Points must be awarded for refined diesel performance, but otherwise, BMW’s strangely shaped SUV has somehow managed to be a ‘sports utility vehicle’ without a whole lot of utility.
BMW’s X6 xDrive30d is an interesting proposition. Big – but with a less-than-practical design. An SUV – but without the inherent family-friendly appeal. And, finally, sporty looks – but with a diesel engine.
The 2020 X6 is even bigger and more aggressively styled than previous generations, which could diminish its mass appeal even further. Certainly, a first glimpse had me pondering exactly who this car is for.
In the weeks leading up to my time in the X6, I drove both the X6 M and the X3 20d, both of which gave me excellent context for my time in this divisively designed coupe SUV. And while I can’t say I’m all the way converted, I now have a clearer idea of who should be considering this not-so-lean machine.
The BMW X6 xDrive30d is an automatic, diesel-powered, coupe-style premium large SUV that's priced from $123,900 plus on-road costs.
It’s powered by a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that outputs a respectable 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque. The car boasts BMW’s xDrive rear-bias all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The xDrive30d is the entry-level option in the X6 range – jump up a grade to the X6 xDrive40i and you’ll net a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with slightly higher power and lower torque outputs (250kW/450Nm) for $126,900 plus on-road costs.
Go up another grade to the M50i and you’re looking at a 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine capable of 390kW of power and 750Nm of torque from $144,900 before on-roads.
And if you’ve got a need for speed, there’s always the entirely impractical, ostentatiously fast X6 M Competition (which I reviewed here) for $213,900 plus on-road costs.
|BMW X6 xDrive 30d|
|Engine configuration||Six-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Power||195kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||620Nm @ 2000-2500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||95.0kW/t|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic w/ paddle shift|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||7.1L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L|
At a touch over the $120-grand mark without options, the X6 competes with cars like the similarly silhouetted Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, which starts at $125,970 for an entry-level diesel variant.
Other stablemates include the Audi Q8, which offers a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine from the marginally more expensive $129,900 plus on-road costs.
X6 shoppers are likely also toying with the idea of the BMW X5, which certainly isn’t as visually unique but arguably offers more everyday practicality. An equivalent diesel-powered X5 will cost you $119,900 plus on-road costs.
As tested, the X6 reviewed here came to $132,750 plus on-road costs thanks mainly to a $5000 ‘iconic package’ including metallic paintwork (Mineral White - one of eight choices), an illuminated kidney grille and 22-inch alloy wheels. It also featured a $1650 red-and-black leather interior, $600 carbon-fibre interior trim finishes, $1300 front lumbar support and a $1300 16-speaker sound system.
But, since the M-Sport package (body styling, sport seats, M-Adaptive suspension, M-Sport exhaust, Sport+ transmission, M-Sport brakes) is equipped as standard, you could happily skip these non-crucial options and stick to the car's list price, meaning it would sit at the lower end of its small niche class, price-wise.
Like most BMWs, the safety and driver-assistance systems available to you in the X6 are advanced and comprehensive. The car will tug you back into your lane if it senses you’re veering out without indicating, will sound an alarm if another vehicle cuts in front of you and is too close for comfort, and will also make you believe you’re way closer to obstacles when reversing than you actually are.
I like my safety systems overzealous, but would have appreciated more precision on the parking sensors front simply because I really relied on them more due to the car's dimensions. I also went a little insane every time the seatbelt did that thing where it hugs you in after you buckle up and start driving – but that’s just me. Delve into the settings and you can deactivate it, thankfully.
As standard, you’ll also receive adaptive headlights with high-beam assist, surround-view cameras (which is a real lifesaver in a car this size), adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, a cross-traffic warning on the front and rear, and BMW’s reversing assistant, plus autonomous emergency braking at all speeds.
To up the safety quota even further, BMW offers its intelligent emergency call capabilities as standard on the X6, meaning you can hit the SOS button and receive emergency assistance around the clock.
The BMW X6 range is yet to be tested by Australia’s crash-testing body, ANCAP, or its European equivalent, Euro NCAP.
Additional perks on top of the driver assistance and safety features include a wireless charger, wireless Apple CarPlay (wireless Android Auto will be rolled out as an update across new cars later this year), a head-up display, DAB digital radio, a high-resolution digital instrument cluster spanning 12.3 inches, and a central infotainment touchscreen also spanning 12.3 inches, plus a 10-speaker HiFi sound system.
The wireless charger is particularly well located, tucked away below the dash so you can stow your phone in there and forget about it, while using the wireless CarPlay interface to access calls, messages and maps. Plus, if you get out of the car without removing your phone, the X6 will helpfully let you know.
Some of the most distinctive features on the X6 are all of its various lighting signatures. The big kidney grille on the car I drove had a function called the ‘iconic glow’, which basically meant it lit up. The resulting effect looked like the car was baring its teeth at you in a somewhat menacing manner.
I did, however, appreciate the attractive, sunset-hued tail-lights and the striped display the X6 projected onto the ground after you locked it. Although, the whole thing made me feel very conspicuous in public car parks at night.
With its red leather interior, heated front sports seats with electric adjustment, big sunroof and four-zone climate control (from the options list), you won’t be lacking for comfort in the X6. It also looks fantastic inside, with all the $1650 carbon-fibre trim optioned on my review car a major step up from easily smudged black plastic.
The back seats are deep enough that they almost compensate for lost head room as a result of the sloping roof. Our photographer Mitch, who is 195cm tall, had about 1.5cm head clearance when sitting all the way back in the rear seat, with roughly the same distance separating his knees from the front seat in a fairly generous reclining position.
Back seat occupants are also well catered for thanks to air vents with their own dedicated climate controls and lightning charging ports, ISOFIX points if required, and large side door storage bins.
However, as I mentioned in my X6 M Competition review, the sloping roof can make you feel like the back seat is smaller and darker than it actually is (although the standard sunroof helps), and it dramatically limits the cargo capabilities of the boot.
The boot is deep – with 580L of usable space – but you’ll need to make sure anything you’re carting around is relatively low-profile. Taller items simply won’t load in, or will get most of the way there and then prevent the boot door from closing. The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 split to allow for longer items, but it doesn’t really remedy the height and slope problem.
I can justify a car the size of a small boat if it can fit a small boat in the boot, or carry a boatload of kids thanks to a third row. But without those qualities, the X6 borders on needlessly large. Why have a car that’s this huge and imposing, but has finicky limits on what it can and can’t carry thanks to its unique dimensions?
|BMW X6 xDrive 30d|
|Boot volume (min/max)||580L / 1530L|
|Towing capacity (braked/unbraked)||1900kg / 750 kg|
|Wheels/tyres||22-inch / 275/35/22 front - 315/30/22 rear Pirelli|
The traditional BMW inline-six in the X6 offers plenty of punch for a big SUV, and feels powerful enough to move the mass of the car along quickly and nimbly, with little regard for its heft.
Acceleration in the X6 is remarkably smooth and responsive for its size (0-100km/h claimed at 6.5 sec), while steering is on the lighter side, although this can be firmed up in sports mode. This culminates in an overall driving experience that could even be described as ‘nimble’, particularly at higher speeds.
If I sound surprised it’s because I am. I typically dislike the rattle and general off-boost sluggishness often associated with diesel engines, but the X6 manages to bypass all that and offer a drive that’s borderline sporty and surprisingly agile for an SUV of its size.
In fact, it’s even got a solid exhaust note – thanks to the M Sport exhaust fitted as part of the standard M Sport package – that sounds more like a petrol engine than a diesel engine, particularly as you really put your foot down. Part of this is due to the hate or put-up-with (lets face it, no one loves it) artificial exhaust note piped into the cabin, but even taking this into consideration the big X6 still sounds pretty tough.
The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts through gears imperceptibly and quickly, avoiding any noticeable lag or sluggishness, even in stop-start traffic. As always the trusty ZF rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong.
Of course, the car’s constant xDrive all-wheel-drive system makes light work of any uneven road surfaces or off-the-beaten track moments you may have, distributing power accordingly if it detects any wheel slip.
In comfort mode, the X6 is particularly composed on the road, quiet, with suspension that softens any harshness before it enters the cabin and has the car feeling well-cushioned even over major road irregularities.
The third generation of the X6 is wider, longer and boasts a larger wheelbase than its predecessor, but has a reduced height – all changes you’ll notice when behind the wheel. While driving around town, I was acutely aware of the car’s size the entire time.
This was not necessarily because it was unwieldy or cumbersome in how it handled, but more due to the limiting dimensions (narrow streets and short car parks are stressful) and sub-par rearward visibility.
Thanks to thick rear pillars and small, slanted rear windshield, plus the sheer width of the car at just over 2m wide, it's hard to gauge clearance and distance from obstacles. When it rains, the lack of a rear wiper makes it even harder to see what’s behind you.
While you’ll feel elevated in the driver’s seat, the ride height doesn’t offer enough of a visibility boost to counteract the fact the windows and windshield all taper down toward the back, which can make you feel more like you’re driving a sedan than an SUV.
I really, really hated parking the X6. It’s sort of like trying to dance but when all your limbs are numb. You feel disconnected from the body of the car, and forced to rely on the myriad of cameras to tell you exactly how far your giant butt is from the car behind. Plus those enormous 22-inch rims are just trying to scratch themselves, the 35 and 30-profile tyres offering no buffer against errant bluestone gutters.
Thankfully, the self-park system certainly helps – however, on one occasion I tried to test it on a stock-standard parallel park and when I selected my spot it just reversed straight back without turning or maneuvering in any way.
Apparently this can happen occasionally when the car senses the circumstances aren't conducive to a safe manoeuvre, so it aborts the park. You'll just look like a real weirdo who can't park to passers-by.
On the topic of driver-assistance features, however, it must be said that BMW’s adaptive cruise control and other assist features are excellent. In the X6, it clocked live speed-limit changes instantaneously, prompting you to reset the cruise control accordingly, while steering, maintaining a safe braking distance from the car ahead, and slowing or speeding up as needed – requiring little to no intervention.
A week of mostly city driving with four or five freeway sprints in the BMW X6 xDrive30d returned an overall real-world consumption figure of 10.6L/100km, but I did see it sink as low as 8.4L/100km on a couple of individual city driving days.
I thought this was reasonably impressive given how big this car is, until I checked BMW’s quoted figures: 7.1L/100km for a combined cycle.
As a result, that places my week of fairly tame driving at 3.5L more fuel consumption per 100km than what it’s theoretically supposed to be – not diabolical, but certainly room for improvement.
Fair to note too that the engine is at its most economical on longer touring drives, so depending on your usage plans (and from previous experiences) you'll need to stretch the BMW's legs to start to get close to the claimed consumption.
|BMW X6 xDrive 30d|
|Options as tested||$8,850|
|Servicing 3yr/60,00km +||$3562|
|Servicing 5yr/80,000km +||$5744|
|Warranty||3 years / unlimited km|
The BMW X6 xDrive30d is a strangely impractical practical car. For starters, you’ve got the diesel engine that doesn’t sound, feel or drive like a diesel engine, but with potentially higher-than-hoped-for fuel economy. Then you’ve got the massive, hulking body – but without much actual usable space.
Finally, there are all these safety systems and cameras that only somewhat counteract a problem that could easily be fixed simply with a slightly bigger rear windshield, or larger back windows.
In M Competition guise, this all-out impracticality possesses enough look-at-me outlandishness that it somehow, counterintuitively, makes sense. As a showy performance car with controversial looks, it epitomises the ‘go big or go home’ mantra.
But despite its impressively refined diesel engine, the X6 is a whole lot of car that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for your average buyer – especially when held up against the more pragmatic X5.
If you want top-of-the-line tech, a premium feel, a comfortable ride, distinctive looks and a relatively economical diesel engine that doesn’t sacrifice on performance – the X6 is your winning ticket.
But if practicality, space, visibility and compatibility with city living are high on your list, I’d suggest you keep shopping.