The BMW X6 is a car that splits opinion straight down the middle – and has done ever since it launched in 2007. From a practicality perspective, it makes little sense beside the X5 on which it’s based. Yet it carries credence for the kind of customer for whom there is – or was – nothing else quite like it.
But whatever your take on the BMW X6, there is no denying that it has laid the ground for a new niche of car: the sporting coupe-styled SUV. It is this car that paved the way for models like the Mercedes GLE Coupe, the sleeker Porsche Cayenne, and even the new Audi Q8.
As the X6 has evolved, so has its styling. Which is why this new redesigned version has become, shock horror, slightly more subtle in its outlook. Gone are the vast rear haunches, and gone is the design that some would argue was little more than macho for macho’s sake.
Instead, the new X6 even manages to looks quite dainty from some angles, with far less aggression to its profile. Whether that’s what its fans will want is another matter, but the fact is the new X6 looks a fair bit less offensive to the rest of us.
Beneath its new skin it’s more sophisticated than before, too, and is better to drive as a result. Our first chance to try the car on UK roads came courtesy of the all-new X6 xDrive40i – powered by BMW’s ubiquitous 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six petrol engine. It generates 336bhp and 450Nm, to give a 0-62mph time of just 5.5 seconds; not bad for a vehicle that weighs well over two tonnes. The xDrive aspect in the title means permanent four-wheel drive, while the gearbox is an eight-speed auto that features numerous drive modes, ranging from Eco to Sport.
Inside, the redesigned X6 feels a lot like the new X5; it’s very well equipped and well built, but with a slightly more sporting feel to its design and controls. As in the X5, the X6 features BMW’s latest iDrive 7.0 software, and has a big touchscreen in the centre of its dash that can also be voice operated. There is a lot of equipment on offer, including Apple CarPlay, full four-zone climate control, and high quality leather trim for all five seats.
The boot is fractionally bigger than before, as well. The X6 is 26mm longer and 15mm wider, and the wheelbase has been stretched by 42mm, too, meaning there’s more room inside. That’s a neat trick given how much less physically imposing the new X6 looks compared with its predecessor. Either way, it feels like a class act inside, with top quality materials and a greater sense of space – especially in the rear.
On the move the new X6 drives just fine for a car of this type. Its steering is perhaps a fraction sharper than an X5’s, the body control maybe a touch better. But essentially the X6 drives just like its more practical sibling – and there’s not a whole lot wrong with that. Performance from the 3.0-litre straight-six is strong and the gearbox works extremely well. The ride is comfortable enough and the steering accurate but fairly lifeless – all of which translates into handling that is safe but not in any way involving. The overall driving experience is fine, but the Porsche equivalent is undoubtedly more rewarding for the keen driver.
So, an enthusiasts car the X6 is not. But then it was never meant to be. And for the people it‘s aimed at it is simply better than ever – so you can’t exactly criticise it for that.