Power-packed, premium and polarising – BMW’s third-generation X6 continues to shock and delight
Plus & Minus
Plus – Performance; interior quality; V8 soundtrack
Minus – Polarising design; compromised practicality over X5; heavy
The Wheels Verdict: In 2008, no-one knew they needed an SUV and a coupe in one vehicle. BMW came along and planted the seed before sitting back and watching the world’s automakers follow suit. However, the X6 is the genesis for the breed. And the V8-powered M50i tested here is hard to ignore as it mixes performance and dynamic talent into a premium package. If you ‘get’ the X6 and what it stands for, then it won’t disappoint.
WHAT IS IT?
The BMW X6 never fails to generate an opinion – BMW has even coined it ‘the beast’ internally. Essentially, in crude terms, a five-door coupe atop an SUV body, the X6 offers style and a raised ride height for those who value appearance and capability in roughly equal measure. The range includes petrol and diesel variants of six- and eight-cylinder engines, while the M50d variant won’t be making its way down under due to global demand for the quad-turbo six.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
In its third generation, the BMW X6 now offers a range of tweaks to keep it fresh. The longer, lower and wider body increases space inside (particularly rear headroom), while vision has improved with revised A-pillars. Power levels have risen, with the M50i variant tested here encroaching on X6M levels of grunt. We’re keen to find out if the X6 is still a worthy answer to a question no-one asked.
BMW X6 M50i REVIEW
The BMW X6 is a bit like thinking your friend is a fool for having a ridiculous partner. You tolerate it because you know the relationship invariably won’t last. A few months down the track you are proven right. However, BMW released the polarising coupe-cum-SUV in 2008 and it has remained a niche staple of the Bavarian fleet ever since. Logic defied, then.
Three variants are available at launch: the entry-level xDrive30d ($121,900), mid-spec xDrive40i ($124,900) and the current range-topping M50i ($155,900) tested here. The X6M Competition, complete with M5-grade mechanical gubbins, is due next year.
In terms of exterior styling it’s more a nip and tuck to the “polarising and inspiring design”. However, the X6 in now longer (26mm), lower (6mm) and wider (15mm) than before for a more aggro stance. The headline design change is hidden within the oversize kidney grille, which now features illumination. It’s branded ‘Iconic Glow’ and is an optional extra that essentially backlights the iconic grille.
The X6 gains BMW’s new interior design language. It looks and feels premium, with high-quality materials and sound ergonomics. In all X6 variants, BMW Live Cockpit Professional and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant (simply say “Hey BMW” to ask the system to complete a command) are standard inclusions. There’s a 12.3-inch infotainment system screen (controlled by the latest version of iDrive) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the second 12.3-inch screen is designated for the instrument cluster. Elements of the latter work well, but overall, rival digital dashes are better resolved.
Despite the lower roofline, headroom has increased all round and rear legroom has been liberated thanks to a 42mm stretch to the wheelbase. The X6 now has a 40/20/40 split second row and the boot has grown 30 litres to 580 litres (which balloons to 1525 litres with the rear seats stowed). Overall, NVH levels are low on-road despite the brooding bent-eight under the bonnet.
The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 is a hulk of an engine, providing 390kW (5500-6000rpm) and 750Nm (1800-4600rpm). That’s 60kW and 100Nm more than the model the M50i replaces, and sees the 0-100km/h time plummet to a launch-control assisted 4.3 seconds. With all-wheel drive and 315-section rear tyres, ‘the beast’ savages the tarmac and takes off like a 2.2-tonne SUV has no right to.
On a German autobahn you can easily riffle through the eight gears of the ZF automatic all the way to the electronically limited 250km/h top speed. It sounds mean, too, with deep baritones combining with tasteful pops and crackles on the overrun. At 10.4L/100km, fuel economy isn’t the M50i’s forte – but those who buy it probably won’t be worried.
With an on-scale figure of 2235kg and a raised centre of gravity, you’d think the M50i would be fighting a losing battle dynamically. Wrong. For all its on-paper deficiencies, the go-fast X6 carries its weight well with minimal bodyroll and a willingness to change direction that defies the SUV genre. Ultimately there’s a slight sensation of detachment; it’s as if myriad mechanical miracles are occurring underneath you to make the M50i hustle a twisty road like it does, but you’re not really a part of it.
The ride quality, on well-maintained roads surrounding Munich, is impressively supple for an SUV riding on 22-inch alloys. Adaptive M Professional suspension helps, with modes tailored to comfort and sportiness – the latter never becoming overtly harsh. A braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes helps fortify the ‘active lifestyle’ quotient, but few will option the $7500 xOffroad Package (available with 30d and 40i).
Love it or hate it, you have to admire the X6’s talents – especially in M50i guise. It’s a bold statement that requires a certain type of buyer, one who wouldn’t consider the pragmatic X5. Ultimately, BMW has made the X6’s coupe-meets-SUV relationship work. Against all odds, it’s here to stay. And with some 446,000 sales globally, who’s the fool?
BMW X6 M50i RIVALS
Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 Coupe; Audi Q8; Jaguar F-Pace SVR
BMW X6 M50i PRICE AND SPECS
Model: BMW X6 M50i
Engine: 4395cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 390kW @ 5500-6000rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 1800-4600rpm
Kerb weight: 2235kg
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100km/h: 4.3sec (claimed)
On sale December 2019
By Trent Giunco, 30 Oct 2019 Reviews