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Large coupé-SUV is meant to be an X5 that's even more desirable and more engaging to drive

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Introduced to the BMW line-up back in 2008, the high-riding BMW X6 is credited with creating a whole new market segment of coupé-SUVs.

Few cars manage to divide opinions quite like it, and it has since spawned a host of sought-after rivals, such as the Audi Q8, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé and Porsche Cayenne Coupé.

There’s an imbibing willingness and deep-seated smoothness to the delivery of its engine that makes the most powerful of all new third-generation X6 models to date a crushingly effective proposition over longer distances

Whatever you think about it, though, there’s no denying its success. And despite the increased competition and increasingly tight emission regulations in key markets, global demand for it continues to grow.

The third-generation X6 has been on sale since 2019. It introduced a bold, love-it-or-hate-it design, with a far more brutish exterior look than its BMW X5 sister. 

But is the class's creator still its leader? And more importantly, can it match the excellent 4.5-star X5? Our review will give you all the answers, so read on to find out more… 

The BMW X6 range at a glance

The boxier X5 gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain with up to 68 miles of electric-only range, but no such thing is offered in the X6. Instead, it offers a choice of two diesel engines, with 293bhp (in the xDrive30d) and 347bhp (in the xDrive40d). Both pack a punch, accelerating from 0-62mph in 6.1sec and 5.5sec. 

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If petrol is more your style, the X6 is also offered as the xDrive40i, which is powered by a 375bhp straight six, or the M60i, which packs a twin-turbocharged V8 that pumps out a staggering 523bhp and 553lb ft of torque.

All versions are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, xDrive four-wheel drive and 48V mild-hybrid assistance.

If that's still not enough power for you, the BMW X6 M Competition might grab your attention. It takes a 4.4-litre V8 producing 616bhp and 552lb ft, which is good for 0-62mph in just 3.9sec. That's 74bhp more than the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo and 24bhp more than the Audi RS Q8

VERSIONPOWER
xDrive30d293bhp
xDrive40d347bhp
xDrive40i375bhp
M60i xDrive523bhp
X6 M Competition616bhp

DESIGN & STYLING

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BMW X6 rear

In 2019, the third-generation X6 introduced a new evolutionary design with a bold front end featuring a new interpretation of BMW’s signature grille. 

Some people love it but others absolutely hate it. It's eye-catching regardless, and there's no denying the broad-shouldered body and heavily curved roofline will appeal to plenty of buyers. 

Many of the design cues that have characterised the big 4x4 for over 11 years remain to see, such as the bold rear end, while an optional illumination function gives the grille a modern touch. 

At the rear, it's arguably sleeker than ever before, despite its sheer size, sharing its look with the smaller X4, most notably in the elongated shape of its tail-lights and exaggerated angle of its large tailgate. 

At 4935mm, the X6 is 26mm longer than its predecessor, with the wheelbase stretched by 42mm at 2975mm. It’s also 15mm wider, at 2004mm, and 6mm lower, at 1696mm.

BMW offers both a standard on-road and optional off-road package on selected models – the latter of which gives the X6 a more rugged appearance, with added underbody protection, added ground clearance, off-road tyres and specific mapping and driving modes for the four-wheel drive system.

All engines come mated to a standard eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox and BMW’s electronically controlled xDrive four-wheel drive system, which includes a rear differential lock on the M60i for added traction benefits in less-than-ideal driving conditions.

INTERIOR

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BMW X6 front interior

BMW’s efforts to give the X6 a more luxurious air are obvious the moment you step up into it. The quality of the interior and level of standard equipment (not least its long list of electronic driving aids) is well beyond that of earlier models. 

The driving position is also a little less upright and more genuinely coupé-like than before, in keeping with moves the BMW says are aimed at providing the X6 with its own individual character separate from that of the X5. 

All X6s are now equipped with the brand’s eighth-generation iDrive system, comprising a 12.3in digital instrument display and a curved 14.9in touchscreen infotainment system. 

It’s a very impressive place to sit, with comfortable seats and screens in every direction and well-integrated, easy-to-access buttons and rotary dials. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, which pair nicely with the wireless smartphone charging pad. 

Seating remains restricted to five, unlike in the X5, but those in the second row benefit from added leg and shoulder room compared with the old X6. Most people will be comfortable, but those over 6ft 2in tall will be tight to the ceiling. 

Indeed, the X6 still isn’t as practical as the roomier X5, and the sloping roofline slashes boot space from 650 to 580 litres – less than in the GLE Coupé (655 litres) and the Audi Q8 (605 litres). It does increase to 1530 litres with the 40/20/20-split seats folded down, though.

The X6 offers decent levels of storage too, with large door bins for water bottles, a big central storage box and two ventilated cupholders up front.

Rear passengers meanwhile have access to their own climate-control panel, window blinds, coat hooks and a USB-C charging port each, located just below the headrest of the front seats. 

Overall, the X6’s interior is a relaxing and stylish place to sit and one of the best in its class. 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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There’s an absorbing willingness and deep-seated smoothness to the power delivery of all of the BMW X6’s engines. The speed and intuitive nature in which the gearbox performs changes also play a central role in the model’s driving appeal.

The’s powerful 3.0-litre petrol engine in the xDrive40i propels the 2240kg kerb weight well, dispatching 0-62mph in 5.4sec, while spitting out a pleasing exhaust note.

It can feel slightly laboured at higher speeds but will sit comfortably on the motorway at 70mph. 

It's the 3.0-litre diesel engine that really shines, though. Not only does it deliver its power incredibly smoothly, but it also has incredible low-range power, thanks to the 494lb ft and 531lb ft of torque offered by the xDrive30d and xDrive40d respectively.

Both engines are brilliant, but our pick of the range would be the lesser-powered xDrive30d. 

There is a sticking point though: the diesels don’t quite sound as refined as the petrol in the xDrive40i - and it’s a sound that you will probably need to get used to. Much of it is also artificially pumped into the cabin via the speakers, which some people like but others won’t be as convinced by. 

In the M60i, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 feels brash and powerful, but it’s a choice that you would probably select with your heart rather than your head. 

RIDE & HANDLING

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BMW X6 side distance

Drivers who want a large car that can hold its own in the corners will likely be pleased with the X6. Its handling is far more elegant than its brutish exterior might suggest and BMW has managed to reign in body roll even on more challenging roads. 

The result is satisfyingly direct handling, with a meaty feel to the steering at anything above urban speeds. Although there's a substantial amount of weight at play, body movement even on challenging roads is very progressive. 

We’ve always been quite impressed at how well the X6 handles for something of its size, and it’s genuinely fun and involving. Its dynamic character means you soon forget just how large it is.

Although the steering does feel a bit heavier at lower speeds, you will have no problem navigating through the city or along the motorway. 

As for the ride, the X6 is generally composed and compliant on most surfaces, only really coming unstuck on slower city streets. It suffers from plenty of high-frequency patter over uneven surfaces and transverse intrusions can unleash nasty jarring at low speeds. It improves with speed, although never to the point of being cossetting. 

Pay for the optional air suspension and you will rarely see the X6 become unsettled. The ride isn’t helped by the X6’s standard 21in wheels, which also emphasise road noise. Wind noise is noticeable at higher speeds too.

You can also add an integral rear-steer system for added manoeuvrability at lower speeds and greater agility out on the open road.

In the M60i, the quick reactions of the xDrive system and electronically controlled rear differential provide a torque-vectoring effect between the two rear wheels.

This keeps everything on a neutral footing, and if you do manage to breach the huge grip on offer, a rapid reapportioning of drive by the stability-control system immediately allows you to correct your line.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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BMW X6 front lead

The most economical X6 is the xDrive30d diesel. BMW claims between 38.2-39.8mpg in this version. The xDrive40d meanwhile gets 37.2-38.8mpg. 

That’s not bad, considering the car’s weight and size. The petrol xDrive40i will cost more to run, with BMW claiming 31.7-32.8mpg and our week-long test of the car returning 26.5mpg. 

You obviously won’t be choosing the M60i for its economical credentials, but for reference, BMW claims 24.1-24.6mpg. 

The X6 is offered in only two trim levels, both of them with M badging, so the main difference will be your engine decision. 

Standard equipment includes ambient lighting, adaptive LED headlights, high beam assist, a leather steering wheel and much more, but much is missing in the form of optional extras which can significantly ramp up the price. 

For example, one of our test cars was an xDrive40i M Sport, which starts from £73,600, but thanks to around £19,000 of options comes to £94,379. 

Some options are well worth considering, such as front and rear air suspension (£1200), the technology pack (£4000) which includes a premium audio system, BMW’s live cockpit and fancy driver assistance equipment), and the M Sport Pack (£2400), which adds a sports exhaust, sports brakes, grille illumination and sportier seatbelts. 

VERDICT

The X6 is involving to drive, packs a punch, has an attractive soundtrack and is largely a very comfortable place to be. 

It's not quite as spacious as other coupe-SUV rivals - beaten by both the Audi Q8 and the Mercedes GLE Coupe, but it handles with far more dynamism and directness than both.

Its interior is also a step above the rest if you equip it with the right options, and the X6's engine line-up is excellent, with the two diesels packed with torque and offering some genuine frugality. The petrol xDrive40i, meanwhile, provides a higher-performing alternative, topped by a frankly ludicrous M Competition model. 

But despite these positives, it’s hard to recommend the X6 over the more spacious X5, which makes more sense from a practicality standpoint, is cheaper and is only slightly less engaging to drive. It's also got the option of that plug-in hybrid powertrain, which is more enticing for company car buyers.

If you love the look of SUV-coupés, though, the X6 is still a top option. Just bear in mind that a diesel might be the smarter choice.