BMW X6 (2023-) Review - Select Car Leasing
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BMW X6 (2023-) Review

Introduction

The BMW X6 took a while to become an accepted part of the BMW line-up, what with its gawky looks and challenging premise. After all, logic makes us question why anyone would need or want a less practical version of the massive X5 SUV? But customers do. The style and sportiness have seen the X6 gain acceptance and traction in a competitive market, and the new model promises to carry on the good work of its predecessors.

Like the X5 on which it is based, the X6 has been revamped with some new lights, a new nose and a completely revamped dashboard, but the basic recipe remains the same. Bold, modern design is backed up by great engines and even greater road manners, leaving us with a coupe-SUV that’s more appealing than you might think.

Select's rating score* - 3.7 / 5

At a Glance

It’s easy to deride the X6 as a weird cousin of the X5, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, the styling won’t suit every customer, but that’s kind of the point. This is a bit of an oddball that’s built to satisfy the needs of customers who want to stand out and lease something a little bit different, yet still unquestionably premium.


And the German company has achieved that without completely spoiling the car’s practicality credentials, retaining a sensibly sized boot and keeping adequate interior space for four adults to travel in ample comfort.

But the highlight of the interior is the Curved Display infotainment system, which combines the digital instrument display and the touchscreen in one, erm, curved display across the dash. Combined with BMW’s now-familiar iDrive rotary controller, it’s a brilliant system, although it does mean BMW has done away with physical climate control switchgear, which is a pity.

However, BMW has more than made up for that with a choice of brilliant 3.0- and 4.4-litre petrol and diesel engines that give the X6 loads of power and performance. The basic 3.0-litre diesel — the xDrive30d — will be sufficient for most, but the 4.4-litre petrol-powered V8 engine in the X6 M Competition will be a desirable choice for those with a higher budget — both in terms of lease rates and fuel bills.

Either way, you’ll be getting a quick SUV that handles remarkably well, with great steering and suspension that offers impressive agility in such a massive car. It doesn’t exactly shrink to fit the road, but the way it corners and performs is highly impressive. The brakes are great, too, and while it isn’t quite as comfortable as the X5, it still rides very well, particularly on the motorway.


Key Features

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the new X6 – particularly over its predecessor – is the new Curved Display. Already offered on other models in the BMW range, it’s a brilliant system that offers sharp displays with logical layouts and lots of configuration options. Sure, it means there are no climate control switches, which isn’t ideal, but BMW has replaced them with one of the best touchscreen heater control system we’ve seen, so it’s no great loss. And when the advantage is an advanced and intuitive screen that works this well, we’ll cut the German engineers a little bit of slack.

Aside from the Curved Display, though, the biggest motivation for leasing an X6 should be the way it drives. It’s a big, heavy car — there’s no getting around that — but it’s also incredibly agile for such a big chunk of metal. The body control is epic, particularly in M60i xDrive and M Competition models, and the speeds at which the car can corner beggar belief. Just beware that the X6 M Competition’s ride has been sacrificed in favour of body control, so it can feel a bit choppy around town. At higher speeds, however, it’s more than acceptable.

For many, then, the rationale behind choosing an X6 will be the styling. The fastback shape won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the fact BMW has managed to achieve it without completely ruining any semblance of practicality is laudable. And those that love the design will peel back the skin to find a car that’s more than capable of living up to expectations.


Performance & Drive

For the most part, the X6 comes with much the same engine range as the more conventionally shaped X5, but that’s no surprise given both cars rest on much the same basic architecture. But there is a key difference, and it’s one that might put a few customers — particularly those choosing the X6 as a company car — right off.

You see, whereas the X5 range incorporates two 3.0-litre diesel engines, two 4.4-litre V8 petrols and a petrol-powered plug-in hybrid option, the X6 swaps the eco-friendly hybrid with a 3.0-litre petrol option. That isn’t a problem per se — the ‘40i’ engine is smooth and powerful and perfectly adequate in every way — but it means X6 customers miss out on the company car tax savings afforded to those who lease an X5 plug-in hybrid.

For the majority of customers, however, the basic X6 xDrive30d diesel will be more than up to the task. The 298hp, six-cylinder diesel engine is smooth, punchy and reasonably economical, which makes it perfect for those regularly covering long distances. And with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, it’s great for towing and off-roading, too.


Alternatively, there’s the slightly more powerful xDrive40d option, which is essentially a 352hp version of the same 3.0-litre diesel engine, or you can have the xDrive40i — the aforementioned 3.0-litre petrol engine with 381hp.

But if you’re going for petrol, you might as well choose one of the high-performance V8 options. The 4.4-litre, twin-turbocharged engine appears in two guises, with the sporty M60i xDrive offering 530hp, while the even sportier X6 M Competition provides 625hp and some other sporty tweaks.

Whichever X6 you choose, it will handle remarkably well for something so big and bulky. Body control is excellent, the steering feels great and the brakes are incredibly effective given the size and weight of the car. All of which means you can throw it into corners as though it’s a hot hatchback, not a massive SUV, and while it always feels like a chunky car to fit through narrow gaps, it’s impressively agile in tight corners.

That’s particularly true of the X6 M60i xDrive and the X6 M Competition, both of which are aided by bigger brakes and sportier suspension, but those two cars pay the price in terms of ride comfort. While every X6 is supple and composed at German motorway speeds, the sportier versions can feel a bit bubbly around town or on country roads, as the suspension deals with the car’s chunk. It isn’t disastrous by any stretch, but the basic xDrive30d will be a bit more forgiving on the roads where you spend most of your time.


Running Costs & Emissions

With no hybrid option, the diesels automatically take centre stage when it comes to choosing the cheapest X6 models to run. Both are pretty efficient, achieving almost 40mpg on the official economy test, and most customers will get something like that kind of efficiency on long drives in the real world. Choosing between them really comes down to cost and power requirements.

However, without the hybrid options, even the diesels will emit enough carbon dioxide to ensure the company car tax rate will be much higher than that of the plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive50e. For those choosing a company car, therefore, the X5 is a much more appealing proposition, but emissions are less important for those leasing a private vehicle, and those customers will be more than happy with an xDrive30d or xDrive40d model.


Interior & Technology

Like the X5, the X6’s basic interior shape hasn’t changed, so cabin space is much the same as it ever was, but the design has changed noticeably. Particularly for those in the front.

There, the X6 has an all-new dashboard design that incorporates the Curved Display infotainment system now familiar across the BMW range. The big, widescreen, curved housing plays host to both the digital instrument display and the touchscreen infotainment system, both of which are big upgrades on those fitted to the old car. The screen resolution is improved, for a kick-off, as is the responsiveness of the screens and the design. The instrument display is a particular improvement, with a much less cluttered design and better configuration options.

Because of the new screens, though, BMW has decided to ‘clean up’ the X6’s interior, removing the traditional gear lever and replacing it with a kind of toggle arrangement, and taking out all the climate control switchgear. Instead, the heater and ventilation controls have moved to the touchscreen, which is normally the sort of move we’d despise. But in the case of the X6, it isn’t so bad. BMW has made sure the relevant controls are only ever a single tap away, and you can see the temperature settings no matter which screen you’re on. But buttons would still be better.


Credit where it’s due, though, because BMW has kept one important bit of switchgear. The iDrive controller that has made BMW infotainment systems some of the best in the business for so long has been retained, allowing drivers to navigate the screen using the rotary control on the centre console. That means those who have learned their way around can almost flick through settings by touch, meaning they spend less time with their eyes off the road.

BMW’s revamp has allowed for one slightly less useful feature, though, and that’s the dynamic ambient lighting system. With fewer buttons on the dash, the German company has fitted a load of LEDs, and then given them some clever party tricks. When you receive a phone call, for example, the lights will indicate an incoming call.

Fortunately, none of this tech gymnastics has taken BMW’s eye off the ball. The X6’s cabin is still a monument to build quality, with lots of great materials and first-rate construction that makes it feel every bit as premium and as upmarket as you expect from a massive luxury SUV.


Practicality & Boot Space

Although the X6 is supposedly the style-orientated, coupe-styled version of the X5, it’s still a pretty practical thing. Sure, the boot space is a bit smaller — you only get 580 litres of luggage space compared with 650 litres in the X5 — but that’s still a pretty massive space. Unless you’re trying to fit something really bulky in there, in which case the sloping window might cause a problem, you should be able to carry everything you really need.

And you’ll certainly have lots of space in the cabin. The X6 might have a lower roofline than the X5, but only the very tallest rear-seat passengers will notice. Even those well over six feet tall will fit back there no problem, and it isn’t just the headroom that makes it commodious. The X6’s rear legroom is plentiful, too, so those back-seat passengers will be able to stretch out on long drives.


Safety

The X6 has never been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, so there’s no definitive word on its safety credentials, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a pretty good idea. It’s very closely related to the X5 – they’re effectively identical under the skin – and that received a five-star rating when it was tested, with solid scores in all areas and lots of safety equipment as standard. So we can be pretty confident that the X6 would fare equally well were it to go through the same rigorous testing procedure.

In a bid to help prevent drivers and passengers having to face any real-world crash testing, though, BMW has equipped the X6 with bags of safety kit. Driver assistance features such as autonomous emergency braking that stops the car (or at least slows it down) if the driver fails to respond to a hazard are now commonplace, and the BMW adds to that with features including lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring. And the X6 is even available with a system that gives the car the ability to stay in its lane and keep a safe distance behind the car in front with minimal driver input. It’s hardly autonomous driving – you still have to be in control with your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road – but it’s a handy safety net if you become distracted on a long motorway drive.


Options

Because the X6 is supposed to be sportier than the X5, the range is slimmed down and more sport-orientated than that of the X5. Which means there’s essentially only one option for those who choose any of the 3.0-litre models. It’s the M Sport trim, which is normally pretty high-specification option for the X5 with motorsport-inspired design and styling.

But as well as being in keeping with the design, the M Sport models also offer plenty of standard features, including satellite navigation, climate control and the Curved Display infotainment system. Leather upholstery, parking sensors and a reversing camera are all thrown in as standard, as well as all the usual safety and smartphone integration systems.

Those who choose a bigger engine, however, will get a bespoke trim level depending on which of the two V8s they pick. Opt for the M60i xDrive and you get an even sportier design, while the X6 M Competition comes with a revamped interior, complete with its own steering wheel and gear lever, as well as lots of performance-related changes to the bodywork and the oily bits.


Rival Cars

Because of the fastback styling, alternatives to the X6 aren’t that numerous. But the big two are undeniably the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and the Audi Q8, both of which are mighty cars in their own rights. The Mercedes majors on style and comfort, while the Audi is more of a technological showcase for its maker, with stunning build quality and Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display.

Aside from that, there’s the Range Rover Sport, which isn’t exactly a fastback but it does have a similar balance of road manners and a classy interior, although some of the build quality in the British SUV lags behind that of the X6. And though Land Rover’s latest infotainment system is better than most, it still can’t match the new BMW system’s prowess. That said, the Range Rover will prove the more capable of the two if you take it off-roading.


But perhaps the biggest and most capable alternative to the X6 is the Porsche Cayenne Coupe (above) While it may not be the greatest off-road vehicle (although it’s still pretty impressive over rough terrain), it is without a doubt the best luxury SUV when it comes to ride and handling, with sublime suspension and steering feel that makes it comfortable on long drives and spectacular in the corners. And while there’s no diesel option, it is offered in plug-in hybrid form.


Verdict & Next Steps

Because the X6 shares so much with the X5, the more practical X5 will make more sense for a lot of customers. But that’s not what the X6 is about. Here is a car that’s capable of almost everything the X5 can do, but with more style and slightly better road-holding, particularly in its sportiest forms. This is one of those SUVs that puts the sport in sports utility vehicle, and though some of its rivals may handle or ride better, the X6 strikes a really appealing balance between the two. And if you dig the styling, it’s going to be a great car to get along with.


Where to next?

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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top leading independent car website reviews of the BMW X6.

**Correct as of 08/04/2024. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles annually, over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments, or £7,692.30 (Plus admin fee) Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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