What is it?
This new, second-generation BMW X6 is the sister model to the latest X5 and sticks to a formula that has surprised critics with its success, the original version finding almost 260,000 buyers over the past six years.
It’s a full-size SUV coupé of sporting intent and was originally conceived with the US market in mind. Indeed, America is where it’s made, at BMW’s expanding Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, but it’s slightly unexpected appeal in Europe and China too has made it a usefully profitable hit for the branf.
Key features of this new version, which is for the most part entirely revised, include upgraded engines delivering improved power and economy, more equipment for much the same overall weight, reduced drag (it’s 0.32 Cd improves on the previous 0.35) and a battery of optional driver aids ranging from night vision to self-parking and traffic jam assist.
Usefully, the X6 now seats five full-size adults rather than four-and-a-bit, has an electric tailgate and myriad trim and décor options besides the regular Design, Luxury and Performance packages.
Engine choices include xDrive 30d and 40d diesels of 258bhp and 313bhp outputs respectively, as well as the performance-oriented 381bhp M50d sampled here. The petrol offering consists of the one 450bhp V8 xDrive 50i. All are harnessed to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a permanent four-wheel drive system.
What's it like?
One new X6 feature of which BMW is rather proud is a simple pair of neatly trimmed kneepads.They flank the centre console to provide supportive leg-bracing when the cornering forces get large.
And they’re not misplaced, because the grip and composure of this M50d, which has firmed suspension, broad 19-inch rims and an optional roll-control system, are deeply impressive. Especially when you remember that this gargantuan five-door coupé weighs decisively over two tonnes.
It takes some serious commitment to generate the understeer that eventually arrives, and as a session on a test track reveals, planting the accelerator at this point actually has the car tightening its line as more power is fed to the front axle and it hauls itself around.
In truth you need a circuit to find this out, although it’s a characteristic that’s also useful on snow, say BMW’s development drivers. Torque-vectoring across the rear axle also heightens this X6’s impressive agility, as well as an all-wheel drive system that apportions 60 per cent of the engine’s effort to the rear wheels unless otherwise required.
A shame that the steering is almost bereft of feel despite the massive forces that must sometimes bear on its mechanism; better news is that it’s precise and solidly weighted.
The M50d is the most powerful of the diesels, this 3.0-litre, triple turbo straight-six producing 381bhp and an industrial grade 546lb ft, the full force of which is frequently available thanks to the eight speed transmission. Which can also have you loping along at 80mph on little more than 1800rpm, or shift with an enthusiastic flourish in sport.