The latest version of the BMW X6, the German brand's brutish SUV crossover coupe, has launched in Australia with a fresh look and spec for the updated F16 model range.
Based on the F15 X5 SUV that launched last year, the 2015 BMW X6 is available initially in three model variants, xDrive 30d, xDrive 50i and the range-topping M50d - with the xDrive 35i and xDrive 40d arriving around February 2015.
We were invited to sample the X6 range in and around Melbourne’s Yarra Valley and Macedon Ranges, on a combination of open and twisting country roads. Furthermore, we spent some extra time with the car in a suburban environment.
Since the original (E71) X6 was released in 2008, the automotive ‘answer to the question nobody asked’ has received somewhat ‘polarising’ opinion regarding its design.
The new (F16) X6 is no exception – the more squared-off lines of the new X5 nose tapering into a high rear end and that lift-back tailgate. It’s not classically attractive, but it sure makes a statement.
Aerodynamic efficiency is forefront to the design of the X6, with the ‘breather’ elements on the front bar designed to channel air to exit form the ‘bimmerang’ vents behind the front wheels. The new X6 sees a drag-coefficient of 0.32 – improving on the 0.33 cd of the previous model.
Despite sharing plenty of DNA with its X5 sibling, the new X6 is 23mm longer, 51mm wider and 60mm lower. (And the F16 is 6mm wider, 32mm longer and 3mm taller than the previous X6.)
Full disclosure here, too – I own an E70 X5. While this makes me familiar (and fond) of many of the features of the 2015 X6, it also puts me in a similar position to many prospective buyers of the new car – many of whom step up to an X6 from an X5. Personally, while I've not considered one (as I need the wagon body), I've never seen the X6 as a less-practical X5 but rather as a more practical sports-coupe-sedan thing that seem to be all the rage with BMW’s car range at the moment.
This genre-defying nature is what sets the X6 apart from other vehicles (well, until the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe arrives) as a premium but usable 'because I can' type car.
These are the buyers BMW wants to attract with the X6, as they recognise that X6 buyers are looking for more luxury and style in their cars, and so standard equipment has been increased across the range. Adaptive LED headlights, driving assistant package (including city braking, pedestrian and forward collision detect), 20-inch wheels and 10.2-inch professional navigation screen are included, even on the base 30d model.
In standard form, referred to as ‘Pure Extravagance’, the X6 features grey coloured accents on the exterior trim, stainless steel underbody protection and aluminium running boards. For just $1800 extra, though, you can option up the M-Sport package – something that BMW expect over 70 per cent of buyers to do – and receive a more aggressive aero kit, blacked-out trim components and BMW’s M-Adaptive suspension system.
Almost worth the price of admission alone, the inclusion of M-Adaptive suspension sees genuine dynamic change between driving modes. In the default Comfort setting, the X6 still errs to the firmer side, but soaks up most road imperfections and bumps to provide a comfortable ride. Engage Sport, and the whole car stiffens and feels immediately more direct.
Inside, the dashboard is near-identical to the X5 so is both stylish and ergonomic. The 10.2-inch iDrive screen takes centre stage and is coupled with another 10.2-inch LCD configurable instrument panel. This changes according to drive-mode selection and user preference settings. It’s nice and clear, but it is almost a shame to lose the traditional BMW dials.
A leather-topped dashboard is standard in all models and does a great deal to lift the luxury appeal of the interior. All the components are well finished and there is a very strong sense of premium quality – above what you would even expect for a BMW.
The M50d includes alcantara trim as a no-cost option, which further enhances the feeling of both luxury and performance. There are lashings of carbon fibre and the requiste tri-colour M-badging and tagging around the car – including on the (nicely weighted) key fob.
Rear passengers now have a three-seat bench, something the first X6 was not offered with until 2012. It’s plush and comfortable, and leg room is good, but not great – feeling noticeably cosier than an X5. You sit quite low, but head room is still an issue due to the sloping roof and liftback body.
There are cup holders in the arm rest, air vents and 12-volt power outlet. The door openings aren’t as wide as you would like, though, making exiting the BMW X6 not a particularly elegant manoeuvre.
The rear seats fold in 40/20/40 configuration giving a cargo area of 580-litres with the seats up to 1525-litres when folded down. The cargo blind is a hard-folding number that can be rattly if left open.
Under the boot floor is a tool kit, storage cubby and space saver spare wheel.
BMW expects 65-70 per cent of all X6 sales to be the entry-level xDrvie 30d (priced from $115,400). This utilises a more efficient version of BMW’s 190kW/560Nm 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo diesel that's carried over. It feels the same as in my own E70 X5, providing plenty of punch for a big car while offering combined cycle fuel economy of just 6L/100km.
Matched with BMW’s eight-speed automatic, the 30d has excellent response at low revs but performance tapers off and can become a bit ‘rattly’ as you rev it out. The two-tonne (2140kg) X6 30d feels big, but solid. The steering is a little bit vague in the centre when cruising, but turn-in and general control is light and easy, and when being properly driven, it gives great feedback from the big, 275-wide front wheels.
The 330kW/650Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the xDrive50i (from $151,600) is the hotrod of the X6 range, capable of sprinting from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. The 50i includes the M-Adaptive suspension package, radar-adaptive cruise control and metallic paint as standard equipment over the 30d. Plus, being a V8 a muscular exhaust note is also part of the package.
Until the new M-Division BMW X6 M is launched (we are driving it in Texas next week), the current range topper is the M50d (from $157,900). With a 280kW/740Nm triple-turbo version of the 3-litre inline 6-cyclinder motor, the M50d is the perfect blend of power and economy – returning an impressive 6.6L/100km consumption while claiming just 5.2-seconds for the 0-100kmh sprint.
Power delivery is strong off the mark, and you certainly run out of speed limit before the triple-turbo runs out of puff. Overtaking at highway speeds is a breeze - but you'll see north of 120km/h in no time, so be careful!
The M50d comes standard with the M-Sport package and certainly looks the part of being the ‘biggest sports car in the world’.
The wider and lower stance gives the X6 a more aggressive look as well as a more sporting attitude on the road. The 315mm-wide rear tyres and standard 20-inch wheels provide excellent grip and ensure confidence in the car’s behaviour.
When tackling tighter corners at speed, the X6 will skip around corrugations but still feel very solidly planted to the road surface. On more open sections of country roads, the sporting nature shines through and the big BMW performs more like a sports car than a family hauler.
Around town the X6 still thumps a bit over speed humps and tram crossings – thanks to the run-flat tyres – but is still usable and generally comfortable on all surfaces. The stop-start function that operates in both Comfort and Eco-Pro driving modes is reasonably smooth and economy sits around the 9L/100km mark for purely urban use.
The high-resolution parking cameras are excellent – although the default mode of rear-view is a bit annoying to have to switch into top-view every time – and you really need them as rear and quarter visibility isn’t brilliant.
In all, the 2015 BMW X6 is an excellent dynamic and luxurious package. It’s not pretty, or practical, but it has presence. A big sports coupe rather than a squashed SUV, the X6 is still the answer, even if most of us still aren't aware of the question.
For some real world context, a friend of mine has an original X6 he upgraded to from an X5. His children are teenagers and he’s no longer concerned about family space – he was thinking about a sports coupe but was so used to the high driving position from the X5… that the best coupe he could think of was an X6, and he loves it.
It's not to everyone's taste, but roll up to a friend’s house in an X5 and they’ll be wondering where the kids are, come in an X6 and everyone will notice – and for some buyers, that’s what really matters.
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