Review: BMW X6 (2015 – 2019)
Bold, brash and surprisingly enjoyable to drive
Not as useful as an X5, and people will make assumptions about you. Not cheap, either.
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BMW X6 (2015 – 2019): At A Glance
Back in 2008 BMW gave SUV haters the perfect model to vilify with its X6. The concept itself seems flawed, it basically an X5 underneath, with a more rakish coupe fastback removing some practicality. BMW seemed to hit a winning formula, though, enough, indeed, that for every 5 X5s on the road it sells an X6, which is why BMW keeps it on its price lists, and gave us a new one back in 2015.
Divisive then, but that’s arguably part of its appeal, and for all the talk of boot capacity - it losing 345 litres of ultimate loadspace over the X5 - when was the last time you filled your boot to the roof? A statement, status car for buyers, then, who don’t give a damn what others think, and, frankly, if you’ve the money and the inclination then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Distancing it from the X5, BMW calls the X6 a ‘Sports Activity Coupe’, the brochure seeing a fella teeing off from a pier with his 3 wood, with a big expensive mountain bike hanging off the back of his X6 behind him. Conflicted then, or just differing take on crazy golf. Blame the marketing people for that bunkum. In reality the X6 will more than likely be used to be drop Jessica and James at schools where straw hats are part of the uniform and every term comes with a sizeable bill.
With this current second-generation X6 it’s gained a degree of acceptability, not least because it started a trend for coupe-like SUVs and we’re more used to seeing them. BMW itself followed the X6 with the smaller X4, while Mercedes-Benz has copied the idea with the GLC Coupe and the GLE Coupe. Certainly the styling with this X6 is a bit more resolved than its predecessor, which was big bootied, despite not being big booted, the X6 now being a bit more balanced of line.
Still overt though, deliberately so, its chunky stance, busy detailing and bold grille are all an X6 signature. BMW doesn’t bother with SE models here, with M Sport the norm - assuming you’ve not gone all-in and gone for the M models themselves. M Sport cars come with 20-inch wheels as standard. If that’s still not big enough M Sport Edition trim gets 21-inch alloy wheels, interior carbon trim and an M Sport Plus package that includes the Digital Cockpit, Head-Up display, sun protection glass and improved Harman Kardon audio equipment.
Being a car that’s at the more irrational end of the buying spectrum the engine line-up does without the X5’s most parsimonious choices. There’s a choice of a turbocharged petrol V8 of 4.4-litres in the xDrive50i, its 450PS and 650Nm of torque enough to get the hefty X6 to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
If that’s not a quick enough way to burn through a tank of fuel then the X6 M is worthy of consideration, with the 4.4-litre V8 boosted further, for a 575PS output along with 750Nm of torque. That allows it to get it to 62mph in just 4.2 seconds, which is a bit silly. Addressing the conflicting goals of outrageous performance with a nod, albeit slight, to economy is the M50d. As that little d suggests, this alternative X6 M car is a diesel, it using the same base 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder as the rest of the diesel line-up but having a triple turbo set-up to allow it its 381PS and 740Nm output. Even so, it takes a whole longer to reach 62mph than the petrol M, for a still not slow 5.2 seconds.
The rest of the diesels are a little bit more sensible, with the xDrive30d M Sport and xDrive40d M Sport having 258PS and 313PS respectively, it unlikely that anyone will find the performance of either lacking. They’ll also help keep the running costs on the right side of horrendous, just. Both have an official combined consumption figure of 40.3mpg - the reality likely to be at least 10-15mpg off that. As the xDrive in all the models’ names alludes to, all are four-wheel drive, and all are automatics too, with an eight-speed transmission coming as standard.
Rivals include that GLE Coupe, as well as more conventional SUVs like Audi’s Q7, the Range Rover Velar or Range Rover Sport, the Porsche Cayenne and Maserati’s Levante. All the more ‘sporting’ choices then, the X6’s sleeker looks allied to a drive that’s at the more engaging end of the scale, at least when applied to a big, heavy SUV, sorry, SAC…
What does a BMW X6 (2015 – 2019) cost?
BMW X6 (2015 – 2019): What's It Like Inside?
Familiar BMW inside, which means relatively conventional and clear instrumentation - unless you option the Digital Cockpit or choose M Sport Edition trim - with a large 10.2-inch screen sitting proud of the centre of the dashboard. Unlike the latest BMW models, the screen is entirely controlled by the iDrive controller in the transmission tunnel, it all very easy to navigate and simple to understand.
The standard Sports front seats offer masses of adjustment, and come with heating as standard and covered in Dakota leather. Obviously there’s plenty of possibilities to personalise, with Nappa or Merino extended leather choices on offer individually, or BMW bundles up some interior packages together in its Pure Extravagance Ivory White or Cognac options.
You really can spend too much time working out all the different options on offer, though we’d suggest the only ‘musts’ are the Surround View in addition to the standard Reversing Assist camera, to aid visibility around it when manoeuvring in tight spaces - all spaces feeling tight in the wide X6.
To that we’d perhaps add Apple Carplay preparation, and maybe a head-up display, if you’ve not gone for the M Sport Edition which gains it, along with things like rear privacy glass.
The rear seats split and fold in a 40/20/40 fashion, allowing through loads, the boot able to be accessed by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Overall, the interior feels and looks of the sort of quality you’d expect at the X6’s price point, though you might baulk at some of the materials in areas if you’re up in the six-figure league that the range-topping M models command.
Rear seat space, despite the sloping roofline is good, with two adults being comfortably accommodated back there, three at a push - the X6 today, unlike its predecessor, having a third seatbelt in the back. As it’s been mentioned, a few times, the boot’s space is 580 litres with the seats in place, or 1,525 litres with them folded. That compares to 650/1,870 litres in the X5, or 770/1,710 litres in a Porsche Cayenne, which is perhaps the X6’s most obvious rival, even though it’s more conventionally SUV shaped.
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What's the BMW X6 (2015 – 2019) like to drive?
With its sleeker profile the promise is of a sporting drive, and in fairness to the X6 that’s exactly what it delivers. That it uses the X5 as a base is a good thing, it among the best in the class for driver appeal, the X6 building on that. Appealing as the xDrive50i might be, the smooth V8 is a rare machine in the UK despite its qualities. Blame the fuel consumption for that, the 29.1mpg official figure fairly punitive, not least because it’ll be considerably worse in reality.
Petrol die-hards are more likely to opt for the flagship X6 M, which ups the lunacy a lot, with a corresponding trade-off in economy, though you might just convince yourself that it’s worth it. The M cars benefits from the most sophisticated suspension available on the X6, with a fully adaptive set up, which helps mitigate roll in the bends, giving the X6 agility that belies its size and weight.
All X6s have the Adaptive M Sport set-up, which allows a choice of stiffer Sport settings, or a more comfortable one rather unambiguously titled Comfort. Other selectable driver choices include settings for the drivetrain, from economy-based EcoPro modes through Comfort, Sport and Sport+, which alter the characteristics of the transmissions, engine response and steering and chassis systems to suit, Comfort giving the best all-round compromise in daily driving.
That’s true of the engines, as tempting as those smooth, powerful turbocharged V8s are, few X6s leave the showroom with anything but the 3.0-litre turbodiesel underneath its sizeable bonnet. For good reason, too, BMW’s in-line six-cylinder turbodiesel an impressive engine, with plenty of performance, even in its base xDrive30d form with 258PS on offer. Given it shares the same mpg and emissions figure as its xDrive40d relation, which benefits from 55PS more, for a 5.8 second 0-62mph time, it’s difficult not to see the circa £2,700 price walk up to it as a no-brainer, particularly at this level of the market.
While the 3.0-litre turbodiesel might lack the outright power figures of its petrol V8 relations, it’s not short of torque in any guise. It’s that which makes light work of the X6’s weight, which allied to the quick-shifting and plentiful ratios of the eight-speed automatic transmission mean all X6s feel brisk. Mate that to the chassis that mixes fine body control with a supple ride and accurate steering, and the X6 is genuinely engaging and enjoyable to drive. If there’s one criticism about its dynamics it’s that the steering, while it’s precise enough, it doesn’t have any real feel at the wheel. Even so, the chassis itself offers plenty of grip, huge traction and the brakes make for a car that you might find impossible to love, but you can’t help but admire its incredible breadth of ability.
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