Review: BMW X6

Does a BMW heart still beat beneath all that bulk?

The new X6 arrived this year in the wake of the all-new X5 introduced in 2019. Now in its third generation, this is the ‘coupe’ version of its more traditionally upright and uptight SUV sibling – the so-serious X5. However the X6 eschews the much-trodden path of merely taking a grinder to the upper rear of a boxy SUV, and not stepping back until the rear roof has been squashed and reshaped into a more flowing profile – AKA the fastback boot.

The X6 is actually quite deliberately distinct from its brother. The front is far more aggressive with deep chins and air-intakes, the famed kidney grille is reshaped to make it appear more ‘shark-nose’ like, a gill has been slashed into the front fender behind the wheel arch and even the side contours are more ‘speedlines’ than ‘sturdy’.

The big German SUVs often get undeserved hate, and the these so-called coupe versions even moreso, but in the metal this has a substantial and enticing presence. It would be tempting, especially if this was the ferocious range-topping £113k X6 M Competition.

Are you sitting down? Well get a load of this: 625bhp from a 4.4-litre V8 capable of propelling this not inconsiderable SUV-thing from rest to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds. Our test car was the far more viable diesel xDrive30d with 265bhp. There’s also a 340bhp xDrive40d and 400bhp xDrive50d. In petrol flavours you can choose between 340bhp xDrive40i and 530bhp M50i. Aside from the M Competition, the prices range from £59-77k.

The test car was a xDrive30d M Sport with, as mentioned 265bhp. However since doing this review, the 30d engine has been updated with a mild hybrid system and enhanced turbos – so order a new one today and power has gone up by over 20bhp to 286bhp, acceleration to 62mph is four-tenths quicker at 6.1 seconds and fuel consumption has improved from 35.3-37.2mpg to 39.2-42.8mpg. CO2 emissions have been reduced from 211g/km to 188g/km.

Is the X6 a case of style over substance? How much does a family really have to compromise? Open the boot and the answer is – not much actually.  If you think you have good space at first glance, lift the floor panel (on hydraulic struts) for even more room.

You then somewhat cautiously ascend into the rear passenger compartment, and if you’re tall particularly so, having gotten it in your head that the sloping roof most be robbing room. In fact your head has plenty of space to marvel not only at the possibility of donning a hat next time, but also the generous knee, leg and foot room. Then there’s four-zone climate control and rear heated seats to marvel at too. But mind out the protruding side skirts if it’s wet and grimy outside as you will rub the back of your legs on them as you disembark.

At the front you find big clear displays, and that’s not even counting the full colour head-up display, or numbering the ways to increase and lower the stereo volume (three including the twirly thing you can do with your finger). And then there’s there Kryptonic crystal pinched from under Superman’s nose to serve here as the gearshift – some say it’s a bit vulgar, this reviewer considers it a centrepiece and talking point of the cabin – fret not if you can’t get an X6, this is ending up in most Beemers now.

You need little time to adjust to your surroundings, it’s all familiar and intuitive, so set the excellent climate control to 20C, keep the mode set to comfort and let’s go.  The high seating position means you can reasonably place this big beast on the road and the extremities are mostly obvious, apart from the rear, due to the slim rear window and c-pillar. But then it does have cameras, which can be switched on at any time at the touch of a button – handy even when negotiating tight traffic and narrow byways.

The diesel tires at over 4000rpm but up to then delivers ample acceleration, with surprisingly engaging aural accompaniment, particularly if you put it in Sports. That weights up the steering, but also stiffens up the suspension to the point when it can get quite jarring on UK’s B-roads. However you can customise it for a happy compromise of switching the shocks to sublime and everything else to 11 on the dynamism scale.

Then you find you’re hustling this barge at indecent speeds – yes even this diesel mile-muncher – imagine what the M version must be like! You do feel the beating heart of a BMW in this machine, even if its mass and bulk belie its spirit. There is no doubt this is big hefty thing, but that makes it a comfortable and practical companion for you and the family, without it being totally devoid of engagement.

We’d definitely recommend this over the X5, but if you didn’t need something quite so huge – do consider the greatly improved current X4 too.

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