When BMW first unleashed the X6 SAV onto the world, it was a game changer. Not only was it a design focused departure from its cousin the X5, but it could also perhaps be considered the ancestor to the coupe style SUVS that have since rapidly proliferated in the marketplace in the years since. But as is the case with everything up for sale, the occasional update is needed to keep the design fresh, and the finer details sharpened enough to draw in more consumers. But can the 2020 X6 still wow observers the same way it did when it first appeared? Or has it lost some of the luster and uniqueness that once made it into a must talked about purchase? we were eager to find out.
A design that still puts form ahead of any perceived function:
Now entering its third generation on the market, the 2020 BMW X6 still checks off all of the essentials that have come to define some of its rivals. This includes having sporty styling, with the same sloping coupe-like roofline that has become the X6’s calling card in life. You naturally lose some practicality and rear head room in the process, but as they say, nothing is perfect in life. The front fascia still retains strong BMW elements, with the dual twin kidney grilles and the bold headlights announcing its presence to the world with bold gusto. Meanwhile, the side profile has a clean layout, and it helped create a solid profile for our Mineral White Metallic tester when viewed from the side. Things do fall apart noticeably when you get to the rear end. BMW designers appeared to focus the bulk of their time back there, and it results in a very disjointed mess.
The oddly shaped taillights, the slapped on faux vents, and some of the angles back there don’t help matters, and it caused our 40i grade tester to lack some of the polish that we have seen in rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne coupe, and the Mercedes GLE coupe. The rear end also has alot of proverbial junk in its trunk, and that made backing our tester in and out of tight parking spaces a challenge despite all the advanced camera systems that were on board. Not helping matters is a complete lack of rear visibility, which further complicates things in certain situations.
Look beyond that, and our tester managed to help us find a few hidden diamonds in the rough, with the sleek 20-inch alloy wheels, LED foglights, and BMW’s Active Guard and Driving Assistant features. Quad zone climate control also come along for the ride, but buyers will have to opt for the $2,300 Premium package. It might still be an X5 underneath the stylish suit of clothes, but the X6 still has enough unique traits to help make it stand out from its sibling, and that should please buyers that want to make a styling statement.
X6 riffs alot of X5 traits with all new interior:
While the exterior of our tester marches to the beat of its own drum, the interior is practically lifted from the X5. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, with our tester featuring a satisfying blend of high end materials, state of the art technology, and enough distinction to make it stand out from the rest. The addition of the Premium package meant that our tester arrived with BMW’s novel Gesture Control system. We last encountered this system in the BMW 840i we tried out awhile back, and like that model, we had mixed feelings about the system. On the one hand, the ability to control many functions with simple hand gestures is a nice party trick, but it’s still a very frustrating system to use, especially since it requires your hand to be at a certain point for the sensor to pickup the movement. This results in herky jerky operation, with some motions not being picked up right away by the unit.
Move past the gimmickry, and the rest of the cabin is a sight to behold. the view out the front windshield is very expansive, and the front seats being very comfortable thrones, with just the right amount of support for every day commuting (buyers looking for more aggressively bolstered chairs will have to step up to one of the racier M models for the privilege of sitting in those special pieces of furniture.) The second row is also relatively roomy for smaller passengers, but taller occupants will get very tired of rubbing their heads against the top of the ceiling after awhile.
The sloping roof makes a more noticeable impression when loading cargo in the rear of the X6. The slope helps create a narrow opening, and the space is very cramped with the second row up, folding it down allows you to make full use of the 27.4 cubic feet of space but bulkier or awkwardly shaped items will have a hard time fitting back there. This is a trait seen with other coupe style SUVS, but it does serve as a persistent reminder of the versatility and practicality that is often sacrificed when going for a vehicle like this.
3-Series like performance especially in the curves:
Performance for our tester comes from the familiar 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline six engine which is good for 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. BMW engineers made several revisions to the engine, with those upgrades helping to boost horsepower and torque by 30 in each category. This allows the X6 to make the sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds which is very impressive especially for a vehicle that weighs over 4,700 lbs. When pushed hard, the X6 does feel like a lifted version of the 3-Series. Granted, the X6 is heavier and has more body roll, but the steering’s eagerness and the amount of feel that it has is a very welcome blast of fresh air in a segment that’s often defined for having numb steering and low communication between the driver and the road. The Cayenne coupe offers more feedback, but a comparable model is also more expensive than the BMW, with a base sticker of $76,500.
The X6 rose to the occasion both in the city and on the freeway, and the best part of it all is that you still manage to get a commendable amount of gas mileage, with our tester returning a good 22 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg when cruising the freeway. As mentioned prior, handling in our tester was a nice surprise. While the X6 M will be the ticket to punch for maximum track times, out on the daily grind, the amount of handling prowess on hand here is sufficient for most drivers, and it keeps the X6 from stumbling over itself when tasked with brisk driving down twisty roads. Braking in the X6 is pretty strong, but we wished that the pedal was less mushy and had a better bite to it when coming down from speed.
BMW has always had a very successful sales formula when it comes to its lineup of utility vehicles, and that includes the design focused coupe models. The X6 is followed down the twos table ladder by the slightly smaller X4 (a relative of the X3) and the X2 (based off the X1 SUV. For the moment, the X6 is the range topper in this strange sub-family of SUVS, and it carries a price tag that further drives home the point of it being the head of the family. Base sDrive40i models (rear wheel drive) start at $65,050 with xDrive40i variants like our tester (all-wheel drive) starting at $67,350. Our xDrive grade tester had roughly $4500 of options which helped the price balloon to $72,020. This is still significantly cheaper than comparable GLE and Cayenne models, but at the same time, it also makes you question whether the loss of practicality and versatility when compared to its X5 cousin is worth the extra price premium?
Some buyers might like the sporty vibes generated by the sloping rear roof and some of the design centric frills that make the X6 stand out from the X5, but if we were buying one for ourselves, we would be thinking about it long and hard before pulling the trigger. On the flip side of the coin however, we would be more inclined if it was one of the M models, the sloping rear roofline actually makes more sense in these models, and it certainly does a better job of making the X6 a much more viable split personality.
As it stands now, the 2020 BMW X6 is still a very viable contender in the SUV coupe sales race. The boost in performance helps bring some renewed vigor to the model, and the design language is still a very good generator of discussion.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.