Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 22, 2020
When the E71 BMW X6 first made its debut to the world, it was quickly met with criticism and confusion. Industry veterans felt the X6 had an identity crisis, a Minotaur of sorts with the roofline of a sports car and the body of a truck. Pundits too snickered at BMW’s classification of it as a Sports Activity Vehicle. What does that even mean anyways?
Yet in a few short years, the X6 had validated its own made-up segment, established dominance with skyrocketing sales, and left competitors scrambling to develop similar products. Twelve years since its unveiling, this SUV coupe segment is now overflowing with entrants from top-tier marquees like the Lamborghini Urus, Audi Q8, Mercedes GLE Coupe, and Porsche Cayenne Coupe. This doesn’t even count the proliferation within BMW’s own ranks: X4, and upcoming X8.
Now in its third generation, the G06 X6 marks a slight departure from its predecessor. The bodywork has been completely redesigned. It’s now 26 mm longer and 15 mm wider to accommodate a wheelbase that's been stretched by 42 mm. The ride height has also been lowered by 6 mm. There’s a particularly menacing presence to the new X6 when seen in the flesh. It’s angular and aggressive with wide haunches, sitting like a panther ready to strike. And a pair of trapezoidal adaptive laser headlights look like furrowed brows peeking from the shadows. My only criticism is in the back end, which is rounded off by a molded-in spoiler that adorns the liftgate, and to me it looks unfinished. The sheetmetal suddenly falls off, and its integration into the rear bumper gives it an abrupt, flat look. It doesn’t help that our X6 M50i test vehicle is dressed in Carbon Black either, and though a personal favourite from BMW’s vast colour palette, it hides the sculpting in the bodywork.
Optioning luxury vehicles can get complicated but BMW has condensed all of its most desirable options into one aptly named Premium Excellence Package ($17,000), and it’s with this package that the G06 truly sets itself further apart from the outgoing model. Hop inside, and it’s clear you’re in the automaker’s next generation of interiors. They’ve taken all the amenities and technologies from their product lineup and deployed it here. For starters, the gesture controls found in the 7 Series are present, as are the ambient air fragrances. A decorative crystal piece adorns the shift knob with a laser etched X-insignia nestled in lieu of the 8 Series badging where the crystal first made its debut. This particular X6 M50i also came equipped with Extended Merino Leather in black, and it’s a perfect compliment to the finely knurled aluminum switchgear and illuminated panoramic sunroof.
Luxuries aside, the X6 is a technology hub, crammed to the brim with the latest and greatest conveniences designed to take the stress out of everyday driving. At the nexus of it all are a pair of 12.3-inch screens that commandeer most of the real estate on the dash. The first supplants what would have been a traditional instrument cluster, the new screen serving up a bevy of vehicle telemetry, and can be customized to show anything from navigational info, horsepower, and torque, to media information. Furthermore, at the top of the cluster is an infrared camera that scans the driver’s eyes and face, and will warn the driver if it detects drowsiness.
During my week with the vehicle, I particularly enjoyed the real-time information derived from BMW’s Driving Assistant Professional. The system utilizes a suite of sensors and cameras that, when activated, delivers a semi-autonomous driving experience on highways. What makes this system particularly trick though is the real-time display of vehicles, and their position relative to you. For example, the system will detect a vehicle that may be in the next lane over, and as it speeds up or slows down, its position will be reflected in the instrument cluster in real-time. I also noticed that the system is clever enough to discern different types of vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks. The result serves two purposes. Firstly, being able to see what the system detects gives you an extra layer of peace of mind when Driving Assistant Professional is active. Secondly, the information is a welcome compliment to traditional blind spot monitoring that’s becoming a standard place among other vehicles.
Sitting inside the X6, cocooned in a lap of luxury, comfort, and convenience, it makes the experience feel like an occasion, and in this regard, BMW has truly done an outstanding job in making the X6 feel like a cut above the rest. But the one thought that keeps popping into my head is how much more do you need? That question extends to the drivetrain too. Take a peek at the powerplant and you’ll notice the German automaker’s long standing N63 twin-turbo V8 nestled under the hood. In this application, peak power and torque sees a 79 hp and 74 lb-ft lift over the previous model. Final output comes out to a jaw dropping 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of twist. Interestingly enough, torque output in the M50i matches that of the current X6 M, although the real M will sustain that sledgehammer amount for 1,260 engine rpms more than the M50i.
BMW’s collection of drivetrain settings allow you to tailor the vehicle's characteristics. In its comfiest mode, the ride is serene and you commute in isolation from the outside world. The steering feels lighter, less communicative of what’s happening at the front axle, and the big V8 is reduced to a docile house kitten, purring along. Beckon for more power though, and it’ll come in like a gentle wave, slowly easing you into it before settling back down when you let off the throttle. Ride quality remains sublime but there’s a hint of BMW’s M DNA that remains perceptible when traversing heavily pothole ridden streets or areas with many undulations.
However, the difference is night and day when all adjustments are set to full gas, awakening the panther within. The vehicle snarls and snaps on upshifts, and the cabin swells with the rhythmic rumble of the twin-turbo V8. And that gentle wave of power we mentioned? It has now transformed into a tsunami of torque sending you into dizzying triple digit speeds. The steering and drivetrain have been ratcheted up to 11 as well, with the X6 pulling off movements that almost betray its size - almost. BMW’s ZF 8-speed tuning is still the gold standard in the business, as it’s always in the right ratio, as if almost telepathically linked to your mind. Under heavy cornering and braking the X6’s mass eeks through as a reminder that though it dances like something half its weight, this behemoth is still over 2,300 kg.
At an as-tested price of $112,500, buying into the X6 M50i club comes at a steep premium. Yet, when you take a step back and look at the M50i in the context of the remaining lineup, the model starts to make a bit more sense. The X6 M50i starts at $92,000, the bulk of what brought this vehicle to the $112,500 price point comes from the Premium Excellence Package. Some may see that as overkill, and they have the option to spec the vehicle as they see fit to come in below the price point here. But no matter how many boxes they check, it’s still a boatload of cash shy of the full-beans X6 M Competition that lies at the top of the food chain, which brings me back to my original thought - how much more do you actually need? Here, in front of me sits a tech-laden, luxurious SUV Coupe (or SAV, whatever you want to call it), capable of mind numbing levels of performance, and it is still not the top of the X6 totem pole. It’s hard to contemplate how much better the X6 M could even be, and even harder to fathom who would drive this M50i and be left wanting more.
Model: 2020 BMW X6 M50i
Paint Type: Carbon Black
Base Price: $92,000
Price as Tested: $112,500
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,947 / 2,004 / 1,696
Curb weight (kg): 2,320
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 523 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 14.5 / 10.7 / 12.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.1
Tires: 275/35R22 front; 315/30R22 rear