BMW X6 review
The second-generation BMW X6 is still a niche car, but the improvements have boosted its appeal
The BMW X6 is based on the X5, a large luxury SUV, but with a sleek coupe body instead. Few, if any other cars at this end of the market have the same kind of shape, style or overall package, so the X6 is something of a law unto itself.
It lacks the space and practicality of the X5, but the X6 certainly stands out in a crowd. It also has a range of extremely powerful petrol and diesel engines, so even the basic models are fast. It’s very composed at speed too, and is a lot more agile than a car of its size and shape should be.
The X6 is expensive to buy and run, but it has heaps of equipment and a luxurious interior. The latest version is also roomier and more practical than the model it replaced too, if still behind most other big SUVs in this area.
The BMW X6 is a large SUV with a sleek coupe bodystyle. It’s based on the conventional X5 SUV but has carved its own niche in the high-end 4x4 market with its sportier looks. It has few direct rivals, as the X6 is very individual in terms of its bodystyle, particularly at this price point, but it’s still competing with other high-end 4x4s such as the Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7, Infiniti QX70 and Mercedes GLE Coupe.
The X6 is a bit of a Marmite car for a lot of people. Some love it and others hate it because it’s arguably an exercise in style over substance (the X5 is cheaper to buy, more spacious and practical and it has a better range of engines). But one thing you can’t argue is the unprecedented success the X6 has been for the German car maker since its introduction in 2008.
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The original model was produced until 2012 when it was replaced by a bigger, better second-generation car with all the mechanical parts from the updated X5. Still recognisable as an X6, the looks are more angular and it appears even brasher than before.
Inside, even the cheaper models get a super-luxurious interior, while on the outside, improved aerodynamics and other efficiency tweaks have cut fuel consumption by up to 22 per cent depending on the model.
Despite its plunging roofline, there’s enough head and legroom in the back for adults, while boot space has grown compared to the previous model. The first X6 was criticised because it was only a four-seater (though a central rear seat was a available as an option) and really not very practical for car of its size, but the latest model has a full three seats in the rear, so it’s more usable.
It’s great to drive, too, and belies its size in terms of performance and handling. A 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine is available in the xDrive50i model, tuned to spectacular effect in the X6 M, which is insanely fast and capable of 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds.
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It’s the diesels that are the big sellers though, specifically the entry-level xDrive30d, which is expected to make up as much as 80 per cent of total sales in the UK. It may be the cheapest but the best-selling engine does not make the X6 a slow car, as it’s still capable of 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and is also the most economical engine. A more powerful xDrive40d is available, as is the supremely powerful M50d, which sits at the top of the X6’s diesel line-up.
Trim levels start with SE and BMW’s usual M Sport trim, which adds a body kit and various other elements of sporty styling, is also available – the M50d and X6 M are trim levels in their own right.
Engines, performance and drive
The defining characteristic of the BMW X6 (and to a lesser extent the X5) has always been the car-like way it drives. Despite tipping the scales at a portly 2,065kg, the X6 manages to weave its way through corners with masses of grip and precious little body roll – especially in the incredible (and bonkers) X6 M performance version. It certainly rivals the Porsche Cayenne for driving entertainment.
The steering could do with a little more feedback but it’s still very responsive. Four driving modes are available – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ – that alter the mechanics of how the car feels to drive, although Eco Pro is mainly focused on setting the car up to be as frugal as possible.
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The X6's ride is noticeably firmer in Sport and Sport+ modes if you specify the optional Adaptive M suspension, itself standard on M Sport models, the M50d and the X6 M. It can become quite unsettled over bumps, but changing the suspension's damper control to its softest setting cures that, while still retaining superb body control.
Every X6 comes with BMW’s eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard – and it’s extremely smooth.
Every one of the X6’s engines – petrol and diesel – is refined and powerful in equal measure. There’s a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines including a 568bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the flagship X6 M and a 376bhp 3.0-litre tri-turbo in the X6 M50d, both of which have massive performance.
The X6 M is incredibly fast for such a large car with 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and handling to match, making it supercar fast on the road and surprisingly capable on a track given its size and weight.
The M50d is only a second slower to 62mph at 5.2 seconds and has almost as much torque as the X6 M at 740Nm, so there’s a huge amount of mid-range pulling power and the M50d is over £25,000 cheaper.
By far the biggest seller is the 254bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine in the X6 xDrive30d. The X6 is still not a slow car, even with this engine, as it’s capable of 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and has heaps of pulling power.
Move up the diesel range to the xDrive40d and you get 309bhp and 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, while the petrol xDrive50i is good for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and has a hearty 444bhp.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Running a large premium SUV like this is never going to be cheap, but fuel consumption isn’t bad given the performance on offer. The most efficient model is the xDrive30d, which claims to return fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 47.1mpg and 157g/km in standard SE trim.
The xDrive40d doesn’t cost much more to run with 45.6mpg and 163g/km in SE trim, and you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference between the two on the road. The M50d returns 42.8mpg and 174g/km of CO2, which isn’t bad when you consider the huge amount of extra power.
The petrol xDrive50i is quicker still, but you’ll pay for it at the pumps – the V8 engine returns 29.1mpg and 225g/km. As you’d expect, the X6 M is even thirstier with 25.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 258g/km, which will result in a huge annual tax bill. The brutal acceleration is addictive too, so realistic fuel consumption could well be even higher.
As with fuel economy and road tax costs, insurance is never going to be a cheap thing with a car of the X6’s price, specification and power.
Insurance groups start at 41 for the X6 xDrive30d and increase to 44 or 45 for the xDrive40d. You’re looking at group 47 for the xDrive50i, 48 for the M50d and 50 (the highest insurance group of all) for the top-end X6 M.
That isn’t uncommon at this end of the market though, as the Audi Q7 also starts in group 41, the Range Rover in group 45 and the Porsche Cayenne in group 40.
SUVs with premium badges such as the X6 are generally desirable and hang onto their value comparatively well, certainly more so than more mainstream 4x4s or budget models such as the Kia Sorento or the Hyundai Santa Fe, for example. That said, the BMW costs a lot of money in the first place so there’s more cash to lose.
Interior, design and technology
Image is a big part of the upmarket SUV sector and cars such as the BMW X6 cater perfectly for buyers looking for a dash of extra style. It’s less practical than the larger X5 on which it’s based but that’s not to say it’s difficult to live with.
To accentuate the X6’s width, BMW has flattened and widened its trademark kidney grille and added a pair of narrower headlights that curve round to the front wings. The headlamps also feature distinctive LED running lights.
M Sport models come with a chunky bodykit and extra detailing. There's a deeper front bumper with lots of grilles and slashes that make for a sportier look. At the side, the sloping roofline tapers towards the rear, with a few sharp creases along the sides.
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BMW has added a clever design detail behind the X6’s front wheelarches called an ‘air curtain’, which consists of vents that let air out of the front wheel wells to reduce drag and improve efficiency. The X6 doesn’t look as sporty at the rear than it does at the front and appears a little awkward due to its height.
BMW has taken a similar approach to the X6’s interior as it has the exterior, tidying things up in this second-generation model. Unlike some of the brand’s sports cars, it’s not quite as driver-focused – instead, the emphasis is on comfort. It’s extremely well equipped, too, with leather, sat-nav, heated seats and many other top-spec features fitted as standard.
At the top of the range sits the X6 M, which gets a beefy body kit, 20-inch alloys and a subtle spoiler at the back.
Sat-nav. stereo and infotainment
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The X6 has the latest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system with a 10.25-inch screen and satellite navigation as standard. The system is very easy to use – far more so than previous versions – and it’s all controlled via a dial on the centre console. Given its price and status, the likes of Bluetooth, USB sockets and cruise control all come as standard.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
If practicality is top of your list of priorities, then the BMW X5 SUV is a better bet than the X6 SUV-coupe, but the former looks rather bulky and ungainly next to its sportier brother. If you like the unique style of the X6 then there’s still enough space and functionality for most tasks.
The original X6 was a four-seater as standard with the option of an extra central rear seat, but the current model now has three rear seats as standard and is a full five-seater. In the front of the cabin, there are two lidded storage areas in the in the centre console and large door bins.
A high driving position means forward visibility is good but the coupe-like shape restricts the view out of the back window, so you’ll need to reply on the parking sensors (fitted as standard) when reversing.
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Optional technology includes a head-up display, automatic parking, active lane keep assist, a night vision function and an autonomous system to brake and accelerate automatically in stop-start traffic.
The X6 is 4,909mm long, 1,989mm wide and 1,702mm tall, so it’s taller and wider than a Porsche Cayenne but shorter and lower than an Audi Q7. It’s also longer and wider than the X5 on which it’s based, though it’s 60mm lower.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The original X6 was criticised for having poor rear headroom due to the sloping roofline, but BMW has improved that with the latest version. There’s now enough head and legroom to fit in three adults back there, though it’s still worth remembering that the X5 is a better bet if space is a priority.
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An automatic tailgate opens to reveal a big 580-litre boot (although the X5’s is 650 litres), 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. We’ve managed to fit a full-size road bike in there without a problem, so don’t write it off if you’re worried about the size of the boot.
Every standard X6 can tow a hefty 3,500kgs, while the high performance X6M versions are limited to 3,000kgs – hardly insubstantial.
Reliability and Safety
The vast majority of the X6’s components are shared with the current X5 SUV, which has had no major mechanical recalls since its launch in 2013. Build quality is extremely good too, as is usually the case with BMW’s cars.
The X6 didn’t appear in the individual models section of our 2015 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey but BMW finished 14th out of 32 in the manufacturer table, which leaves it in the top half and just behind Audi, which was in 13th place.
There’s a huge amount of computing power on board the new X6, which helps handle all the latest safety technology. Stand-out features include 360 degree cameras, a night vision function, automatic parking and a head-up display.
Neither the X6 nor the current X5 on which it’s based have been crash-tested by Euro NCAP but their size and vast amount of safety equipment means it’s reasonable to assume they’re safe cars overall.
BMW offers a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty with the X6, which is similar to the majority of rivals. The likes of Porsche, Mercedes and Land Rover all offer equivalent packages, with the exception at the premium end of the market being Audi, which limits the cover to three years and 60,000 miles.
BMW’s service intervals are variable, so the regularity with which you need to visit the dealer is dictated by your mileage and driving style.
You can buy the optional BMW Service Inclusive package that lasts for five years or 50,000 miles – all for a fixed initial payment. That covers all your servicing and includes a guaranteed MOT pass. BMW Service Inclusive Plus not only covers servicing, but maintenance items such as brake discs and windscreen wipers, too.
Prices vary, but the range-topping diesel X6 M50d costs £1,000 for Service Inclusive and £2,740 for Service Inclusive Plus.