► New BMW X6 review
► It's the third generation
► Still in-yer-face, but slicker
Strange, but true. The designer responsible for the first-generation BMW X6 – a golf fan – is now comfortably retired, living in Florida where he’s surrounded by so many golf courses there are more holes than days in the year. He’s deemed something of a hero around Munich, for spotting the potential of the SUV-coupe mash-up genre – a bodystyle that’s gradually become less of a niche and more of a mainstream sector of the marketplace.
Incredibly, you might think, BMW has sold more than 450,000 of them since launch in 2008, spawning a slew of copycat products in the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne Coupe and – at a stretch – the Range Rover Velar. Swagger and style are in, and to hell with the family and dog.
So here we are, with the third generation of X6. It’s an easy target among car enthusiasts, who will tend to mutter about big, bulky excess and stylistic crimes against good taste, but nearly half a million buyers can’t all be wrong, can they? BMW says it’s bought by an older, more rural demographic than family-friendly X5s in suburbia – with a good showing by empty nesters and, ahem, those who are divorced.
People who want to stand out, and who don’t need the outright practicality of the X5, then.
Let’s quash one myth right away: the X6 is a practical car, with generous accommodation for four adults and only the third middle-row passenger feeling the pinch from that plunging roofline. This despite the new X6 being 6mm lower than its predecessor (it's also 26mm longer and 15mm wider, for a squat, assured stance).
The boot is a decent shape at 580 litres huge, expanding to 1525 litres with the rear seats folded. Just watch out for the tailgate's exposed latch which protrudes way too far and clonked me on the head several times. A bizarre oversight on BMW's part (the X5's latch is neatly hidden and presents no danger to taller bystanders)...
BMW X6 interior
This is a supremely techy interior with some startling details that'll be familiar to watchers of big BMWs: so this car will let you whirl your fingers around with Gesture Control, talk to it or use good-old fashioned iDrive to run many minor functions.
The layout is essentially the same as in any big BMW, so you get the latest v7.0 OS, new C-shaped dials and a general fussiness of design that's sadly robbed the cars of their earlier simplicity and classiness.
It's festooned with tech now. Cameras, sensors and radar do a good job of monitoring goings-on outside the car, keeping you a set distance from vehicles in front and nudging you back into lane if you deign to creep around away from or over the road markings. The age of the semi-autonomous car is well and truly here; the new X6 will even retrace your parking manoeuvre and back out of a tight space if you've made a mess of it - completely unaided.
It's all well made and finished in lovely, pricey feeling materials. And the light show is quite something, with infinitely variable light combos infusing the cabin at nighttime - and of course, you can now illuminate the grille too (a BMW first). They're not keen to shake off this car's blingy character, are they?
BMW X6 review: what's it like to drive?
We tested the M50i, with a throaty 4.4-litre V8 bi-turbo and stonking 523bhp for rampant acceleration across the driving range. The X6 has something of a Jekyll and Hyde character in this range-topping version: it’ll cruise remarkably quietly in Comfort mode, but carves corners with surprising urgency when you flick to Sport and get your toe in.
The X6 is a big car and feels every one of those 2.3 tonnes when you drive on a favourite A- or B-road. Strong brakes wipe off all the speed the blown V8 inevitably produces, but the self-levelling air suspension on our M Sport spec X6 kept everything neatly in check, no matter how much we threw it around on a back road. Traction is, needless to say, not a problem with standard AWD.
There is a choice of a pair of diesels and a duo of petrol engines at launch, but so far Munich's only made the M50i available. In for a penny, in for a pound and that...
New BMW X6: the verdict
It ticks the driving box emphatically, but we suspect most buyers will pick an X6 for its wardrobe – and it’s telling that BMW has launched its first illuminated kidney grille feature as an option on the new model. Alongside the extraordinary interior light show and 15,000-dot glowing sunroof, it reflects this car’s night-time swagger and streetside posing power. We suspect many readers will find it anathema; but those who like it, really, really get it.
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