There is something very exciting about the X6. Perhaps it’s the novelty factor, or maybe the cool factor. Whatever it is, I might just begin by saying that it is certainly very easy to get caught up in the excitement of this car, to the point where you can forget that you’re driving around in what is essentially a bloated whale carcass. Let’s be clear right from the start: from any objective standpoint the BMW X6 is hideous. The front ¾ view is ugly, the back ¾ view is ugly, and the side profile is legitimately downright offensive. That’s less an opinion and more a factual observation.
This new generation doesn’t vary significantly from the aesthetics of the previous model, with only subtle exterior modifications signalling any change. As such, it is likely to remain a whipping boy in both the motoring press and in wider society, forever subject to taunts about what a loathsome machine it is, a preferably forgotten footnote in the annals of BMW history.
But criticising the X6 for appearance smacks of low-hanging fruit. After all, this car is not supposed to be pretty. Part of the reason why people loved the first generation X6 is precisely because it stands out from the crowd. Sure it’s not beautiful or even, you know, anything that vaguely resembles beautiful but the X6 is certainly a bold, polarising car.
In standard form (which in luxury car-speak is known as ‘Pure Extravagance’ spec), the X6 features grey coloured accents on the exterior trim, stainless steel underbody protection and aluminium running boards. For just $1800 extra though you can option up the M-Sport package – something that BMW apparently expects over 70 per cent of buyers to do – and receive a more aggressive aero kit, blacked-out trim components and BMW’s M-Adaptive suspension system.
Almost worth the price of admission alone, the inclusion of M-Adaptive suspension sees genuine dynamic change between driving modes. In the default Comfort setting, the X6 still errs to the firmer side, but soaks up most road imperfections and bumps to provide a comfortable ride. Engage Sport mode, and the whole car stiffens and feels immediately more direct. In a marked shift from the predecessor, this newest generation X6 appears to have a significant amount of dynamic capability, remaining firm and planted on the road, and inspiring confidence in the corners.
The X6 is not a notable off-road performer, but I suspect that very few X6s ever leave bitumen. No model in the X6 range has a genuine low-range transfer case for example, and the adaptive suspension packages seem more oriented toward dynamism on the road rather than off of it. BMW’s ‘Dynamic Performance Control’ limited-slip diff package works remarkably well on the road, but that’s about where the usefulness ceases. It’s abundantly clear though that the X6 is not built to be a serious off-road performer. If you take regular trips to the ski fields (and if you can afford this car then obviously you do), a Range Rover Sport may be the superior choice in terms of off-road capability.
The interior of the X6 is a wonderful place to spend time, and the fit and finish exceeds even that of other BMW models. The utilitarian layout is doused in leather and expensive-looking finishes. The leather-trimmed dash is particularly notable, a trait first debuted in the 6-Series Gran Coupe that adds tenfold to the premium feel of the X6. Compared to the outgoing X6 the new model is streets ahead, and can comfortably hold its own against the lavish Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
If the striking visuals of the BMW X6 attract rather than deter you then there is no doubting that this car is a very solid package. If there is one problem, however, it is this: the BMW X6 has largely ceased to be a novelty item. The X6 is now the de facto choice for anybody who doesn’t own a Range Rover. They’re everywhere to the point where it’s almost like they spawn from each other in the cover of darkness. The popularity of the X6 has meant that the car that you’d have previously bought to stand out from the crowd has now been absorbed into the crowd itself.
The 2015 BMW X6 is a solid performer and a head-turner, but the growing popularity of this car means it can no longer rightly claim the title of the quirky alternative choice. The cool factor has been diminished, and all you’re really left with is a slightly disfigured BMW X5, which begs the question: given the latter is $14,000 cheaper, why not just be done with it and buy an X5 in the first place? I know I would.