BMW has another crack at the luxury coupe version of its X5 SUV and, with the twin-turbo V8 from the M850i fitted into the engine bay there's little doubt this X6 M50i is an impressive performance machine.
In the metal
Look, beauty - or otherwise - is subjective. We can go on all day about 'one man's meat is another man's poison' and so on, and make the points that the original Mk1 X6 was hardly a looker, nor was its immediate successor either. And we're sure there are those of you out there looking at this new X6, especially in flagship M Performance guise with the big wheels and the body kit and the lustrous blue paint, and thinking it looks a bit of alright. And good on you.
Because we think it's not. Sorry, BMW, but we can't lie. There are times, when visually appraising it, where we can't decide if it's the best-looking X6 so far or the worst, but either way it's hardly an accolade to be writing home proudly about. Coupe-SUVs are controversial things no matter what their physical size or price tag, although it's not just a 'we hate these machines' kind of attitude we're adopting here. It's simply that, from quite a few angles, the X6 Mk3 is a rather unhappy-looking creation. Not least from low down and the rear three-quarters, where it's just a bulky mess. Oh, and for maximum gaudiness, now the coupe-SUV's (or sports activity coupe, as BMW wants to call it) kidney grilles illuminate at night.
Anyway. Not to matter - nearly half a million X6 Mk1 and Mk2 models have found homes all over the world since 2008, regardless of their appearance, and we have no reason to believe that this one will struggle to find buyers. That's despite a price tag that, here in Ireland, starts perilously close to six figures for an xDrive30d Sport, never mind this €130,000 M50i. So into the cabin we go, to find out if the interior can redeem the X6 somewhat. And it does. Rear space is the issue in these sorts of vehicles, and it's not bad in the X6, BMW scalloping out the roof lining and stretching the wheelbase by 42mm to ensure passengers in the back have adequate head- and legroom. The boot's even decently large, although it's 70 litres down on that found in an X5 with five seats in place and a colossal 345 litres smaller when the rear bench is folded away. Nevertheless, up front is BMW's unusual digital instrument cluster (with the reverse-sweep rev counter), the excellent interface and infotainment this marque is known for, and a sense of deep-rooted quality in all the fixtures and fittings. The lovely cabin gets the X6 M50i a higher mark in this section than its questionable exterior 'styling' deserves.
This drivetrain - the 4.4-litre biturbo V8 petrol engine with the eight-speed Steptronic Sport gearbox and xDrive all-wheel-drive transmission - is magnificent, let's not make any bones about that. With 530hp and 750Nm to punt the X6 M50i up the road, there's no shortage of motive power. Despite clocking in at a goliath 2,310kg, the M50i's claimed 4.3-second 0-100km/h time seems entirely plausible and not a little bit conservative, either. Not only is this powertrain ridiculously potent, but it's also cultured across its entire operating bandwidth and it sounds decent as the revs clamber past the mid-range and start heading in the redline's direction.
Great. As is the X6's handling. For a chunky behemoth like this, the combination of Dynamic Damping Control and self-levelling air suspension does a near-wondrous job of keeping the massive body in check during hard cornering, while optional active anti-roll stabilisation and an electronically controlled differential lock plus Integral Active Steering (four-wheel steering, for increased agility) further enhance the M50i's cornering prowess. Which is formidable no matter what spec you go for, mainly because of the simply ginormous grip levels proffered up by the Pirelli P Zero tyres that are 275/40 R21 front and 315/35 R21 rear, as well as the catapult-like effects of xDrive traction out of the bends. Quick across ground, the X6 M50i most emphatically is.
And it's certainly nice enough to travel in. Mechanical refinement is suitably high, as you'd expect of a vehicle of this exalted class, and only a very muted level of background tyre chatter permeates the passenger compartment at speed. BMW has worked hard at making the X6 as aerodynamic as possible, with things like active shutters in the front grille and so on, and as a result it cuts through the air pretty cleanly for something of its stature. There are occasional moments, on silky smooth German tarmac, where you're aware of the 21-inch wheels at each corner and so your mind inevitably wonders what it would feel like on a craggy stretch of remote road in Galway, but otherwise the ride is also largely brilliant.
It's all very polished and very proficient. But it doesn't feel appreciably sportier than an X5 to drive, and we'd much rather have this sumptuous drivetrain in a BMW that is a little easier on the eye. Like the aforementioned 8 Series, for instance.
What you get for your money
The BMW X6 is a high-end product from a premium manufacturer and so it comes with a lengthy kit list as standard, with the option to add things like a panoramic roof with Sky Lounge illuminated LEDs in it, heated and cooled cupholders in the front, four-zone climate control and a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround System, among much more. But at €130,000, you've got to surely really, really, really want a BMW X6 for it to make any sense - especially when compared to its own, more practical X5 stablemate.
As ever with the BMW X6, it is whether you're comfortable with the proposition and the aesthetics that will determine what you think of it overall. There's no doubt that, dynamically speaking, it's incredibly well-sorted and supremely refined, and that its interior smacks of quality while preserving as much practicality as it reasonably can. But the M50i's immense expense doesn't matter if you find the appearance and concept objectionable, so it's the case that the distinctive X6 will continue to divide opinion like few other machines in the automotive world can.