What is it?
This, for the moment, is the most powerful BMW X6 that you can buy. Its twin-turbocharged 4.4 litre V8 generates 444bhp, which is sufficient to catapult this SUV to 62mph in 4.8 seconds – plenty enough for most.
But for those feeling short-changed, there will soon be a 553bhp X6 M, which will deliver a more exacting test of this BMW’s new chassis. In the meantime, you can have the lesser xDrive50i in either M Sport or SE trim, as sampled here, and in both cases it comes with an eight-speed automatic.
This second-generation X6, the bulk of which has been redesigned, features upgraded engines, more equipment, no gain in weight, an improved drag coefficient and a style that BMW’s design department has aimed to vest with an air of greater maturity.
Key exterior features include a slightly lowered rear deck height, a more sophisticated nose that’s at least as imposing as the last, and a more complex arrangement of creases in its flanks that at the rear.
These, however, are rather reminiscent of the rather odd rear wheelarch sculptings flaunted by the pre-facelift version of the current E-Class Benz. Fussy, in other words.
What's it like?
The V8’s potency and noise are tempting reasons for choosing this decidedly indulgent engine over a diesel. Whether you’re listening to the 4.4’s bubbling idle from outside, or hearing its urgent, rhythmic high-rev pulse from within, this engine makes a substantial aural case for itself.
A 0-62mph of 4.8 sec is as deliciously unnecessary as 444bhp. Because the V8's coupled to a swift-shifting eight-speed transmission, the sheer thrust on offer is mildly amazing.
What's more impressive is that when you point the X6 at a succession of switchback bends, its roadholding, reassuringly accurate steering and body control combine to provide a surprisingly entertaining drive.
The X6 doesn’t quite have the mid-bend agility of the smaller Porsche Macan, but as a session on a test track reveals, the trick rear axle and the driveline’s ability to funnel a strong slug of on-the-limit torque through the front wheels will pull the X6 out of the understeer that may have been building to this point. All of which allows it to be conducted with a fluency that belies its size.
It’s less fluent, however, when there are bumps in the path of its sizeable wheels, as ridges and ruts kick up the odd sharp jolt that momentarily punctures the atmosphere of sophistication. Much of which stems from the X6’s truly impressive noise suppression and an interior whose horizontal sweep of dashboard, tastefully applied décor and high precision finish do much to ram home the impression that you’re aboard a luxury SUV.
So does the generous cabin space in the front, although rear space is less impressive. More of an issue, surprisingly, is the shortage of foot room in the rear, the bulk of the front seats preventing you from fitting your toes beneath them. Front seat occupants are better catered to, and they also get kneepads built into the centre console allowing them to better brace themselves during athletic cornering manoeuvres. Which sounds gimmicky, but can genuinely prove useful.