The BMW X6 is no longer alone in the world. At one time, it was the only “coupe-like” crossover SUV on the market. But since its introduction a few years ago, more utility vehicles have gotten into the act. There’s BMW’s own compact X4, a version of the X3; the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, which comes in three-door form; and new to the group, a Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe that tapers off the roofline of the former M-Class SUV.
The granddaddy of them all, the X6, continues to pack formidable on-road prowess with some degree of all-weather capability and stylish flourish. And unlike the other models, it has an ultra-performance edition in its portfolio–the exceptionally powerful, twin-turbo-eight X6 M, which comes with its own track-ready performance hardware.
A spin-off of the 2016 BMW X5, the X6 was redesigned just last model year–but you’re excused if you didn’t register the evolutionary, slight changes made to its exterior and its cabin. The proportions are altered, and that helps the X6’s more ungainly angles; it’s a design we’ve warmed to since the recent massaging. The more fluid, sleeker look highlights a twin-kidney-shaped grille at the front, framed by X-shaped cross pieces and big, round LED headlights. Big air intakes underscore the performance hardware beneath, while the side gills go overboard–they’re on the garish side, according to our taste-o-meter.
On the X6 M, BMW adds larger air intakes and lowers the ride height for a more sporty stance. There’s a slim rear spoiler painted body color, and M badging applied front, sides, and back.
The cockpit of the X6 wears a look familiar to BMWs across the lineup. It was broadly reorganized for the 2015 model year, and the new look reframes big sets of controls more subtly and more handsomely than it did before. A 10.2-inch flat-screen display dominates the dashboard, accented by a choice of brushed aluminum, or a variety of wood trim elements. High-gloss black and pearl gloss chrome surfaces complete the sophisticated, modern theme.
Mechanically, the X6 was upgraded thoroughly last model year, and carries over unchanged. There’s a base, rear-drive model powered by the same 300-horsepower, 300-pound-foot, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder found in the all-wheel-drive X6 xDrive35i. It uses the same eight-speed transmission found throughout the X6 range (aside from the monstrous X6 M), and in performance feel, its only real difference is the lack of drive to the front wheels.
More pricey models command serious respect. The X6 xDrive50i’s 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine is rated at 450 horsepower; in X6 M trim, it’s rated at 567 hp, good for 0-60 mph times in the 4-second range.
We’ve found performance to be quite strong—strong enough for most needs—in xDrive35i guise, where the X6 can get to 60 mph in six seconds and performance with the turbo six is strong and smooth. The X6 drives even more like a tall 5-Series than before, and within reason for this nearly 5,000-pound vehicle, it handles precisely and brakes with composure. Multiple drive modes now include an Eco mode that allows more coasting.
The M edition has stiffer springs, rear air springs, adaptive shocks, high-performance brakes, and its own driving modes including a Sport+ mode which dials stability control to an almost completely off setting. All-wheel drive is standard on the X6 M, though it’s set with a rear power bias. Acceleration is blistering, and the X6 M bridges the real world and the track performance world capably, though it’s still a vehicle with many conflicting messages about performance as well as utility.
Comfort is no longer a stranger to the X6. Despite the tapered roofline, there’s now space for five, as the rear seat is now a bench (outboard positions are still given the comfort priority, though). The roofline doesn’t take its downward plunge until just aft of rear passengers’ heads, so there’s actually plenty of headroom in back. Legroom and knee space aren’t quite in the realm of a full-size car or crossover, but they’re a bit more ample than in a mid-size sport sedan like the 5-Series. Taking another couple out to dinner or for a short weekend trip should be no problem.
Few buyers are ever going to miss the (upper) portion of the X5’s cargo area that’s carved out by a swoopier roofline and sexier sheetmetal to make the X6. The cargo floor is about where you’d guess it to be, for a taller utility vehicle, with plenty of room for grocery bags to fit upright; and there’s a handy ‘secret’ storage tray underneath. Rear seatbacks do flip forward easily, to a position that’s nearly flat with the cargo floor.
On the technology front, the BMW X6 offers a head-up display; BMW Night Vision with pedestrian, animal, and object detection, as well as collision warning; and BMW Selective Beam headlights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has already rated the automatic-braking function and potential accident avoidance of its ‘Driver Assistance Plus/ACC Stop & Go + Active Driving Assistant’ package to be ‘superior’, but other crash data is still absent.
As with other recent BMW vehicles, the X6 is available in a range of trim lines, including the xLine and M Sport line. Each adds a themed package of appearance elements, ranging from refined to sporty. Optional interior upgrades include six colors of Dakota leather, with Cognac and Coral Red new for 2015. X6 M vehicles add their own Merino leather and Alcantara headliner, aluminum accent trim, and more M badging.
The X6 comes very well equipped at its base price of $60,795, but with tantalizing wheel, trim, and interior upgrades, as well as those technology extras, it’s quite easy to load up an xDrive35i to more than $90k or an xDrive50i to above the $100k mark–where the X6 M takes up the baton.