Now in its third generation, a round of applause is in order for the BMW 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 in the US 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 from previous years. 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 specs, 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.
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The new BMW X6 mixes a reasonably compliant ride with sharper steering characteristics than the competition 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 a more stiffly sprung configuration, 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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The new BMW X6 SUV 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 its in-house competitor, the 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 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 in comparison, 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 BMW X6's coupe 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.
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Check out some informative BMW X6 video reviews below.