Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: November 11, 2019
SPARTANBURG, South Carolina - The BMW X5 has already demonstrated itself as a wonderfully competent, potent, and regal SUV with all the bells and whistles one could ever hope for. It drove like it had a purpose, ferrying passengers in a cocoon of luxury and dynamic potential. And it’s only inevitable that the third-generation 2020 BMW X6 follows suit, the progenitor of the coupe-like SUV styling that bears a raked back roofline and sleek proportions to match. If you were like us and thought no one would buy into it, well, we were all very terribly wrong. Since its genesis more than ten years ago, BMW has sold over 440,000 of them worldwide.
So here is the new X6 in all of its muscular glory, growing in length, width, and wheelbase for slightly more interior room than the outgoing model. BMW has also dropped the height by 6 mm for better aerodynamics and a lower center of gravity. While the shrunken silhouette of the smaller X4 and its L-shaped taillights are not all that appealing, for some reason, the magnified X6 looks ten times better. The recessed hexagonal kidney grills ensure there is no mistaking it on the road, and the X6 is also the first BMW to come with an optional illuminated front grill, boosting night time visuals much like the Mercedes-Benz GLE and Mazda6 Signature. The hunchback rear end appears as if it has tank armour, and the slim bunker-like windshield is about the same size as a tank’s as well. Overall, the X6 is more Leopard 2 than it is Hugo Boss.
The X6 interior is a similar affair to the X5, and while it may not be as ritzy as a GLE or Q8, there is no denying the functionality that went behind this meticulous design. Up front are two 12.3-inch digital displays and an ergonomic center console replete with hard buttons for every function, a refreshing sight from the competition becoming overly reliant on haptic touchscreens. BMW has kept the array of eight programmable shortcut buttons as well. They join the optional Sky Lounge panoramic sunroof that illuminates at night to simulate a starlit sky - think of it like a discount Rolls-Royce Starlight Headliner. Sealing the deal for top-notch amenities include the heated and cooled cupholders, optional glass applications for the gear shifter much like the 8 Series, and metallic Bowers and Wilkins speaker covers on the door panels. The contrasting leather colours make for a nice visual too.
Now onto the big worry: rear accommodations. All these coupe-like SUVs - Mercedes GLE Coupe, Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne Coupe - have one thing in common, and that’s detrimental headroom. Much to my surprise, the X6 defies that stereotype and boasts some of the best rear seat headroom in the segment. I can sit behind my six-foot self and have enough headroom and legroom to wiggle about - no hair restyling necessary. Kudos, BMW. You have officially remedied the largest penalty of the X6. The only inherent disadvantage left is the diminished cargo room. On the bright side, the rear seats can be folded down in a 40:20:40 fashion, swelling up overall cargo space from 580 to 1,525 litres.
The X6 will debut in Canada with two powertrains. The X6 xDrive40i comes with the new B58 motor, a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six engine delivering 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, 33 hp and 35 lb-ft more than the outgoing model. This allows the X6 to sprint from 0-100 km/h in a swift 5.5 seconds.
Stepping up to the X6 M50i will net you a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine pumping out 523 hp and 553 lb-ft, a massive 78 hp and 74 lb-ft more than before. That means a 0-100 km/h time of a staggering 4.3 seconds. The M50i is visually distinguishable by its Cerium Grey exterior accents and standard M Sport brakes with blue painted calipers. This is the spec we drove around the X6’s birthplace of Spartanburg, the home of the BMW SUV and with 11,000 jobs on site, BMW’s largest factory spews out 1,500 X- units each and every single day. Not only is that an incredible feat but it’s a statistic that alludes to their worldwide popularity.
Out on the open country roads surrounding the factory, the X6 M50i demonstrated excellent road manners. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels, and it picks gears assertively yet executes shifts with a gentle smoothness. But the biggest triumph about this powertrain is how the V8 produces peak torque right at 1,800 rpm, so you can ride that boost all day long until plateauing at 4,600 rpm, covering the area where drivers spend the majority of their time. And while we have seen 4.4-litres of displacement before from BMW’s V8 engines, the engineers have promised this unit has been completely redesigned and improved in a multitude of ways, addressing prior cooling concerns and reliability issues.
This X6 is a smooth and scintillating cruise missile but not just in a straight line. There is a lot of weight to manage but it rotates with a high degree of agility, and you can feel most of the power shift to the rear wheels under hard driving situations. Combined with an adaptive two-axle air suspension, rear-wheel steering, and active roll stabilization, the X6 is stable, grounded, and sharp, and does a phenomenal job compensating for body roll. Though the ride is slightly firmer than the X5 xDrive40i on softer springs, the X6 M50i is incredibly compliant and adeptly absorbed every pothole we threw at it. To say it drives like a sports car would be a long shot, but there is a pool of accessible performance underneath its thick skin.
Aside from the larger engine, one of the more appealing reasons to upgrade to the M50i trim is for the exhaust. With a standard M Sport Exhaust, the M50i produces a soulful soundtrack that only comes courtesy of an eight-cylinder. Popping and pow-ing on overrun and hard shifts, we can only imagine what the upcoming X6 M would sound like. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video above to have a listen to the M50i.
Based on our first driving impressions, the X6 is a stellar SUV that not only defies old stereotypes but boasts impressive performance and justifies its V8 premium. While the styling may be an acquired taste for some, there’s no denying that the X6 carries significant road presence, and the extra rear seat headroom makes this once-disadvantaged SUV more appealing than ever before. And just like that, the lines between the chic X6 and the conventional X5 have begun to blur.
The 2020 BMW X6 starts at $79,000 for the xDrive40i, and a cool $92,000 for the M50i.
Model: 2020 BMW X6 M50i
Paint Type: Manhattan Green
Base Price: $92,000
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,947 / 2,004 / 1,696
Curb weight (kg): 2,320
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 523 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD