Sports car handling with all the versatility of a sports utility vehicle – that’s the beauty of the X6 in a nutshell. Outstanding performance, class-leading technology and a blistering performance are just a few of the attractions.
The goodDriving dynamics, styling, on-board technology and comfort
The badHated by the green brigade
BMW X6 3.0 400hp V6 M50d (2021)
BMW bucked every design trend in the book when it developed its coupe-styled SUV – the X6 back in 2008 – and now there is an all-new third generation model and it really ups the ante.
The Bavarian car maker lays claim to developing the first ever Sport Activity Coupe model when it launched the X6 and since then other manufacturers from premium marques such as Mercedes and Porsche have joined the race. But the Beemer, with almost 450,000 sales to date, is still world class.
The latest third-gen model has enjoyed quite a growth spurt stretching an extra 26mm in length, 15mm in width and with a 42mm longer wheelbase. It is 6mm lower to the ground so looks more aggressively styled than ever and also has a lower centre of gravity, which in turn, improves the handling.
Buyers can choose from a range of diesel or petrol engines along with three trim levels called Sport, M Sport and M Performance. We opted for the most powerful diesel version in the high-end M Performance trim. This X6, powered by a 3.0-litre V6 400hp engine, costs £76,465 (increased to £78,200 with options) and can sprint to 62mph from a standstill in 5.2 seconds, maxing out at a limited 155mph. According to official figures under stricter WLTP testing, it can deliver a combined 40.9mpg with carbon emissions of 181g/km.
With a mighty 760Nm of torque on hand, the power at your disposal is breath-taking with blisteringly fast acceleration that wouldn’t be lost on a hot hatch
But the X6 is also a practical family car. It’s based on its more sensible and traditionally-styled sibling, the X5, but has its very own character thanks to muscular styling with a sharply tapering roofline that is guaranteed to stop onlookers dead in their tracks. So, expect plenty of attention as you go about your business.
It also features BMW’s new design cues including the huge front grille which can even be illuminated on the X6 for extra effect as an optional extra. Lots of M badging, 22-inch alloys and blue brake calipers complete the look.
Climb inside and the cabin is totally driver focused with a wealth of techno treats to be explored. The sports seats and steering wheel are electrically-adjustable so finding the perfect driving position takes a matter of seconds and there are memory settings to store favourite positions.
The X6 is generously equipped and creature comforts on our car included smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a Harmon Kardon sound system, gesture control and a useful head-up display. Most functions can be accessed via the familiar BMW iDrive controller which is very easy to operate on the move.
Also worth mentioning is BMW’s new personal assistant system which is brought to life with the magic words ‘Hey BMW’. It can follow clear instructions such as programming in a popular sat nav destination, finding your favourite radio station or altering the temperature on the seat heaters. All very clever stuff.
When it comes to performance out on the open road, the X6 drives as aggressively as it looks. The acceleration through the rapid-fire eight-speed automatic gearbox is sharp and constant, and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement.
There are driving modes called Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport that change the way the vehicle reacts and, in addition, the X6 is fitted with Dynamic Damper Control as standard across the range. This enhances the ride and handling, and also improves the vehicle’s dynamic characteristics with a choice of two settings – one for a sportier driving experience and the other focusing more on refinement and comfort.
Even on large 22-inch wheels the road-holding is ultra grippy with the X6 displaying no signs of body sway no matter how hard it was pushed into bends. At 2.2 tonnes it does feel quite heavy and well planted, but it’s still agile enough to manoeuvre effortlessly through busy town centres.
The X6 cruises with ease at maximum motorway speeds and the only real downside is the relatively poor driver visibility due to wide B pillars and a narrow rear screen. But that was my only gripe after a week behind the wheel and, on a more positive note, special mention to the upgraded roll stabilisation system on the latest model that makes straight-line driving more comfortable by cushioning the bumps along the way.
Although the X5 is definitely the more practical car, the X6 still has a decent sized boot that can swallow 580 litres of kit, increased to 1,525 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding back seats dropped down. Rear passenger space is also far superior on the X5, but there is ample room for a trio of youngsters to sit comfortably in the back of the X6.
And it’s worth remembering that, as well as a wealth of top-notch safety features and driver assistance aids, the X6 comes with xDrive – the company’s highly effective all-wheel-drive system. So even when Mother Nature is having a particularly bad day, the X6 will keep on going.
All in all, the new X6 has picked up where its predecessor left off and taken giant leaps forwards with a fresh new look, cleaner more powerful engines and bundles of extra kit.
BMW X6 Drive 35d
When it comes to flooding the market with a stream of first class sports utility vehicles, BMW certainly takes the crown.
And the X6 takes the combination of creature comforts and performance to new levels altogether.
The car is crammed with state-of-the-art technology and when that’s perfectly blended with exhilarating sports-style handling it’s enough to blow your socks off.
In fact, this is an SUV that goes from 0-62 in less than seven seconds, has a top speed of 147mph, but still somehow records reasonably impressive fuel economy figures. And to be fair there are not many vehicles out there that can blend so many factors into the mix so successfully.
Then when you add in four-wheel-drive capabilities, leather upholstery, cruise control, rain sensor with automatic headlight activation, parking sensors, a puncture warning system plus an excellent sound system you have what has to be described as the all-round package.
Sometimes it’s hard to find fault with a vehicle I test no matter how hard I try and with the X6 it proved quite a challenge. All I could really complain about was the slightly view-obstructing thick front pillars and narrow rear window. But minor criticisms really.
Inside the cabin, the comfort levels are excellent with plenty of room for four adults along with their luggage and throughout the vehicle are numerous other storage compartments too.
So with looks, comfort and technology covered, what about the drive itself? Well, believe me, it doesn’t disappoint.
When released on the open road, the six-speed automatic transmission is timed to perfection offering an extremely smooth ride. Yet, in and around town, the handling and acceleration is also impressive and despite its size, manoeuvrability is deceptively good.
And as one would expect from BMW, the safety features are first class with numerous airbags, hill descent control, dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, run flat tyres and a list that seems to drift off into the distance.
All in all, despite its bulky appearance, the X6 is a nimble and agile handler and is set to leave other major SUV developers heading nervously to the drawing board.