In a new development, BMW now 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, specific mapping and driving modes for the four-wheel drive system and off-road tyres.
With a length of 4935mm, the new X6 is 26mm longer than the second-generation X6 at 4935mm, with the wheelbase stretched by 42mm at 2975mm. It’s also 15mm wider at 2004mm and 6mm lower at 1696mm.
The interior, largely shared with that used by the latest X5, has been heavily redesigned with higher-grade materials and the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive system, complete with digital instruments and a 12.3-inch touch screen display for the infotainment functions. Seating remains restricted to five, though those in the second row now benefit from added leg and shoulder room. Yet despite the added length, boot capacity remains at 580 litres (65 litres fewer than the X5), increasing to 1530 litres with the 40/20/20 seats folded.
Heading the petrol line-up is the X6 M50i driven here with a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine developing 523bhp and a generous 553lb ft of torque. It’s joined by the X6 xDrive40i running a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder unit delivering 335bhp and 332lb ft.
The diesels, traditionally the big sellers in the UK, include the X6 M50d with a quad-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine developing 394bhp and 560lb ft and the X6 xDrive30d, whose turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel serves up 261bhp and 457lb ft.
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 X6 M50i for added traction benefits in less than ideal driving conditions.
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 coupe-like than before, in keeping with moves the German car maker says are aimed at providing the new model with its own individual character separate to that of the mechanical identical X5.
The X6 M50i makes light work of its 2235kg kerb weight with terrific flexibility and urgency on part throttle loads around town and the ability to serve up the sort of performance to fully justify its M branding in sport mode out on the open road.
How does the X6 perform on the road?
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 despite the constant flow of wind noise and tyre roar that enters the cabin at motorway speeds. It’s not only the engine that distinguishes itself, though. The speed and intuitive nature in which the gearbox performs gear changes also plays a central role in the driving appeal.
We’ve always been quite impressed at how well the X6 handles for something of it size, and this latest model only serves to reinforce this feeling. The standard specification mates adaptive dampers to a steel sprung suspension, though our test car was underpinned by an optional air suspension, which brings variable ride height qualities. Along with the standard steering, it also featured the optional integral rear steer system, for added manoeuvrability at lower speeds and greater agility out on the open road.