TEST DRIVE: 2016 BMW X6 M50d

Test Drives | August 25th, 2016 by 15
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When BMW originally launched the X6, the automotive ‘specialists’ out there rushed to call it the end of the brand as a whole. Admittedly, it …

When BMW originally launched the X6, the automotive ‘specialists’ out there rushed to call it the end of the brand as a whole. Admittedly, it was a rather big investment into a niche that seemed to go nowhere back in when it first launched. Fast forward to 2016 and nobody’s laughing anymore. Chip in this almighty BMW X6 M50d models and people will start swallowing their tongues.

The reason for this drastic response lies not only in the way the X6 M50d looks like but also what lies under its hood. With the title of the world’s most powerful 3-liter diesel engine in the world, the BMW X6 M50d is nothing to scoff at.

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Truth be told, I’ve experienced this monster a couple of times before and yet, as you look at the spec sheet, you can’t really grasp just how fast, smooth and brutal this engine is. It’s an anomaly and you can’t let it go or ignore it. And while a new version is coming out this year, our tester was still fitted with the old mill, the N57 tri-turbo diesel.

Yes, you read that right: the engine of the M50d has not one, or two but three turbochargers working together to deliver 381 HP and 740 Nm (546 lb-ft) of torque to all four corners of the car. In designing this tri-turbo monster, the engineers made sure to set up the beast so that it feels as much like a petrol engine as possible and, somehow, they did it.

The car’s exterior in M Performance guise is absolutely stunning….

On paper, the full torque figure hits at 2,000 RPM and you might be tempted to think that once you reach this gargantuan level, you might suffocate. Well, in reality, the car feels like a turbocharged petrol engine is powering it, delivering its torque smoothly throughout the entire rev range. You honestly don’t feel as if the car is running out of breath at any point and the X6 will accelerate to 250 km/h (155 mph) with ease, without even breaking a sweat.

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However, I should point out that these observations are only valid in Comfort or Eco Pro mode. They have been designed to offer both performance and comfort for the occupants, and they do so impeccably. Turn things up by going into Sport mode and you’ll soon start noticing a couple of things. The gear shifts are a lot more brutal and this is when you really start feeling the grunt of the engine coupled with the traction xDrive offers. That being said, Sport and Sport+ modes are there to allow you to get the most out of the car. Along with the harshness with which the gears are shifted you’ll also notice the instrument cluster turns red while some fake engine noise is pumped into the cabin. And while some might have a problem with that, it sounds so genuine that we weren’t really bothered since it allowed us to be in touch with the rev count without having to take our eyes off the road.

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This is, therefore, how this car is supposed to be driven. The thing is, you really need to hold on and you probably should be on a track as well. Reaching 100 km/h (62 mph) takes just 5.2 seconds and by our count, that seems to be a conservative estimate, as this thing feels a lot faster. Launching it is as easy as pie and that’s when you’ll actually be using the steering wheel to hold on rather than steer.

The interior of the current X6 is much better than the previous E71-generation.

Lean into corners and the body roll is reduced to a minimum, making you wonder how the engineers managed hold Mother Nature’s laws of physics in check, considering the M50d weighs about 2.2 tons. Some of the credit goes to the standard M Sport suspension that truly does stiffen up the dampers in an attempt to cope with the forces you might push onto them.

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What’s even more impressive about this X6 is that it can both walk the walk and talk the talk. The car’s exterior in M Performance guise is absolutely stunning and, even though we weren’t all that crazy about its rather simple Space Grey exterior, we loved every single crease and body line this car has. The front end just looks menacing and you really wouldn’t like to have those huge headlights taking up your rearview mirror. Chip in the extra slats in the air intakes, that come in Ferric Grey as standard on M Performance cars, and you have yourself a mean looker. BMW said the boss returned when the X5 came out but in reality, the X6 is the bruiser of the range.

Some even dared to say that the M50d looks better than the X6 M and while that’s still up for discussion, the fact that they are compared speaks loudly about how good this car looks. Round the back, you’ll also notice the typical M Sport bumper housing the twin tailpipes and the new taillights that give the new model a more elegant look compared to its predecessor.

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Admittedly, at first, I considered the M550d or M50d names a bit over-the-top but as years passed by and as BMW stuck to its guns, they started to account for brute force and are currently acknowledged as a sign of great things to come.

As we said before, though, while the current 3-liter tri-turbo N57S we had on our tester is a peach of a unit, it will soon be replaced by the new record holder for the 3-liter diesel category in terms of power, the B57. BMW just announced it earlier this year, coming for the first time on the brand new BMW 750d.

Unlike its predecessor, the new mill will have something in common with the Bugatti Chiron. Care to guess what? Both cars are the only production models in the world using a quad-turbocharged setup. That’s right, the new B57S engine will have not three but four turbochargers, for a combined power output of 400 HP and 800 Nm (590 lb-ft) of torque. Curiously enough, BMW claims even more could’ve been squeezed out but the transmission somehow limited their torque figure. Imagine that…

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But a change in engine won’t change some of the pitfalls from the X6 M50d’s Sports Activity Coupe body style. Those include limited headroom in the back and a rather small compartment for your luggage in case you decide to go for a trip, both prices to pay for a sleeker design that simply draws attention wherever you go. What needs to be mentioned here though is that there have been drastic improvements done compared to the initial BMW X6. The new model has 11 mm (0.4 inches) more elbow room up front while in the back that difference is reduced to just 1 mm. Headroom is also a bit better, both up front and in the back.

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We have, in theory, an increase of 40 mm (1.57 in.) of space up front and 15 mm (0.59 in.) in the back, all of them to be found especially useful in the headroom department. In real life, you get plenty of space both in the front and the back. Even though headroom is not as generous as in the X5, legroom seems to be even better. That’s because the seats were positioned lower and moved towards the back of the car in the X6, compared to its brother.

Speaking of which, you get M Sport seats as standard on the BMW X6 M50d, which offer plenty of side bolstering and are dressed up in Alcantara with hexagonal textile centers that will do the trick for most people. Our tester, on the other hand, had the optional Comfort Seats which are softer and offer a lot more options in terms of adjustment. If you’re on a tight budget though and you prefer firmer seats, you’d be better off with the standard kit.

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The interior of the current X6 is much better than the previous E71-generation. The layered design of the dash combined with ambient lighting and the upgrade in materials definitely paid off, as this is one of the best interiors BMW has to offer today. The new X6 and X5 are up there with the BMW 7 Series and the 6 Series range in this regard.

As far as practicality goes, don’t expect a lot, though. The boot is limited in size due to the sloping shape of the roof, allowing access to just 560 liters with the seats up. That goes up to 1,525 liters with the rear seats folded but you’ll still be hard pressed to fit larger items in there due to the peculiar boot opening. The same story applies to other cubby spaces inside the cabin. The front door panel bins are large and allow you to store water bottles and other smaller items while the armrest could be used for keys, wallets and other such things.

Around town the fuel consumption was around 11 l/100 km (21.3 mpg) while outside the city limits, it hovered around 7 l/100 km (33.6 mpg).

But then again, the customers going for a BMW X6 should already know the issues it comes with. The Coupe niche alone is all about style more than utility and the original Sports Activity Coupe abides to the same law, even this, new version.

As for the M50d model, it is the only diesel you should get. Don’t think I’m dismissing the other choices of the range, the xDrive30d and xDrive40d models. But, to be completely frank, a car that looks as good and imposing as the X6 should be had with the biggest maddest engine you can get. The M50d, even though it starts at over €90,000, already comes with a lot of standard kit included, for which you’d otherwise have to pay on say a standard xDrive30d model. Since most EU countries are also using a tax system that takes engine displacement into consideration, a lot of people consider the X6 M50d’s 3.0 liters actually to be a bargain and they might be on to something here. It is therefore truly a shame it’s not being sold in the US. Around Europe, the vast majority of the X6 models you might spot on the street are M50d models as surprising as that may sound.

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By comparison, the X6 xDrive50i has a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 450 HP and it is blazing fast, being outgunned only by the monstrous X6 M. However, it is not nearly as fuel efficient as the M50d. In terms of fun they are pretty closely matched but there’s no contest in terms of range.

While we are aware of the fact that people spending in excess of $100,000 on a car won’t actually have a problem with filling it up, range does become a bothersome issue over time. Our tester was less thirsty than we expected for a 2.2-ton SAC with 381 HP, allowing us to travel some 700 km (over 437 miles) with one tank. To be more precise, around town the fuel consumption was around 11 l/100 km (21.3 mpg) while outside the city limits, it hovered around 7 l/100 km (33.6 mpg) which is absolutely stunning.

So, is this a complete package? It has the range and fuel consumption of a true diesel car, it performs like a powerful petrol V8 and it has killer looks. What’s not to love, right?

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Buying a BMW X6 is something you do with the right side of your brain. You have to connect with this car beyond numbers and reason, you’ll need to love it for the way it makes you feel and how it looks. And in that department, it will not fail you. Sure, you won’t be comfortable in the back if you’re over 6-ft. tall and you won’t get to take a lot of luggage with you on your trip but who needs those things anyway, right?

We, as humans, are known to have made the wrong decision knowing what the consequences are simply because we liked one thing or another. It’s the same with the X6, no matter how many shortcomings it has. The bottom line is it’s a beauty that will get your blood flowing in an instant.

 

When BMW originally launched the X6, the automotive ‘specialists’ out there rushed to call it the end of the brand as a whole. Admittedly, it was a rather big investment into a niche that seemed to go nowhere back in when it first launched. Fast forward to 2016 and nobody’s…
Exterior Appeal - 10
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 7
Performance - 10
Handling - 9
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 9
Price Point - 8

8.9

No matter how many shortcomings the BMW X6 has, the bottom line is it’s a beauty that will get your blood flowing.

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