This revised version of the third generation BMW X6 offers some useful improvements, notably 48V mild hybrid engine tech and a much enhanced cabin featuring the brand's latest Curved Screen displays. Otherwise, the X6 proposition is much as before. Love it or hate it, you have to respect a vehicle that's sold in such numbers and which has evolved into something rather special.
Has there been a more divisive car than BMW's X6 launched in the last two decades? Possibly not. The original 'E71'-series first generation version debuted back in 2008 and the formula was pretty simple. It was basically an X5 with a coupe-style sloping back. Lots of people got very aerated about this, claiming that here was a car with the handling shortcomings of an SUV coupled with the limited practicality of a coupe; the worst of both worlds. But then the X6 sold and sold in serious numbers. In fact, BMW shifted more than a quarter of a million of the things before launching a smoother-looking 'F16'-series second generation model in 2014, which nearly doubled that sales tally before this MK3 'G06'-series version was introduced in mid-2019. It gained more competition in this form, thanks to the arrival of the Audi Q8, the Porsche Cayenne Coupe and a second generation version of the Mercedes GLE Coupe. Hence the need for this update in early 2023.
Quite a lot's gone on under the bonnet as part of this facelift. The 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel variant most will choose (still badged xDrive30d) gains a revised 48V mild hybrid system, adding 12bhp and 200Nm of torque via a gearbox-mounted electric motor. That xDrive30d diesel puts out 298hp and makes 62mph in 6.1s. The petrol alternative X6 xDrive40i model gets a new generation six-cylinder in-line engine which for our market can't be had in the X5. That 3.0-litre unit's 380hp output is up by 47hp compared with its direct predecessor, while peak torque rises by 70Nm to 520Nm - and can be boosted to 540Nm with the mild hybrid system. It enables the X6 xDrive40i to sprint from 0 to 62mph in 5.4 seconds. This petrol engine also benefits from innovations in the combustion process, camshaft control, injection, ignition system and exhaust gas routing, plus the latest VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control. Since BMW isn't offering X6 customers the Plug-in Hybrid powertrain you can get in the X5, the only other mainstream X6 variant is the petrol V8 M version, now badged 'M60i' (which also gets the 48V mild hybrid system); that M60i offers 530hp and makes 62mph in just 4.3s, courtesy of a prodigious 750Nm of torque. At the very top of the range is the X6 M Competition, which has 625hp and makes 62mph in just 3.9s. All X6s get an updated eight-speed Steptronic Sport auto transmission with a host of innovations over and above the electric motor integrated into its housing. The unit's internal efficiency, vibration damping and shift timing have all been optimised, while shift characteristics are now adapted to the Driving Experience Control switch setting. The gearbox also includes a Launch Control function, plus using the gearshift paddles, drivers can activate a Sprint function for a quick burst of speed. Otherwise, across the range things are much as before. A two-axle air suspension system is standard, as is a 'Dynamic Damper Control' set-up to tailor ride quality, this accessible through the usual Driving Experience Control driving modes system. If you want to go further, the 'Adaptive M suspension Professional' package delivers two key enhancements. First, there's 'Active roll stabilisation - which compensates for cornering roll. And second there's 'Integral Active Steering' - which turns the rear wheels in either the same direction as the front wheels or the opposite direction, depending on the vehicle speed. This optimises cornering agility, ensures effortless lane changes and helps the vehicle to dart through city traffic.
BMW reckons the X6 combines "the robust presence of a BMW Sports Activity Vehicle with the hallmark sporting elegance of the brand's Coupes to create an unmistakably athletic appearance". That might be the case if you consider an American football player or a pro-wrestler to be athletes. It's hefty and the car squats over its wheels like Konishiki in the sumo circle. The initial shock at the X6's styling has dissipated somewhat, and with the right colours and wheels, this BMW can even look quite handsome. This updated version of the third generation model may initially appear fairly similar to the earlier version but if you take a second look, much is different. Beneath the front kidney grille (which can now be ordered with 'Iconic Glow' illumination), models with the standard 'M Sport' trim level feature an octagonal front-end signature, plus there are M-specific side skirts and 'M High-gloss Shadowline' trim. The top M60i variant features bespoke double bars and an M logo for its front kidney grille, plus M exterior mirror caps in Black high-gloss, M quad-pipe style exhaust tailpipe trim and a rear spoiler in Black high-gloss. The updates are even more obvious inside, the dash de-cluttered of buttons courtesy of the installation of the BMW Curved Display we've been seeing in all the brand's most recent models. Here, it's made up of a 12.3-inch information display behind the steering wheel and a 14.9-inch centre infotainment control screen, both located behind a single glass surface. The automatic climate system is now operated via permanently displayed control graphics on the BMW Curved Display, which you may or may not think to be a good thing. The same applies to the greater number of touch-sensitive buttons scattered around the dash. The fascia's also been redesigned, with surfacing in leather-like 'Sensafin'. Plus there's a re-styled gearstick and a freshly added X6-branded ambient light bar with a crystalline surface structure and LED backlighting integrated below the trim element in the front passenger area. Connectivity's improved as well; front passengers can watch video-on-demand services on the central screen; and the 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring is wireless. In addition, the now standard 'Digital Key' features allows you to unlock the car with your 'phone. Otherwise, things are much as before. The cabin sits you high and commandingly and is much as it is in an X5. You can just about fit three adults across the rear bench. And there's a decently-sized 580-litre boot, expandable to 1,525-litres if you fold the rear seats.
Prices have risen quite a bit, but part of that is that is because 'M Sport' is now the standard spec level. The asking figures now start at around £74,000 for the base xDrive 30d diesel variant with 298hp. The petrol options start with the 380hp xDrive 40i at just under £76,000. Then there's the M60i with 530hp for around £93,000. The top X6 M Competition cost just over £126,000 from launch. Inside, across the range you get standard 'Vernasca' leather upholstery, available in four colours and electrically adjustable and heated sports seats. Options include an 'Ambient Air' package which provides air ionisation and infuses the interior with eight individually selectable scents. The Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 20 speakers and a 1,500-watt output will be tempting too, as will the optional Rear-seat entertainment Professional system which comprises a pair of 10.2-inch full-HD touchscreen displays, a Blu-ray-compatible DVD player and two headphone jacks. The new Comfort Pack includes seat heating for the outer rear seats and a Heat Comfort package, which brings heating for the steering wheel, driver/front passenger door armrests and centre console. The 'thermo' function for the cup holders keeps drinks cool or warm as required. The optional Sky Lounge panoramic glass sunroof generates an exclusive aura when darkness falls, with LED light spreading evenly across the glass surfaces to illuminate more than 15,000 graphic patterns and generate a display reminiscent of a starlit sky. As you'd expect, there's all the latest camera-driven safety kit. And, to suit the mood of the moment, BMW has included its latest automated driving tech too - though to get it, you'll have to specify the optional 'Driving Assistant Professional package'. This gives you 'Active Cruise Control', a 'Steering and lane control assistant' and 'Traffic jam assist'.
Despite BMW's continuing refusal to offer its PHEV tech with this model, the X6 still makes a great riposte to those who rail against big, inefficient vehicles. While this Bavarian contender would find it difficult to deny the charge based on size, it's anything but inefficient and the addition of 48V mild hybrid engine tech as part of this facelift has made a useful difference. Thanks both to this and to the brand's BluePerformance technology (comprising a particulate filter, an oxidation catalyst, a NOx absorption catalyst and an SCR catalyst with AdBlue injection), the volume xDrive30d diesel variant continues to offer a reasonably efficient package. It returns a combined fuel consumption of up to 40.4mpg, equating to CO2 emissions of up to 184g/km. The V8 petrol M60i meanwhile is a very different proposition, posting a combined fuel consumption of up to 24.8mpg and CO2 emissions of up to 258g/km. What else might you need to know? Well, routine maintenance is dictated by 'Condition Based Servicing' that monitors oil level and engine wear, taking into account how long it's been and how far the car has travelled since its previous garage visit. You can check all of this using menus in the 'iDrive' centre-dash display and the car will give you four weeks' notice of when a check-up is needed so you have plenty of time to book it. To help plan ahead for the cost of regular work, at point of purchase you'll be offered a 'BMW Service Inclusive' package that lasts for three years and 36,000 miles.
When you pause to consider it, the BMW X6 shouldn't really have caused such controversy. It's a bit like getting hot under the collar about a 4 Series Coupe when you can buy a perfectly practical 3 Series Touring for less. They're not the same thing, the buyers aren't the same and BMW ought to be congratulated for having the savvy to spot this latent demand. Even if it's not your thing, and there are many who will put their hand up to that, the X6 deserves a certain measure of respect. This improved version of the third generation model doesn't diverge too markedly from the template laid down by its predecessors. It's just better in every measurable regard; more powerful, more economical, quicker and less polluting. It's also built of superior materials, is arguably a bit better looking and comes with some tempting high-tech options. Admire it for what it is. The X6 isn't going away.