TEST DRIVE: 2016 BMW X6 xDrive30d

Test Drives | March 9th, 2016 by 17
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Carving new roads on uncharted territory has never been easy. Assuming the role of a trailblazer is probably one of the hardest things to do …

Carving new roads on uncharted territory has never been easy. Assuming the role of a trailblazer is probably one of the hardest things to do and yet where would we be without the likes of Lewis and Clark or Galileo Galilei? Maybe they didn’t receive the credit they were due during their lifetime, and maybe as is the case of the latter, they had to pay an absurd price for being bold, but their discoveries and daring nature offered us more than we could’ve anticipated.

No, we won’t compare the BMW X6 with them or their findings but we will say that for the auto industry, the effect is rather similar. When the Germans decided to launch an SUV with a Coupe body style, the world stopped for a moment and took a deep breath.

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After that moment of silence, all sorts of metaphors were used to describe the apparent madness that had taken over Munich and the critics didn’t run out of steam in a timely fashion either. Just as it was the case with the BMW E53 X5, the aficionados were probably the most acidic in riposte, acting as if they were gravely wounded and as if their pride would probably never recover from this hit.

How could the owner of a BMW E46 or E30 M3 ever show his/her face out in the world anymore, knowing that their car has the same blue and white roundel on hood as this ‘monstrous’ creation?

The first thing you notice about the X6 is how big it looks and feels

Fast forward about seven years and, at the end of its first generation’s production span, the number of X6 models sold adds up to over 250,000. Sure, it may not seem like a lot, especially spread over such a long period of time but then again, this is, by definition, a niche product. Calling the Sport Activity Coupe anything but a success would be childish.

So where do you go from there on? If so many people loved the car so much, what can be done to exceed expectations once again? Follow the age old recipe, how else? Fix the flaws pointed out by owners and make sure that the new version is better in every way.

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That’s exactly what happened with the F16 X6, which came out in 2014 and showed us just how good things could become with careful planning.

Just like the E60 X5 and E71 X6, the new Sport Activity Coupe shares its underpinnings with its more utilitarian brother. Not only that but, the two are also quite similar in design up to the B-pillars. However, unlike the X3 and X4 duo, in this case you’ll spot the differences a lot easier.

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The first thing you notice about the X6 is how big it looks and feels. The X5 is an impressive model too, don’t get me wrong but the high waistline above the rear wheels makes the SAC stand out in the crowd even more. Chip in the big kidney grilles up front connected to the massive headlights and the creases on the hood and you get a mean attitude that just won’t take no for an answer. Think of it as to an untamed horse that is just staring at you, daring you to hop on and go for the ride of your life.

Well, once inside the X6 you notice that an aggressive exterior design can work in combination with a luxurious interior. This is probably where the biggest changes happened compared to the first generation model. While the exterior is more of an evolution compared to the E71, the headlights, taillights and every panel of the body feeling like a more modern version of the original, inside the cabin everything is changed.

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The dash features a layered setup that is now decorated with ambient lighting that spreads on the door panels giving you a much more refined feeling. Chip in the new design for the air vents, the digital instrument cluster and materials used throughout and you can’t but appreciate this car for its build quality. Our tester came with Dakota leather in a nice Canberra Beige hue that was just right for the car in this configuration, with its bespoke Sparkling Storm Brown paint that had a so-called ‘brilliant effect’ on the outside. The beige floormats weren’t a great idea, especially considering the rainy weather we had to deal with but then again, they never are, no matter the car they are used in.

The X6 is the true boss of the line-up BMW has in store right now.

The dash and door panels featured fine-wood ‘Fineline Pure’ textured trims that were nice to the touch as was the leather that covered almost every bit part of the interior you could reach. And while you may think that ceramic surrounds for the buttons and dials inside don’t make sense, you might want to think again as they certainly give off a completely different feeling once you sit inside.

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Other notable add-ons our car had include the Harman/Kardon audio system that is quite decent, as well as the Adaptive LED Headlights that should, if you ask us, become a standard feature on all cars.

However, we’re not here to discuss how many optional features this car had on or its price tag that was just €667 shy of €100,000 even though, if you’re to look at it, from a logical point of view, the fact that the X6 is more expensive than the X5 doesn’t really make sense.

The Sport Activity Vehicle has more room both for the passengers and luggage and it also comes with a wider engine offering. Every fiber in your logical brain must be screaming when you look at the X6 but, then again, this is by definition a niche car, one that appeals to those more inclined to style than practicality. After all, your wife doesn’t wear those 6-inch heels at special occasions because they’re comfortable, right? She wears them because they make her stand out in the crowd and the same principle can be applied here.

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The X6 is the true boss of the line-up BMW has in store right now. Compared to its more utilitarian brother, it sets itself apart with an impassible attitude, a design meant to strike as imposing as well as sporty. Even in the Pure Extravagance exterior design package (as was the case with our tester) the SAC looks as if it feeds on asphalt. Going even one farther and fitting it with the M Sport package brings its hooligan character more into the spotlight.

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And yet, with all the concessions that had to be made for its sleek, coupe-like roofline, the X6 offers more comfort than you’d think it would be capable of. Compared to its predecessor and the F15 X5, the new model has had its rear seats positioned lower, closer to the floor, to offer more headroom for the passengers that weren’t lucky enough to ride up front.

This, coupled with a few millimeters added to the overall height of the roof allow people that are up to 6 feet tall (184 cm) to ride in the back without having to chop off their heads. That’s a big improvement as, if you ever rode in the back of an E71 model, you probably noticed this was a luxury you couldn’t afford.

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So there’s enough room for four adults, but how about five? Well, we wouldn’t recommend stuffing three adults abreast in the back for longer trips for a number of reasons. Sure, you could do it but nobody would be satisfied with the results. The X6 is best to be experienced by up to four people at a time. This way you’ll also have enough room for luggage in the back, as the sloping line of the rear window does cut into the boot by quite a considerable amount. In total you should have access to about 580 liters (20.5 cubic feet) but that figure doesn’t say much when you read it, does it? In reality, you’ll be able to store about four or five medium sized suitcases in there which should be enough anyhow. There are also other clever storage spaces included throughout the cabin and even under the boot’s floor, an area that’s more generous than meets the eye.

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Since this is the case, going on holiday with this car in the company of three friends or family members shouldn’t be an issue. Our tester was the cheapest model you can get in Europe, the ‘entry-level’ xDrive30d version that, as you probably guessed, comes with a 3.0 liter inline six-cylinder diesel mill. Unfortunately, this isn’t available in the US and it truly is a shame. Under the hood hums an all-familiar mill that is about to get replaced in the following months, known internally as N57. It has been used by almost every model in the range for quite some time now, from the 3 Series to the 7 Series but its production span is about to come to an end.

BMW N57S Diesel

So how much power does the cheapest X6 come with? 258 HP and 560 Nm (413 lb-ft) is the correct answer and, even if it sounds like it’s not enough for an SUV that weighs 2.2 tons, it will prove plentiful for any given situation.

In this configuration, the SAC accelerates from a standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.7 seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive and 8-speed automatic transmission. It should also be mentioned that you can’t get an X6 with a manual gearbox, which is a rather logical approach to be honest.

And while you’re thinking that under 300 HP for a car this size may not be enough, we’ll mention that the tow rating of this beast is no less than 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs). Is that enough for you?

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Take this baby out on a highway and you’ll see why the xDrive30d is the best-selling version of the X6 in Europe. No, it’s not only because it is the cheapest one in the range but also because it does everything you need with urgency and efficiency.

Our trips on the highway included both sessions of driving in Eco Pro and quick acceleration spurts and the combined fuel consumption, with an average speed of 110 km/h (69 mph) shown on the digital instrument cluster, was 7 l/100 km (33.6 mpg) which is impressive.

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Speaking of the digital instrument cluster, we have to praise BMW in this particular area. The resolution of the screen is high and makes the whole experience as pleasant as possible. Going through the different driving modes the car has, it changes the appearance of the clocks, from the standard orange theme old BMWs used to have in Comfort mode, to a light blue in Eco Pro and bright red in Sport and Sport+ modes.

The infotainment system was also drastically improved compared to the predecessor. Not only are the screens now bigger, but their resolution was also upgraded as well as the graphics engines behind them to make the motions more fluent. Starting this summer, the new X5 and X6 models will get the same iDrive system we’ve seen introduced on the 2016 7 Series, along with touch screen capabilities for the center display.

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It is on that display where you’ll be looking when parking, no matter if you went for the optional Surround Camera system or you’re relying on the standard Park Distance Control system that uses no cameras but only parking sensors. And you will be needing them too.

Being the stylish proposition that it is, the X6 doesn’t offer great visibility rearwards. The sloping roof cuts into the rear window and you’ll have to rely a lot more on the side mirrors than anything else. These have also shrunk in size compared to its predecessor which makes the case for cameras a lot more applicable.

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Driving around town will also not be an easy task, especially on old Europe’s narrow roads. Compared to the X5, the X6 is longer and wider, as well as about 40 mm (1.5 inches) lower. Chip in the restricted visibility out the back window and you get a troubling picture. Luckily, the driving position is rather high and you do have a commanding view of the road ahead thanks to it.

Therefore, even though it may take a little while to get used to its size, the X6 can be used as an urban dweller with no major issues. The biggest problem you’ll encounter will most likely be the fuel consumption which we found to be a bit high at 11 l/100km (21.3 mpg) but then again, you are carrying over 2 tons of metal around you.

The hard truth therefore is that the X6 is still what it set out to be in the first place. It’s a love it or hate it model…

And that kind of weight might be an issue in other circumstances but not for this car, even in this configuration. You see, the X6 is a beast, it’s a brute down to its core. It is, if you will, the equivalent of a Bullmastiff. It has to be driven with confidence and, once in a while, grabbed by the scruff of its neck.

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Compared to the X5, the Coupe SUV feels more planted on its feet and a bit less comfortable on rough surfaces. That may seem like an inconvenience at first but it does come in handy when you’re doing some spirited driving on nice canyon roads.

Our tester wasn’t even fitted with the M Sport suspension and we could still feel quite a difference between driving in Comfort mode (where body roll makes itself known in no time) and Sport mode. Turn off the DSC, brake late as you approach a turn and then immediately accelerate hard and you might be in for a surprise as the X6 handles itself with incredible contempt.

However, the xDrive30d model wasn’t built for the track. For such purposes you have the X6 M model that has 575 HP and 750 Nm (552 lb-ft) of torque at its disposal to enjoy as you’d please. On top of that, it also comes with the right brakes and suspension setup to make sure you don’t run out of breath after two laps.

And so we come to the conclusion that, even though the entry-level diesel choice is capable of so many wondrous things, it will most likely be used by soccer moms and fashionable lawyers or architects around town rather than taken to the limit. And that’s really Okay, since this is a particular breed anyhow.

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The fact that BMW now has five X models on sale, with two more to come in the near future, does say a lot about how the auto industry changed. Therefore, the X6 is a proposition that makes more and more sense, no matter how some may paint it.

The most evident proof in this direction is probably the fact that Mercedes-Benz created a car from the ground up to pit it against the original Sports Activity Coupe and dubbed it GLE Coupe. Truth be told, the three-pointed star company didn’t even bother to deny that they followed BMW’s recipe and that’s probably one of the biggest compliments Stuttgart paid Munich in their century-old rivalry.

To put things even better into perspective and make a case for such taboo products when anyone says that models like this have no place in the line-up of companies such as BMW and Mercedes, maybe you should point out that the best performing product Porsche sells today is also an SUV and if it weren’t for these peculiar creations, most of the prestigious car makers of today would’ve been in big financial trouble.

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The hard truth therefore is that the X6 is still what it set out to be in the first place. It’s a love it or hate it model that stayed true to itself in its second iteration. Having fixed the issues that made life with the original version a bit more complicated than it should’ve been, the new, 2.0 version, is hard to fault. If you love its bold design you won’t look back, while if you can’t stand what the Sports Activity Coupe stands for you probably won’t even bother looking over it.

Carving new roads on uncharted territory has never been easy. Assuming the role of a trailblazer is probably one of the hardest things to do and yet where would we be without the likes of Lewis and Clark or Galileo Galilei? Maybe they didn’t receive the credit they were due…

2016 BMW X6 xDrive30d

Exterior Appeal - 8.5
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 8.5
Performance - 8
Handling - 8
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8
Price Point - 8

8.3

The hard truth therefore is that the X6 is still what it set out to be in the first place. It’s a love it or hate it model that stayed true to itself in its second iteration.

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