by Jared Rosenholtz
Now in its third generation, a round of applause seems to be in order for BMW when it comes to the X6. Despite a frosty response from some quarters, the original BMW X6 - which introduced the coupe-SUV niche we know so well today - wasn't an insane idea after all. The all-new model aims to do what the previous two did: provide a more evocative alternative to the X5. The muscular redesign seems to be a success, with all of the brashness and none of the beauty that has defined every X6 before it. There's an updated range of superb powertrains, topped by the V8-powered M50i, which pumps out 523 horsepower. All models are seriously quick and the X6 does all it can to disguise its weight and encourage you to drive it with purpose. Inside, BMW's new-generation dashboard design will be familiar as it's virtually identical to the one in the X5, which means understated but brilliantly made. With its bold design, fresh tech, and powerful engines, the new X6 is ready for a brawl with the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
The X6 is all-new for 2020. Besides a brand new, bolder design, the new model has grown slightly - it's an inch longer and 0.6 inches wider than its predecessor. An optionally illuminated kidney grille and ultra-slim, elongated taillights are two of the big external changes over the outgoing X6. BMW has reworked the trims, so the 35i falls away to make room for the more powerful sDrive40i and xDrive40i. The potent M50i also gets a decent jump in power, with an extra 78 horsepower over the 2019 xDrive50i. The cabin gets improved materials and the same sleek design as the X5, while BMW's latest tech, in the form of the Live Cockpit Professional, significantly updates the interior.
The previous X6 was far from a wallflower, but the all-new model is even more butch. Sharper edges, an enlarged and optionally illuminated kidney grille, and slimmer rear headlamps do a good job of modernizing the X6, but still maintaining its eye-catching looks. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels with all-season run-flat tires, a panoramic moonroof, adaptive full LED lights, and trailer hitch pre-wiring. The M50i also has an aerodynamic kit and Shadowline exterior trim.
The new X6 has grown marginally over its predecessor, although it is slightly lower than before for improved aerodynamics and a reduced center of gravity. Length is 194.8 inches, height is 66.3 inches, and width is 87.1 inches including the side mirrors. The wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer than before at 117.1 inches. Curb weight ranges from 4,687 pounds for the sDrive40i to the M50i's 5,115 lbs. Ground clearance is 8.1 inches for both six-cylinder models and 8.5 inches for the M50i.
The 2020 X6's color palette comprises two standard shades, eight metallic colors, and two BMW Individual metallic options. Alpine White and Jet Black are for those who prefer to keep it simple. Metallic choices are Carbon Black (which also requires the M Sport package on 40i variants), Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Flamenco Red, Arctic Grey, Dark Graphite (40i variants only), Manhattan Green, and Riverside Blue (also requires the M Sport package on the 40i). Tanzanite Blue II Metallic and Ametrin Metallic are from BMW's Individual line.
All X6 models receive a bump up in power compared to the previous model. The range starts with the rear-wheel-drive sDrive40i which now produces 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque from BMW's classic 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. The xDrive40i has the same engine but uses all-wheel-drive. 0-60 mph is dispatched in only 5.2 seconds (0.8 seconds faster than the model it replaces), increasing to 5.3 for the xDrive variant. Go for the X6 M50i and power jumps to a meaty 523 hp and 553 lb-ft from the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8. Like the 40i models, the M50i uses an eight-speed automatic - it sends power to all four wheels and takes a mere 4.1 seconds to reach 60 mph. All models will top out at 130 mph, or 155 mph when equipped with performance tires. The previous X6 was no slouch, but the new model delivers performance figures that sit comfortably in the upper echelon of this segment. An available factory trailer package will enable the X6 to tow up to 7,200 pounds.
Two smooth turbocharged power plants ensure that the heavy X6 always feels sprightly. Both engines are great examples of BMW's powertrain expertise, blending outstanding outputs with minimal turbo lag and one of the industry's best automatic transmissions in the ZF eight-speed Sport Steptronic unit.
The 40i variants make use of a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six producing 335 hp and 330 lb-ft. The single twin-scroll turbocharger ensures faster responses and the engine features the Valvetronic fully variable valve timing system. The result is potent and smooth acceleration, ample passing power, and rapid gear shifts that never detract from the experience. A smooth, six-cylinder howl doesn't hurt, either. The M50i is another animal altogether, its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 generating 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. These are increases of 78 hp/74 lb-ft over the previous model. Performance is towering and the M50i has an ability to hone in on the horizon at a startling rate. The idea that an even more powerful X6 M exists seems unthinkable when you first experience the M50i's incredible thrust.
The new BMW X6 mixes a reasonably compliant ride with sharper steering characteristics than rivals from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Dynamic Damper Control is standard fitment and drivers can choose between two damper settings, one tuned more for comfort, and the other for sportier driving.
The 40i models are more forgiving and provide the X6 with a composed and comfortable ride, much like the more traditional X5. This is definitely an SUV that you can live with every day, and only the optional bigger wheels introduce a bit more noise into the otherwise well-insulated cabin than you'd like. The M50i is more stiffly sprung, but it stops short of being unacceptably jarring. Switch to Sport mode, and the big X6 can be hustled through corners with vigor. The precise steering and high grip limits - together with those superb engines - encourage you to push on. There's not much feedback through the steering, but look past that and there's little to fault here.
You can further enhance the X6's dynamics with the optional Dynamic Handling Package - active roll stabilization and Integral Active Steering improve the X6's agility, although you can only do so much before its size and weight factor into the equation and remind you that this is a large SUV, not an M2 coupe. Also optional (on the xDrive40i) is the Off-Road Package with two-axle air suspension and an electronically controlled M Sport rear differential. Snow and Gravel modes are included and the package endows the X6 with more off-road capability than before, although this is still no Range Rover.
The most fuel-efficient model in the range is the sDrive40i with EPA-rated estimates of 21/26/23 mpg on city/highway/combined cycles. On a 21.9-gallon tankful of premium gasoline, this variant should manage a combined cruising range of approximately 503 miles. Economy dips slightly to 20/26/22 mpg for the xDrive40i, but that's still better than the M50i's 16/22/18 mpg. On a full tank of gas, the M50i's cruising range is reduced by around 125 miles relative to the sDrive40i - that's the price to pay for burly V8 power.
If you've seen one new BMW's interior, you've seen them all. While the lack of visual differentiation between the X6's upgraded cabin and the one in the X5 and X7 can frustrate, it makes sense when you consider how well-resolved the materials, design, and ergonomics are. Clean lines, rich leathers and plastics, and one of the best infotainment systems in the business are the highlights, but the brand's digital instrument display is more of an acquired taste. It's a surprisingly spacious cabin, too - the coupe-like shape just means that sitting in the back feels more confined than if you were inside an X5. Every X6 gets a leather sport steering wheel, Live Cockpit Professional and iDrive 7, a Sensatec-trimmed dashboard, and tastefully executed ambient lighting.
As before, the BMW X6 seats five passengers in two rows. In front, legroom and headroom are plentiful - in fact, you'll have a hard time believing that you aren't in the X5, until you try to get a clear view out of the back and notice the much smaller rear window. At the back, legroom is actually rather good; a six-footer will be able to "sit behind himself" in a reasonable amount of comfort. Rear headroom is down by 1.9 inches compared to the X5, so while the roof is technically closer to your head, most people will be able to fit. What it does mean is that the reduced headroom, smaller glasshouse, and higher beltline make the X6 feel less airy than an X5. All passengers will appreciate the well-bolstered seats, although the rear middle seat is typically firmer. Ingress and egress are also fine as the X6 isn't as high off the ground as some more off-road biased SUVs. Overall, though, the gap in practicality between this and the X5 isn't as noticeable as it once was.
BMW has made giant strides with the quality of its interiors in recent times. All parts of the X6's cabin feel premium and built to last. Vernasca leather is standard on all variants and is available in five color combinations: Black, Coffee, Tacora Red, Ivory White, and Black with contrast Brown stitching, although the latter requires the M Sport package on the 40i models. Extended Merino leather is an optional extra and can be had in one of four color choices: Black, Coffee, Ivory White, and Ivory White/Blue bi-color. Finally, BMW Individual Full Merino leather is also available.
All models also have a dashboard trimmed in smart Sensatec, an Anthracite headliner, and velour carpeting for the cargo area. 40i models have Fineline striped brown high-gloss wood trim and the M50i gets Aluminum Tetragon trim. Even though the interior doesn't blow you away with its design, the build quality is now at least as good as what Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer.
While interior space is a good effort, the most significant gulf between the X5 and the X6 is in cargo capacity. Although the new X6 offers an improved 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, this is still 6.5 cubes short of what you get in the X5. That may not sound like much, but it makes a difference on a long road trip when that one extra bag just won't fit. By folding down the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, you can free up 59.6 cubes of total cargo space. A power tailgate is standard and much appreciated.
Interior storage includes cupholders front and rear, a center armrest/console, and a locking glove box.
With seven SUVs/coupe-SUVs in BMW's line-up, the X6 comes in below the X7 so it makes sense that it has been equipped to a high standard. Before ticking any options, you get push-button start, 16-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment and a memory system for the driver's seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors), heated front seats, a power panoramic moonroof, automatic dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, a power tailgate, and extended ambient lighting. The M50i gets 20-way power multi-contour front seats, automatic four-zone climate control, and wireless charging. A comprehensive options list can quickly send the base price soaring.
BMW's infotainment game has been strong for years, and the same is true in the new X6. Twin 12.3-inch displays sit ahead of the driver, with the Live Cockpit Professional digital instrument display flanked to the right by the iDrive 7 touchscreen. There are countless ways to interact with the system: voice control, touchscreen, a traditional touchpad controller, and even available gesture control. The choices can seem overwhelming at first, but you'll soon decide what works best for you. Navigation is standard, along with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay integration (but still no Android Auto), two USB ports, and 32 GB of multimedia storage. The M50i also enjoys wireless charging capability and a WiFi hotspot with a three-gig/three-month trial.
40i variants are fitted with a ten-speaker HiFi sound system with a 205-watt digital amplifier, AM/FM stereo, HD radio, and pre-wiring for SiriusXM. Go for the M50i and you'll get a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system with a 464-watt amplifier. This variant also gets SiriusXM satellite radio as standard, along with a one-year all-access subscription.
It's very early in the new X6's life to accurately assess reliability, although the model has already been involved in one recall by the NHTSA for an issue where the backup camera may not display an image on the central screen. The 2019 BMW X5 - which shares much with the new X6 - holds a J.D Power rating of 78 out of 100 - rather disappointing for a premium luxury SUV.
The X6 is covered by the brand's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, a four-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance program, and 12-year/unlimited-miles limited coverage for rust perforation.
The new X6 has yet to be evaluated for crashworthiness, although the closely related 2019 BMW X5 was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. We expect the X6 to perform to the same high standard in the unfortunate event of an accident.
A full suite of airbags, a rearview camera, programmable LED daytime running lights, adaptive LED headlights, front and rear park distance control, and adaptive brake lights all form part of the X6's standard safety gear. There are also several standard driver aids that ship with every X6, including daytime pedestrian detection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. An Active Protection System works a lot like Mercedes' Pre-Safe by detecting an imminent accident and preparing the vehicle for such an eventuality by, for instance, closing the windows and moonroof. Night vision with pedestrian detection is available as an optional extra.
The new BMW X6 is better than ever before. Inherently compromised because of its novel coupe-like design, it still manages to offer acceptable cargo and passenger space without really matching the X5 in either area. There's no denying the impactful redesign, though, and the X6 must be one of the ultimate left-lane highway tyrants that says "get out of my way". Both engines are class-leading in terms of their power delivery and refinement, and while the X6's weight restricts any sports car aspirations, it remains an engaging SUV that can also keep the family comfortable when needs be. The cabin is a study in meticulous construction and sensible layout, there's enough kit on board so that no variant feels spartan, and the iDrive system remains one of the best. As before, the biggest question mark surrounding the X6 will be whether it is worth over $5,000 more than an equivalent X5 - as before, the logical answer is no. But where the X5 may elicit the odd compliment, the X6 is likely to cause much more of a stir and if that matters to you, the choice is simple.
The X6 range starts off with the sDrive40i at an MSRP of $64,300, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a destination/handling charge of $995. This is $5,400 more expensive than the equivalent X5 sDrive40i. Next is the xDrive40i, which carries a price tag of $66,600, and topping the range is the X6 M50i at $85,650.
The 2020 BMW X6 range comprises three trims: the sDrive40i, the xDrive40i, and the M50i. The sDrive40i is the only model that sends power exclusively to the rear wheels, and it's motivated by a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder developing 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. The xDrive40i has the same engine but features BMW's all-wheel-drive system. The powerhouse M50i gets a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 producing 523 hp and 553 lb-ft, enough to hit 60 mph in only 4.1 seconds.
Every X6 gets 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlamps, frontal collision warning, a panoramic moonroof, and a rearview camera. The M50i also gets Shadowline exterior trim, an aerodynamic kit, an adaptive M suspension, and M sport brakes. Inside, leather upholstery is standard, with 16-way power-adjustable seats for the 40i variants and 20-way multi-contour power front seats for the M50i. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard on the 40i, but the M50i gets four-zone climate control. All models get BMW's Live Cockpit Professional, the latest version of the iDrive infotainment system, heated front seats, and Apple CarPlay integration. The M50i also enjoys wireless charging and a premium Harman Kardon surround sound audio system.
Being a BMW, there's no shortage of customization options for the new X6. Likely to be a popular option for the 40i is the M Sport pack with an M steering wheel, an aerodynamic kit, and Shadowline exterior trim for $5,750. The Convenience Package costs $1,050 and adds amenities like wireless charging, SiriusXM satellite radio, and four-zone climate control. The Premium Package costs $2,300 and adds all of the Convenience Package's features plus remote engine start, gesture control, and a head-up display. The $5,600 Executive Package includes the contents of the Convenience and Premium packs but adds surround view with 3D view, active park distance control, laser lighting, a panoramic sky lounge, and soft-closing doors. There are also Driving Assistance, Parking, and Luxury Seating packages to choose from.
The M50i has its own version of the Premium Package - at $1,250, it adds remote engine start, gesture control, and a head-up display. The Executive Package costs $4,550 (a bit less than on the 40i as the M50i already has some of its features as standard equipment). On xDrive models, the $2,600 Dynamic Handling Package ($3,650 on the xDrive40i) improves handling characteristics with enhancements like integral active steering and active roll stabilization. Intriguing individual options encompass night vision with pedestrian detection ($2,300), glass controls ($650), an illuminated kidney grille ($500), and a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond surround sound system ($3,400 on the M50i and $4,200 on the 40i).
Such is the strength of the turbocharged six-pot in the 40i that we'd happily recommend this model, which, when equipped with rear-wheel-drive, amounts to a more than $20,000 saving over the M50i. We'd equip ours with the Executive Package and multi-contour seats in Merino leather, bringing our X6 to a total of $72,645 including the destination and handling fee. That's a fast, brilliantly equipped coupe-SUV for over $10,000 less than the M50i.
The BMW X4 is the smaller version of the X6 and, since it has also been recently revised, is a strong alternative. Both have a very similar sloping roofline, but we think the meaner X6 makes a stronger statement, although this is of course subjective. The X4 has the option of a 2.0-liter turbo-four in the xDrive30i - that model starts at over $10,000 less than the cheapest X6. The other alternative is the fire-breathing M40i at $61,000. This is $3,300 less than the base X6 but you get xDrive all-wheel-drive, 382 horsepower (47 hp more than the X6 sDrive40i), and a 0-60 mph time of only 4.4 seconds. Of course, the bigger X6 means more space: there's 8.9 cubic feet more cargo room behind the rear seats, 0.2 inches of extra rear legroom, and 1.7 inches more rear shoulder room. Interestingly, the X4 has more headroom up front. Both are excellent coupe SUVs but if we could, we'd make the stretch and go for the X6.
We already know how this story goes: buy the X5 if you want more space at a lower price, or buy the X6 if you don't need that much room and you can't resist the X6's unique style. Other than that, these two are mechanically identical: both use either turbocharged six- or eight-cylinder engines, although the X5 does have a lower-powered V8 xDrive50i variant (at 456-hp, it's hardly lacking) at $76,150, just under $10k less expensive than the more powerful X6 M50i. A larger cargo area (33.9 cubic feet vs the X6's 27.4) and superior headroom make the X5 the smarter choice for families and their stuff. Whether you buy with your head or your heart, you'll be piloting one of the best SUVs on the market right now.