BMW X6 review
Second-generation BMW X6 is still a niche car, but improvements will boost its appeal
BMW claims it invented the ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’ when it introduced the original X6 back in 2008. And despite launching in the middle of a global recession with a premium price tag, the coupé SUV has sold well.
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 smaller 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, uprated to spectacular effect in the X6M, 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.
Our choice: BMW X6 xDrive30d
Image is a big part of the upmarket off-roader sector, and it’s cars like the BMW X6 that cater for this market. It’s less practical than the larger X5 it’s based on, but the focus here is on styling – the trade-off is that the X6 still combines a high-up SUV driving position with a sporty coupé profile.
To accentuate the X6’s width, BMW has flattened and widened its trademark kidney grilles with a pair of narrower headlight clusters that flow round on to the front wings, contributing towards the relatively aerodynamic looking front end for a large 4x4. The headlamps also feature distinctive LED running lights that add to the X6’s jutting, aggressive nose.
On M Sport models, a chunky bodykit and extra detailing is present. There's a deeper front bumper with lots of grilles and slashes to add a sportier look.
At the side, the swoopy roofline tapers towards the rear, with a few sharp creases down the BMW’s flanks adding detail. One runs from the front wheelarches through the door handles and down to the rear, while the other follows the line of the wheelarch to give the X6 a purposeful, sporty stance.
Behind the X6’s front wheelarches, BMW has added a clever design detail called ‘Air Curtain’, which consists of vents that let air out of the front wheel wells to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
At the rear, the X6 looks much less sporty than it does at the front. The raised ride height means the sloping roof doesn’t meet the rear bumper like a conventional coupé, leaving a large slab of metal on the rear hatch. It’s still heavily sculpted at the back, with the twin tailpipes housed in a gloss bumper insert.
BMW has taken a similar approach to the X6’s interior as it has the exterior styling, tidying things up with a revised design. Unlike some of the brand’s sports cars, it’s not quite as driver-focused – instead, the emphasis is on comfort for all occupants.
It’s extremely well equipped, too, with leather, sat-nav, heated seats, cruise control and many other top-spec features coming fitted as standard.
At the top of the range sits the X6M, which gets a beefy body kit, 20-inch alloys and a subtle spoiler at the back – about the only part of that car that is subtle!
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 – especially in the incredible X6M.
The steering could do with a little 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, the M50d and the X6M).
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.
Even the firmer X6M remains reasonably comfortable, although it can make you wince a little over the worst bumps, even in Comfort mode.
There’s a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines – including a 568bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the X6M 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 X6M has incredible performance for such a large car – 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds – with handling to match, making it supercar fast on the road and surprisingly capable given its size and weight on a track.
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 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 next to it’s sportier brother it looks rather bulky and ungainly. 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. Surprisingly given the coupé-like roofline, there’s enough head and legroom to fit in three adults back there, too.
An automatic tailgate opens to reveal a big 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.
As you’d expect the X6M is thirstier still claiming an average of 25.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 258g/km – if you take it easy (which you won’t want to).
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 – replaced by the option of a Bang and Olufsen system with fancy pop-up centre speaker in the X6M.