BMW has sold an astounding 150,000 examples of the X6 around the world in about three years. A minor update for 2012 sharpened up the front end, but this still feels like a relatively old-school BMW now and seems even more incongruous on Irish roads. Still manages to defy the laws of physics though.
Inside & Out: 4/5
While there's no getting away from the fact that the X6 is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of car, the enhancements for 2012 are effective - particularly the fabulously detailed front lights (our test car came with Adaptive LED lights, at nigh on €3,000). There's the option of a domed bonnet too if you really want to stand out. Personally, I'd prefer the more restrained (and practical) lines of the BMW X5, but I'm all for choice.
The sloping roofline does compromise rear headroom a little, but it's still a massive interior and the lack of a large transmission tunnel at the rear means it's a genuine five-seat car (the middle seat is an optional extra at over €500 though). The boot is huge too, especially when you discover the commodious under-floor section. Quality is high, as you'd expect, though if you drive a current 1-, 3- or 5 Series then you'll be surprised to find that the X6's switchgear etc. is a generation behind. It all still works well though and the instruments are a lesson in clarity.
Engine & Transmission: 5/5
It's difficult to find fault with the powertrain of the X6 in xDrive30d guise. The six-cylinder engine endows the big car with appreciably fast acceleration no matter what speed you're already doing and it sounds sporty for a diesel unit. Admittedly it's not the quietest around town, but its performance makes up for that. The new eight-speed automatic transmission is ideal for the car as well. It's smooth and relaxed most of the time, makes good use of the engine's low-down torque in normal mode and allows the driver to get involved via tactile gearchange paddles. A Sport mode sharpens up response too if you should happen to find yourself on an interesting bit of road.
Ride & Handling: 3/5
If this category was split in two then the BMW X6 would score a resounding five out of five for handling, as it really does corner well. Body control is rock solid and it's easy to place. There's little in the way of feedback through the (overly firm) steering wheel, but it's utterly unflappable no matter how ham-fisted you are with your inputs. The brakes seem well up to the job too, despite the considerable kerb weight of the car.
Sadly, much of this ability comes about because the suspension is firm - too firm. It's fine on the motorway, and it deals with large potholes quite well, but the constant bouncing around in town gets on your nerves. BMW has already shown that it can make its cars handle AND ride properly (see the latest 3- and 5 Series for example) and the X6 chassis feels dated now.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 3/5
At over €80,000 the xDrive30d makes for quite an expensive entry-level model though it's on a par with other sporty SUVs. That's about €3,000 more than the BMW X5 with the same engine. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels (different to the optional items in the images), leather upholstery, powered boot lid, dual-zone climate control, Xenon lights and parking sensors (Park Distance Control - PDC) front and rear. Not a bad lot, though the prices of some of the desirable options will make you wince.
Official emissions and economy figures are good for the performance on offer, though we struggled to better 10 litres/100km (28mpg) in a week where, admittedly, we did little in way of cruising.