grow from 19 to 20-inches, you get sports seats on the inside and a bodykit on the outside, plus a sprinkling of M Sport badges.
BMW is now offering buyers a Design Pure Extravagance option for the interior, the exterior or both. This adds things like stainless steel underbody guards, bespoke 20-inch alloys and aluminium surrounds for the window line and mirror caps. Meanwhile, the interior pack includes extended leather and a key featuring chrome buttons.
The X6’s (and to a lesser extent the X5’s) defining characteristic has always been the physics-defying way it drives. Despite tipping the scales at a portly 2,185kg the X6 manages to scythe through corners with precious little body roll and masses of grip.
The steering could do with some more feel, but there’s nothing wrong with the speed in which front-end reacts to your inputs. Four driving modes are available – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ - that sharpen up the powertrain and chassis (and firm up the dampers if you option Adaptive M suspension, standard on M Sport models and the M50d).
The ride can get a bit unsettled over bumps in Sport and Sport+ modes, but diving into the menus and keeping the suspension in its softest setting cures that, while still retaining superb body control. There’s a choice of one petrol and two diesel engines – including a 443bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the xDrive50i and a 376bhp 3.0-litre tri-turbo in the M50d, but by far the biggest seller will be the 254bhp 3.0-litre diesel in the xDrive30d.
The xDrive50i has storming performance, but will lead to big fuel bills, so we’d stick with the diesels, which are still effortlessly fast and smooth, helped by the superb eight-speed auto gearbox.
BMW has an impeccable reliability record and the X6 should be no exception to the rule. The huge majority of its components are shared with the X5, which has had no major mechanical recalls since its launch in 2013.
There’s a huge amount of computing power on board the new X6, to handle all the latest safety technology. Standout features include 360 degree cameras around the car, a night vision function, automatic parking and a head-up display.
You can buy the optional BMW Service Inclusive package that lasts for five years or 50,000 – all for a fixed initial payment depending on which model you go for. That covers all your servicing and a guaranteed MOT pass. BMW Service Inclusive Plus not only covers servicing, but maintenance items such as brake pads, brake discs and windscreen wipers. For example, the X6 M50d costs £1,000 for Service Inclusive and £2,740 for Service Inclusive Plus.
If practicality is top of your list of priorities, then the X5 is a better bet than the X6, but if you like the X6’s unique style then there’s still enough space and functionality for most tasks.
Whereas the original X6 featured a three-seat rear bench as an option and two individual seats as standard, the new model comes with a rear bench as standard. There’s enough head and legroom to fit in three adults back there, too.
An automatic opens to reveal a 580-litre boot, but fold the 40:20:40 split rear seats and that expands to 1,525-litres – 345-litres less than the X5, but 75-litres more than the old X6.
Although few X6 owners are likely to take their cars off-road, the four-wheel drive system does boost grip in tricky weather conditions and means the X6 wouldn’t have any problems crossing a muddy field.
Optional technology includes a head-up display, automatic parking, active lane keep assist, a night vision function and an autonomous system to brake an accelerate you automatically in a traffic.
Running a large premium SUV like this is never going to be cheap, but fuel consumption is impressive given the performance on offer. The most efficient model it the xDrive30d, which returns fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 47.1mpg and 157g/km (or 159g/km if you order the M Sport package that comes with bigger 20-inch wheels).
The M50d is a full 1.5 seconds faster from 0-62mph, dispatching the sprint in 5.2 seconds, yet still returns 42.8mpg and 174g/km of CO2. The xDrive50i is 0.4 seconds faster from 0-62mph than the M50d, but you’ll pay for it at the fuel pumps - the V8 returns 29.1mpg and 225g/km. Standard equipment is generous with electric front seats, sat-nav and ambient LED interior lighting all thrown in, while options include a reversing camera, a panoramic glass sunroof and a Harmon Kardon stereo upgrade.