First Drive

2014 BMW X6 review

The BMW X6 is now more spacious and practical, and gets more powerful, cleaner engines. Will these changes help it beat rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport?

Words ByRory White

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Marmite, Scottish independence, the cream tea and BMW's X6. On the face of it, none of these topics bear any relation, but they do all share one thing - the ability to polarise opinion.

Whatever your thoughts are on the X6's looks, it's been a sales success for BMW – globally at least – and to keep the sales coming in, there's a new model for 2014.

The interior has been reworked to improve quality and provide more space and practicality, while outside it gets sleeker looks. The X6's engines have also been made more powerful, yet cleaner and more frugal.

At launch in December, those engines will be BMW's six-cylinder entry-level 30d and performance-orientated M50d diesels, and a 50i V8 petrol. From spring 2015, a 40d diesel will join the range.

So, will the changes be enough to see the X6 make up lost ground on rivals such as the brilliant Porsche Cayenne and luxurious Range Rover Sport?

What’s the 2014 BMW X6 like to drive?

The triple-turbo 3.0-litre diesel engine in the M50d is a real powerhouse, providing huge pull from as low as 1600rpm over a very wide band. With so much torque, overtaking is done with total confidence, and there's even a pleasant engine note to accompany the revs – although much of it is artifically played into the cabin.

Noise isn't an issue with the 5.0-litre V8 petrol, which has much more of a growling, burbling character than you might expect. Press hard on the accelerator and you can see why it is officially faster to 62mph than the M50d, too, although you'll be hard pushed to notice any advantage in terms of its in-gear acceleration.

The petrol is also the more refined engine of the pair we drove, because unlike the diesel, it doesn't send back any trace of vibration through the pedals of wheel when being driven hard.

Every X6 gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and as with the many other BMWs it's fitted to, it works very well. When doing its own thing in auto mode, it never changes down too many gears when pressing on, while in manual mode, changes using the wheel-mounted paddles are smooth and crisp.

The X6's steering doesn't provide much feedback, but at least its accurate, and weights up in such a way that you always place a lot of confidence in it through fast corners. The X6 also manages to stay extremely flat despite its hefty kerb weight and tall stance.

M50d models come with BMW's Adaptive M Suspension (a Β£2495 option on lower models) allowing you to stiffen it up when the mood takes you. By selecting 'Sport +' mode (one of four), it's at at its firmest, the throttle is sharper, and gearbox primed for even keener changes. In this state, the X6's handling is impressive, but it can't match a Porsche Cayenne for initial bite on turn-in and mid-corner grip.

The M50d gets a stiffer standard suspension set-up than the rest of the range, so it tends to pick up on road surface impactions more often, and struggles more than the 50i to remain settled over scruffy roads at low speeds, even in its most comfortable setting. That said, both cars are comparably settled at faster motorway speeds.

Both, however, suffered some wind noise around their mirrors once you get up to speed, and the test cars we tried also suffered some considerable road noise fitted with their 20-inch alloy wheels.

What’s the 2014 BMW X6 like inside?

BMW's efforts to make the X6's cabin more spacious seem to have worked, although it never struggled for front space before. Tall adults will sit comfortably, and there's a wide range of wheel and seat adjustment.

In the back is where the changes are more obvious. The same tall adults will have a good amount of legroom, and while headroom isn't as generous as in, say, a Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport or BMW X5 thanks to its sloping roofline, there's still enough for them to sit comfortably.

The previous X6 originally started life as a four-seater, later adding the option of a fifth seat. Now it comes with five seats as standard, but the rear bench is better suited to three children rather than three adults, because the middle seat is rather narrow and shoulder room will be quite tight.

At 580 litres, the X6's boot is a bit smaller than all of its main rivals', and because of its sloped roofline, it will struggle to take tall items as well. Its rear seats now split 40/20/40 and fold almost flat to open up the cabin a bit more, but the same issues with boot height remain.

Using the X6's dash is easy, because there aren't too many buttons to confuse matters. Even better is the fact that BMW's Professional iDrive system is standard, which is made up of a 10.2-inch colour screen, rotary controller and shortcut buttons placed between the front seats. It remains the best system on sale, combining razor sharp on-screen graphics and a simple set of menus that's easy to navigate.

Although the quality of the dash and cabin is to a high standard, some people might be disappointed to see certain plastics and switchgear present in the X6 that come on much cheaper models in the BMW range, such as the BMW 1 and 3 Series.

All X6s come loaded with kit, including large alloy wheels, sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB and Aux connections, heated leather seats, a 20GB hard drive, metallic paint, front and rear parking sensors and auto wipers and Xenon headlights. M Sport models then add larger wheels, electric sports seats and beefier styling.

BMW also offers a so called 'Pure Extravagance' packs for both the X6's exterior and interior, which add different alloy wheel designs and exterior highlights as well as finer interior trims and leathers finishes.

Should I buy one?

Even if you hate the way the X6 looks, it's hard to dimiss that breadth of what it offers buyers. In the guises we tried, it's extremely quick, and while it might not out handle the new Porsche Cayenne, it's still very capable to drive. A high-quality cabin and long equipment list also count in its favour.

However, refinement, ride comfort and space and practicality are more important assets to any large SUV buyer. To that end, you should consider BMW's own X5 if you want an agile large SUV, an almost identical cabin and more space in the back and the boot. The Range Rover Sport still can't be beaten for the way it blends ride comfort and refinment, and, like the Porsche Cayenne, it offers superior space inside.

Given the X6's broad range of talents, we think a drive of the the cheaper entry-level (and traditionally best-selling) 30d could mean it becomes the pick of the range, and worthy of an extra star.

What Car? says…

Rivals

Porsche Cayenne

Range Rover Sport

BMW X6 50i

Engine size 4.4-litre petrol

Price from Β£63,050

Power 444bhp

Torque 479lb ft

0-62mph 4.8 seconds

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 29.1mpg

CO2 225g/km

BMW X6 M50d

Engine size 3.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£66,915

Power 376bhp

Torque 546lb ft

0-62mph 5.2 seconds

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 42.8mpg

CO2 174g/km