What Car? says...
Finding a truly unique car is rare, but the BMW X6 used to be just that. When the original version was launched, we'd never seen a vehicle that combined a chunky SUV body with the kind of sleek, sloping roofline you’d usually see on a sporty coupé. Thus was born the coupé SUV.
It was a concept that divided opinion and, while the X6 is now in its third generation, it continues to do so today. To some people it's a car that simply makes no sense, because it’s both more expensive and less practical than the X5 it’s based on. To others, its blend of function and form makes it one of the most desirable cars on the planet.
What’s clear, though, is that there are enough people in the latter camp for the X6 to have become a trend-setter, with a host of manufacturers now selling rivals. The Audi Q8 and Mercedes GLE Coupé, for example, both owe their existence to it, as do the Porsche Cayenne Coupé and Range Rover Velar.
Mechanically, there’s little to distinguish the X6 from its more sober-looking BMW X5 stablemate, with the latter offering the same petrol and diesel engines and a similar choice of trim levels. The xDrive40i petrol and xDrive30d and xDrive40d diesel engines can be chosen with Sport or M Sport specification while the more powerful M50i and M Competition models have their own eponymous trims.
All are well-equipped and a long options list gives you scope to further tailor your car. You can even add LED strips that outline BMW’s signature split front grille, lighting it up like a beacon.
Just how good is the latest X6, though, and how does it compare with all those rivals, in particular the Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne Coupé and Range Rover Velar? Well, that's what we'll be examining over the next few pages of this review.
If at the end you decide you do want to buy an X6, or indeed another car of any make and model, make sure you check out the deals available through the free What Car? New Car Buying service to see how much we could help you to save.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The petrol engine line-up opens with the xDrive40i, which we have yet to sample in the X6 but impressed us in the closely related BMW X5. We have driven the twin-turbocharged V8 M50i and it delivers effortless pace, thrusting the X6 from 0-62mph in 4.3sec. There's also the flagship M Competition, which can dispatch the same sprint in 3.8sec. That's simply staggering acceleration for such a big SUV.
The six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel engine of the xDrive30d is our pick of the range, though. It's beautifully smooth, provides tonnes of punch low down in the rev range and is noticeably more responsive than the equivalent Audi Q8 50 TDI. In fact it’s so good that we don’t think you need to step up to the more expensive xDrive40d, which, despite having an extra 54bhp, doesn’t feel significantly quicker.
By diesel standards, the 30d and 40d have surprisingly appealing, throaty sounding engine notes. Those who dislike the noise, though, will be dismayed that it never really fades away, even at a cruise. When you select Sport mode, artificial engine notes are played through the car’s speakers to deepen the soundtrack. By contrast, the petrol-engined M50i and M Competition models offer perfectly judged backing tracks; they're blissfully smooth when you’re simply pottering along, yet delightfully rorty when you decide to press on a bit.
Whichever engine you choose, the X6’s eight-speed automatic gearbox pounds through the gears rapidly when you’re accelerating to motorway speeds, but there’s a tiny bit of lag in its response at slower speeds, which can make it a little jumpy – when pulling forward in slow-moving traffic, for example. It’s a significantly better gearbox than the hesitant, jerky equivalent in the Audi Q8, though.
Let off the leash, the X6 is one of the more entertaining cars in the coupé SUV class to drive. You don't get a great deal of feedback through its chunky steering wheel, but the meaty feel of its steering still inspires confidence. Body control is impressively tight, too, so threading the car through a series of sweeping bends is genuinely enjoyable. It can’t beat the truly physics-defying agility of the Porsche Cayenne Coupé, but the X6 is a close match for the nimble Audi Q8 and leaves the Range Rover Velar feeling sloppy by comparison.
Air suspension comes as standard, but the smallest wheels available on M Sport models are 21in (we’ve yet to try a Sport model on 19s) and, whichever driving mode you select, there's a firm edge to the low-speed ride. That said, the suspension never thumps or crashes over imperfections, so life is far from uncomfortable. It’s a similar deal with the M performance models, even though they have adaptive suspension, but once you’re up to speed they start to really flow with the road.
In all BMW X6s there's a bit of suspension noise when you pass over battered bitumen, while road roar from the tyres grows more noticeable at high speeds. The Q8 is generally better insulated from wind and road noise.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The X6’s interior is straight out of the BMW book of modern interior design and is screwed together with impressive solidity and precision. It’s functional, comfortable and attractive, too. Electrically adjustable sports seats with driver memory provide good long-distance comfort, while the steering wheel offers a large range of movement to help you find the ideal driving position.
BMW’s infotainment system leads the way in the class for both usability and number of features. It can be operated through either its 12.3in touchscreen or a more intuitive rotary dial controller on the centre console, making it far easier to use on the move than the one in the Audi Q8, which is touchscreen-only. The optional ‘gesture control’ feature that comes as part of the Technology Pack (physical gestures made near the infotainment system will activate certain functions) provides a third method of control, although it's not particularly responsive.
There’s a crisp, clear 12.3in digital driver display in place of conventional analogue instruments, too. It's not as configurable as Audi’s equivalent Virtual Cockpit system, but it still looks smart and is intuitive to use.
Inevitably, the X6’s sloping roofline and raked rear windscreen result in a letterbox view out of the back of the car, but big door mirrors go some way to compensating for that. Front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard across the range, and the car can even help with parking by controlling the steering for you. A 360-degree camera is on the options list.
Bright LED lights come as standard, as does high-beam assistance, which will automatically dip the headlights to avoid dazzling other road users.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The big X6 has wide door openings and chunky grab handles so it’s easy to clamber inside, and even tall adults will have more than enough room to stretch out in the front.
Front storage space is good, too. The large lidded cubbyhole at the top of the centre console incorporates a wireless phone-charging facility and a couple of cupholders (as an option, these can heat or cool your drink). The central armrest doubles up as a deep storage compartment with a split-opening lid.
Perhaps surprisingly considering its sloping roofline, the X6 offers a decent amount of rear head room for adults, although the optional Sky Lounge panoramic sunroof reduces the ceiling height considerably. Leg and knee room are acceptable, but not exceptional. Passengers won’t feel cramped, but the Audi Q8 is roomier.
The rear seats split and fold in 40/20/40 sections as standard, and while the boot itself doesn’t have the outright capacity to match those of the Q8 and Porsche Cayenne Coupé, it will swallow a family’s holiday luggage easily. Bear in mind, though, that the sloping roof means the boot gets fairly narrow towards its entrance. The taller and more angular BMW X5 is a better choice if you need to carry bulkier loads.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
It will probably come as no great surprise that the xDrive30d diesel has the best official fuel economy, and the M Competition petrol the worst. An official figure of 42.8mpg for the former compares well against 33.6mpg for the equivalent Audi Q8, but CO2 emissions of 172g/km mean the X6 still still falls well within the top benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band.
More positively, even entry-level Sport models are stacked with kit, including 19in alloy wheels and heated front seats. M Sport trim is only a small jump up in price, though, and comes with 21in alloy wheels, black exterior trim highlights, a more aggressive body kit, an M Sport braking system and a sports steering wheel. No wonder M Sport accounts for the vast majority of sales. There's a long list of optional comfort, convenience and technology packs, too, but – as is the case with the X6's rivals – these can add a big chunk to the bottom line.
In terms of reliability, we don’t yet have any data for this third-generation X6 so we can’t say for sure how dependable it will be. What we do know is that BMW as a whole finished in an impressive 9th place out of 31 manufacturers in the What Car? Reliability Survey, beating the likes of Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes and Porsche. Every X6 comes with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
The X6 is so closely related to the BMW X5 that it won’t be crash-tested separately by safety experts at Euro NCAP. However, the X5 received an impressive five-star safety rating, with very solid scores in every category. It comes with front collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) fitted as standard.
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We don’t have any specific reliability data for the current BMW X6 but BMW came 13th out of 30 car makers in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. That was behind Lexus but ahead of Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes and Volvo. Read more here
You can’t buy the BMW X6 as a fully electric car or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) but most of the petrol and diesel engines (including our favourite, the xDrive30d MHT diesel) have mild-hybrid technology to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Read more here
We favour the BMW X6 xDrive30d MHT in M Sport trim. It has a very smooth six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel engine that packs lots of punch low down in the rev range. M Sport is not much more expensive than the well-equipped entry-level Sport trim and adds 21in alloy wheels (you get 19in on Sport), an M Sport braking system, black exterior trim highlights, a more aggressive body kit, a sports steering wheel and other kit. Read more here
The BMW X6 has not been safety tested by Euro NCAP because it is so closely related to the BMW X5. The X5’s five-star rating and solid category scores indicate that they are both safe cars, though. The X6 comes with front-collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) fitted as standard. Read more here
Very good. The BMW X6 comes with a 12.3in touchscreen infotainment system that can be controlled by prodding the screen or using the iDrive rotary dial controller on the centre console. The dial is much less distracting to use while you’re driving than touchscreen-only set-ups. An optional ‘gesture control’ feature (part of the Technology Pack) allows you to wave near the screen to activate functions but is not particularly responsive. Read more here
The BMW X6 has 580 litres of boot space, which is big enough for a family’s holiday luggage. The car’s coupé SUV styling means it narrows towards the entrance so it’s not as easy to load up as the squarer BMW X5. The back seats in the X6 fold down in three sections, split 40/20/40, to give you a big load space when needed. Read more here
|RRP price range||£75,760 - £116,355|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||24.6 - 39.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£5,526 / £8,414|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£11,052 / £16,828|