The BMW X6 is now more spacious and practical; it gets more powerful, cleaner engines. But will these changes help it beat its rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover sport?
Whatever your thoughts are on the x6’s looks, it’s been a sales success for BMW – globally at least – and to keep the sales coming in, there’s a new model for 2014, the interior has been reworked to improve the quality and provide more space and practicality, while outside it gets sleeker looks. The X6’s engines have also been made more powerful, yet cleaner and more frugal.
The launch in December, those engines will be BMW’s six-cylinder entry-level 30d and performance – orientated M50d diesels, and a 50i V8 petrol. From spring 2015, a 40d diesel will join the range.
So, will the changes be enough to see the X6 make up lost ground on rivals such as the brilliant Porsche Cayenne and luxurious Range Rover Sport?
The triple-turbo 3.0-litre diesel engine in the M50d is a real powerhouse, providing huge pull from as low as 1600rpm over a very wide band. With so much torque, overtaking is done with total confidence, and there's even a pleasant engine note to accompany the revs – although much of it is artificially played into the cabin.
Noise isn't an issue with the 5.0-litre V8 petrol, which has much more of a growling, burbling character than you might expect. Press hard on the accelerator and you can see why it is officially faster to 62mph than the M50d, too, although you'll be hard pushed to notice any advantage in terms of its in-gear acceleration.
The petrol is also the more refined engine of the pair we drove, because unlike the diesel, it doesn't send back any trace of vibration through the pedals of wheel when being driven hard.
Every X6 gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and as with the many other BMWs it's fitted to, it works very well. When doing its own thing in auto mode, it never changes down too many gears when pressing on, while in manual mode, changes using the wheel-mounted paddles are smooth and crisp.
The X6's steering doesn't provide much feedback, but at least its accurate, and weights up in such a way that you always place a lot of confidence in it through fast corners. The X6 also manages to stay extremely flat despite its hefty kerb weight and tall stance.
M50d models come with BMW's Adaptive M Suspension (a £2495 option on lower models) allowing you to stiffen it up when the mood takes you. By selecting 'Sport +' mode (one of four), it's at its firmest, the throttle is sharper, and gearbox primed for even keener changes. In this state, the X6's handling is impressive, but it can't match a Porsche Cayenne for initial bite on turn-in and mid-corner.
The M50d gets a stiffer standard suspension set-up than the rest of the range, so it tends to pick up on road surface impactions more often, and struggles more than the 50i to remain settled over scruffy roads at low speeds, even in its most comfortable setting. That said, both cars are comparably settled at faster motorway speeds.
Both, however, suffered some wind noise around their mirrors once you get up to speed, and the test cars we tried also suffered some considerable road noise fitted with their 20-inch alloy wheels.