Good: strong engine and good on-road performance
No so good: rear passenger headroom
Like it or loathe it you have to at least credit BMW for sticking with the X6 for a second round. The world didn't seem to want or need a coupé-styled SUV back in 2009 when BMW first unveiled the X6, but since then it has not only gone on to sell in reasonably high numbers (in markets further afield than Ireland in any case), but has also spurned rivals into creating their own versions. It also led to a scaled down version in the shape of the BMW X4, which itself is soon to see new challengers from both Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
This new X6 is a sharper looking beast than previous and it's a design that works well in general. One gripe I have would be with the overly defined rear haunch, which just seems like an awkward piece of design and a surprising one considering BMW's current good form. Its whole stance is focused around an image of performance, with a front end that is dominated by large kidney grilles and flared intakes in the front bumper. Any aesthetic similarities with the more conventional BMW X5 diminish when you look beyond the front wheels. In side profile, that sloping roofline and contoured flanks dominate the X6's look, while the rear has a less stubby appearance than before. Even in the sportier M Sport trim tested here, the X6 will divide opinion.
I love it, but I also was a big fan of the first generation X6. I still remember the first time that I drove it and was genuinely surprised at just how well it handled given its height and mass. This new X6 looks and feels a touch bigger but is every bit as nimble with BMW's characteristic direct steering coming to the fore. It feels spritely too thanks to the 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine, which develops a useful 258hp as well as delivering its 560Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm. Translated into driving terms it feels capable of pulling massive loads from a standstill. Its automatic transmission is near seamless in how it swaps cogs although, should you quickly press the throttle pedal when cruising on the motorway, it can be hesitant when kicking down a few gears before delivering a sudden surge of acceleration.
Power delivery aside, when all six cylinders are singing the X6 covers ground at a serious rate. It helps to mask the 2,140kg bulk well too, remaining thoroughly planted at motorway speeds. On winding roads, the xDrive four-wheel drive transmission keeps the X6 feeling agile and affords you the chance to push the car that little bit more without hesitation. Adding to that sense of security in this case is the Adaptive M Sport suspension setup that, although firm, never feels harsh - even with the presence of 19-inch wheels as standard. Drive it hard - and you will want to at times - and the engine will do a good job of making its way through the 85-litre fuel tank, but in general, you'll see fuel consumption sitting just over 7.0 litres/100km (40.3mpg) in average driving. Use the Driver Experience Control function to toggle through to the Eco Pro mode and the X6 will eke out the fuel range a little more providing you play ball with more conservative use of your right foot.
The cabin is easily one of the best in the SUV market, surpassed in terms of quality perhaps only by the Range Rover Sport's, however the BMW's iDrive infotainment system remains superior. A detailed full-colour head-up display system is excellent, especially when relaying satellite navigation guidance, but the €1,615 option price is a big pill to swallow even in a car costing as much as this. The X6's seats are wonderfully supportive and even over longer journeys remain comfortable. There are some downsides to the X6, most of which are determined by the car's overall shape. Rear passenger headroom is less than ideal and despite there being three seatbelts in the rear it is really only suitable for two passengers for anything more than a short journey. The boot is deep but a high load height and limited aperture size makes bulkier items a tad more difficult to get in.
More will loathe the X6 than love it we feel, but for those who find the coupé-SUV meeting their requirements there is little else that can currently come close to rivalling BMW's package. Yes, it still drives mostly like an SUV, but for those times when you do want to have a bit more fun it delivers in greater amounts than some other self-proclaimed sporty SUVs.