BMW is hoping lightning strikes twice with the second-generation version of its successful if endlessly controversial X6 SUV coupe – especially as Mercedes will soon be muscling in with its GLE Coupe clone.
WHAT IS IT?
Based on the same architecture as the 2008 E71 original, the second X6 is more of the same – a hunched-backed, high-riding five-door SUV with plenty of power, toys and attitude. Everything you see and touch has changed, but the fundamentals are much the same as before.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The only big luxury ‘SUV coupe’ now that the Range Rover Sport has matured into a proper X5 rival, the second-gen X6 will enjoy the market to itself for a few months until Mercedes’ GLE Coupe fronts up to give it some real competition. A thorough redesign rather than an all-new vehicle, has BMW done enough to keep buyers interested?
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Arguably even less pretty than its provocative predecessor, the 2015 X6 is a classic case of change for change’s sake, regurgitating the same old recipe in a near-identical new suit. The improved specification, updated multimedia system and slight efficiency gains count for something, but the pioneering SUV coupe seems to be treading water.
PLUS: Handling, performance, speed, cabin architecture, ease of entry, better spec
MINUS: Design, poor packaging, lack of any real “Efficient Dynamics” progress
THE WHEELS REVIEW
LIKE Porsche, there are two BMWs. One that makes fun drivers cars (like the 2 Series and M5) and one that drives funds from SUVs (think X3 or X6).
Say what you will about its hyper-aggressive design, but the latter’s been a cash cow for Munich since launching in 2008, exceeding sales forecasts by 75 percent. Now, 260,000 units later (2600 in Oz), the second-gen version has landed.
Just like the F15 X5 that begat it, much of the F16 X6’s underpinnings carry over beneath the restyled skin, including the wheelbase, MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear. Worthwhile improvements include adaptive dampers and air suspension availability, radar cruise control with ‘Stop and Go’, active steering, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert and automatic parking systems.
Along with a $10K-plus premium, more challenging styling and inferior cabin packaging, the newcomer differs from its X5 donor by offering fewer variants – specifically a trio of turbo diesel (190kW/560Nm 30d from $115,400, 230kW/630Nm 40d twin-turbo from $128,400 and 280kW/740Nm M50d triple-turbo from $157,900) and a pair of petrol (225kW/400Nm 35i from $120,700 and 330kW/650Nm 50i from $151,600) AWDs. Incredibly, all bar the (4.4-litre V8) 50i boast a 3.0-litre straight six.
All fare better than before with slightly more oomph, less thirst and fewer emissions, thanks chiefly to the combination of idle stop engines, regenerative braking, better airflow properties, a tiny weight drop and revised ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
Frankly, none are anything less than seductively impressive to drive, from the stronger-than-anticipated acceleration and silky refinement of the torquey 30d that 70 percent of customers will choose, to the guided missile that is the 50i that only a fraction will buy despite it hitting 100km/h in a 911 Carrera-equalling 4.8 seconds.
Additionally, we’re pleasantly surprised at how responsive the electric steering is, making the BMW feel more planted and controlled than any 2.1-tonne SUV has any right to. In our symphonic 50i fitted with Adaptive M Sport suspension, the handling and grip simply astounded.
But here’s the catch. Now every X6 features 20-inch wheels minimum, and so the ride oscillates between patchy and punishing over rougher roads, interspersed with intermittent droning. They probably also caused some persistent door rattles, while disappointing trim imperfections undermined our 30d’s quality aspirations.
So while the latest X6 treads water by faithfully mimicking the last one, there’s probably enough fresh bling to keep the faithful and their cash rolling in. And that’s fine with us, as long as it keeps funding future 235is, i3s and M4s.
Model: BMW X6 xDrive30d
Engine: 2993cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v turbo-diesel
Max power: 190kW @ 4000rpm
Max torque: 560Nm @ 1500-3000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.7sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 6.0L/100km
On sale: Now