BMW X6 review
Second-generation BMW X6 is still a niche car, but improvements will boost its appeal
The BMW X6 is a bit of a Marmite car. Some love it and others hate it. But one thing you can’t argue is the unprecedented success it has been for the German car maker since its introduction in 2008.
That car continued production until 2012, when it was replaced by a bigger, better second-generation car arrived with all the running gear from the updated X5. Still recognisable as an X6, it’s squarer and even more brash.
Inside, even entry-level cars 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.
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. It’s great to drive, too, and belies its size in a way no SUV has the right to.
A 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine is available in the xDrive50i model, uprated to spectacular effect in the X6 M, 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
Engines, performance and drive
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 weave its way through corners with precious little body roll and masses of grip – especially in the incredible (and frankly bonkers) X6 M.
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, while also firming up the dampers if you option Adaptive M suspension. It’s standard on M Sport models, the M50d and the X6 M.
If you do opt for the optional dampers, 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 two petrol and two diesel engines – including a 568bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the X6 M and a 376bhp 3.0-litre tri-turbo in the X6 M50d – but by far the biggest seller will be the 254bhp 3.0-litre diesel in the xDrive30d.
The X6 M 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. The trade off is a slight loss in comfort – even in the softest suspension mode. Unfortunately, that’s the trade off for the immense straight line speed.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 claims to return 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 quicker still, but you’ll pay for it at the fuel pumps - the V8 petrol engine returns 29.1mpg and 225g/km.
As you’d expect the X6 M is thirstier still claiming an average of 25.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 258g/km – if you take it easy. The brutal acceleration is addictive, too, so realistic fuel consumption could well be even higher.
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 X6 M.
Interior, design and technology
Image is a big part of the upmarket off-roader sector, and cars like the BMW X6 cater perfectly for buyers looking for a dash of extra style. It’s less practical than the larger X5 it’s based on, 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 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 sloping roofline tapers towards the rear, with a few sharp creases down the flanks to add detail. One runs from the front wheelarches through the door handles and down to the rear, while another follows the line of the wheelarch to give the X6 a purposeful, sporty stance.
Image 5 of 16
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 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 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 X6 M, which gets a beefy body kit, 20-inch alloys and a subtle spoiler at the back – about the only part of that car that could be described in any way as discreet!
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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-seats as an option and two individual seats as standard, all cars now feature the more practical bench setup. 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. We’ve managed to fit a full-size road bike in there without issue, so don’t write it off if you’re worried about versatility.
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 and accelerate automatically in a stop-start traffic.
Reliability and Safety
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, which helps handle all the latest safety technology. Standout features include 360 degree cameras, 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. 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.
Prices vary, but the range-topping diesel X6 M50d costs £1,000 for Service Inclusive and £2,740 for Service Inclusive Plus.