First drive: the 2020 BMW X6

The subject of our test drive is the 2020 BMW X6 M50i, the best non-M model in the new range.

Although the BMW X6 is not as popular as the X family, it occupies a special place in the Bavarian lineup. Trying to understand BMW’s logic behind the plan to create a sports coupe is very easy, if you only look at the marketing and financial aspects. But if you look at the car from a different angle, you might see another story.

The history of the BMW X6

The large, luxury crossover went on sale in April 2008. It has surprised the industry since it established a new niche. It was revolutionary in some way for an SUV-like car and paved the way not only for another luxury BMW crossover, but also for competitors.

Pictures BMW X6 2020 94830x553

Marketed as a Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) by BMW, the X6 combines the usual features of an SUV (size, ground clearance, big wheels and plenty of room inside) along with styling cues seen only in the Coupe – the perfect combination of things.

First and foremost, the X6 gave the customer base a vehicle that could be used as a high-performance vehicle with some off-road capabilities, as a fashion statement, a luxury status symbol and a comfortable long-distance vehicle as well.

BMW sold 26,580 X6s in the first year alone. Now in its third generation, the BMW X6 is proud to find a home in nearly 450,000 garages.

Just like previous models, the new G06 X6 platform is controversial. Simply put, people either love him or hate him. Its design is one of the most subjective in the BMW lineup, and not only.


BMW X6 2020 Pictures 67830x553

Let’s start with that. In many conversations I had with car designers informally, the topic of proportions and design limitations came up. Basically, I’m told that when designing an X6-like car, there’s only so much room for creativity.

The crossover has some specific requirements to meet with very little room to get out of the books. That’s why other cars in this segment take a similar design approach.

However, with each new generation of the BMW X6, the design has become cleaner and more streamlined, as well as softer and more pleasing to the eye. Up front, the new X6 successfully differentiates itself from the X5 with more kidney corners and massive front lower intakes in the “M50i” specification.

The new X6’s profile is certainly better than before and with a decent interpretation of the iconic Hoffmeister Kink, a pet of ours with modern BMW models. Despite the sleek roofline, the new BMW X6 manages to make more room inside, thanks to a few simple engineering tricks – like the slightly angled rear seat.

At the rear, the G06 X6 retains the long luggage compartment and large boot hatch, with the addition of some very wide and narrow taillights. These wide tail lights fulfill another role as well – they visually enhance the width of the rear end for that powerful stance on the road.

The only thing I didn’t sell in the back was the non-functional vertical vents which are just a gimmick.

Over the past two years, I’ve personally tried to advocate for new BMW designs by encouraging people to see the cars in person. With so many car shows disappearing, it is not easy for potential customers to have first-hand experience with cars. But in the case of the new X6, it sure makes a positive difference when you look at it in person.

In dark colors, the multiple design lines are less in your face and combine a cohesive design with a good amount of visual aggressiveness. The increased dimension is also more noticeable. The new BMW X6 is larger than the car it replaces in every way, except for the height. It measures 26 mm in length and 15 mm in width and has a wheelbase that is 42 mm longer but 6 mm lower and has a lower center of gravity.

Once again, the design of the new BMW X6 is unlikely to please everyone.

Interior Design – Welcome Upgrade

Less controversial is the interior design. The new X6 is based on the beautiful, luxurious cabin of the X5, with small touches, such as the cocoon feel around the driver and reconfigured door handles. Other than that, this is an X5 implant, which is a good thing.

It’s a great interior that prioritizes quality, comfort, and ergonomics over unnecessary flashes and LEDs. Just like the BMW X5, the X6 gets really nice thermoelectric cup holders. It also gets a panoramic glass roof Sky Lounge – the largest ever in the X6 – which features 15,000 patterns illuminated in the glass at night. There are also the same glass effect options, on the shift lever, start button and even volume knob, as the X5, X7 and 8 series.

The BMW X6 has often been criticized for its lack of rear headroom, so I spent some extra time in the back. My height is 6″ 3 or approximately 1.90m, so it is a little taller than average. While on the previous model I often banged my head against the interior ceiling, on the new G06 X6 I measured about 2 inches (5 cm) of extra height.

The same goes for legroom. I adjusted the driving position to my height and then moved to the back seat to see legroom. I was getting about 3-4 inches of space which would probably be enough for short to medium distances.

engineering bits

The 2020 BMW X6 is built on the company’s flexible CLAR architecture which means that every model gets some kind of custom platform. So instead of using the X5 platform, the new X6 starts with its own requirements and dimensions. Therefore, the engineers had more freedom to adapt the X6 to the demands of the sector that required sporty, dynamic driving from a long driving position.

The BMW X6 can be equipped with the optional two-axle adaptive air suspension setup. The height of the air suspension inside the vehicle can be adjusted, with the click of a switch, or it will be adjusted based on the driving settings. This air suspension is a standalone option but can also come with an off-road package. With said package, the aero ride gets four new suspension modes; Snow, sand, gravel and rocks.

It can also be equipped with Adaptive M suspension or Adaptive M Suspension Professional with active roll stability and integrated active steering.

Nothing new here when compared to the X5, other than the software tuned to the driving characteristics of the new X6. The 2020 BMW X6 can also be equipped with an M differential lock at the rear axle, but you will have to choose the M Sport or the Off-Road package.

Driving Experience

This long, technical introduction leads me to a potentially more interesting driving experience. The subject of my test drive is the 2020 BMW X6 M50i, the top non-M model in the new range. The X6 M50i gets a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, which makes 530 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. It’s the fastest of the 60 mph group, doing it in 4.3 seconds, but also the thirsiest, hitting 10.7 – 10.4 l/100 km.

Being the most expensive model, the 2020 BMW X6 M50i gets the M Sport Exhaust as standard package. Also, M Performance models come with an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential as standard.

While most of the “X” drives have taken place in the US in the past few years, this trip is all the way back to Bavaria and on some of the winding roads and scenery around Munich. The plan was to first take the new X6 to some Autobahn speeds before jumping into some tight corners to see what it’s capable of.

In a “normal” driving scenario, it is difficult to differentiate the X6 from its brother – the X5. The driving characteristics are similar, and the tuning of the ZF 8-speed engine and transmission is also the same. I’ve diversified my driving style from comfort to sport just to get a better feel of the car and a wider range of driving options.

Since I was riding the Adaptive M Suspension Professional with Active Roll Stabilization and Integral Active Steering, the ride could easily be adjusted to my liking. On Comfort, the suspension is less bouncy than it is on Sport – as expected – but it comes at the cost of extra body roll. It though is the ideal setup for city driving or road trips where you can also take full advantage of the vehicle’s advanced driving assistance systems.

The V8 is so refined that it’s hard to believe that it could be improved even more in the future. It pulls at low rpm and is smooth with its power delivery. However, the sound is lacking mostly due to the particulate filter required in Europe. In the US, the 2020 BMW X6 M50i drops the OPF cap, so the exhaust sound will be louder and more inviting.

Although one can shift through the steering wheel paddles, you’re still better off letting the ZF gearbox do its job because it does it so well and so precisely.

The cabin is also well insulated and there is very little feedback from the outside which makes driving comfortable and quiet.

But since some of us have a bit of a rough patch in driving style, switching to Sport or Sport Plus will help. Just like the X5 and other models with similar technology, the new BMW X6 instantly sharpens, the exhaust manifolds open and the crossover becomes more powerful.

Compared to the X5, the new BMW X6 is planted a little more on the road, especially at high speeds and during cornering. This is mostly due to the wider track and lower center of gravity. They also tend to have less body roll than the X5, but they can’t completely hide their size and weight. And this is a heavy vehicle, make no mistake, with a gross weight of around 2,055 kg / 4,530 lbs.

Active roll stability definitely helps, especially if you enjoy a sporty driving style and want your passengers to avoid motion sickness.

Pirelli P Zero tires are quite sticky and provide some great traction. And that’s something you’ll notice in the corners – the new BMW X6 simply sticks to the ground while the rear lets out a bit for some fun.

In normal driving, the 2020 BMW X6 M50i is neutral in its handling, but once you add more lateral forces, it will reduce slightly. This is mostly unavoidable in a car of this size and can be easily controlled with smooth steering inputs.

With the Active Steering option, the wheel feels light in the city, but runs at higher speeds. It is one of the functions of the car, since according to BMW, the system “has the additional effect of increasing straight-line driving comfort by counteracting vibrations caused by bumps on one side of the road”.

Non-enthusiasts are unlikely to find fault and may in fact prefer the relaxed, synthetic feel, but there will always be that eclectic driver who wants more of his or her car.

It’s been a while since I’ve driven a G05 BMW X5, so my memory may play a trick, but I feel the X6’s front end is stiffer and therefore the steering is a little heavier.

I liked the exhaust note a little more in the Sport Plus because it gives me connection to the car and invites me to drive it more aggressively.

Like the X5, the BMW X6 gets all of BMW’s driver assistance technologies. So it can help park itself, drive short periods alone on motorways, and even has BMW’s new reverse assist. The latter helps to remember the last 50 meters or so of forward driving, so when it’s time to reverse, it can just follow its own steps backwards.

Should I buy one?

Buying an X6 is up to personal choice. The car operates according to certain tastes and this is to be expected for a specialized model. But I would say this. The new 2020 BMW X6 is definitely better than the previous generation, it has risen to the level of luxury cars and uses some of the best technology available from BMW.

Is it better than the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe? This is something I have to identify in a back-to-back comparison test, but it’s fair to say that the new G06 X6 is a strong contender in this segment of crossovers.

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