With over 250,000 units sold so far, you’d have to be a hypocrite to call BMW’s X6 Sport Activity Coupe a failure. Sure, the 3 Series sells around ten times better but that’s not the best counter example to offer, to be honest. Therefore, seeing that their styling exercise is so popular, the Germans decided to launch a second version, the 2015 F16 model that we have here, in front of us.
Coming in hot with high expectations from fans of the brand, the newcomer had some high bars to reach and things were definitely not easy in Munich trying to create a perfect mix of sportiness and luxury while keeping the car’s character intact.
The thing is, you already have the X5 for the practical side of things and the cars basically look the same from the front up to the B-Pillar, both inside and out. So why would anyone choose the X6 over its brother? The answer is hard to justify with logical reasons. However, a lot of things can’t be reasonably explained in this world so we’ll just leave it at that.
BMW said the boss returned when they introduced the new X5 but the truth of the matter is, the real boss is the X6.
Ever since we first laid our eyes on it, the sheer size of the thing impressed us. We even recall that it was parked next to its little brother, a BMW X4 and that car is not little by any means. And yet, it looked puny compared to the original.
Up front you get an evolution of what the old E71 model used to be. The headlights have grown in size, just like the kidney grilles in between them. The bonnet has gained a couple of character lines and the front bumper now has massive air intakes, no matter what line you go for. In M Sport guise, those things look like they could simply eat the car in front of you without a squeak.
The short overhangs have become a trademark and are still present on this version as well, just like they were on the previous model. By comparison, the wheelbase remained exactly the same but other measurements were changed to address issues people complained about in the past. Therefore, the car is now 3 cm (1.18 in) longer, wider by just 25 mm (1 inch) and taller by 3 mm (0.11 inches). Looking at it from the outside, it doesn’t seem like much but you simply feel that it is a lot meaner. Our tester was dressed in the brand new Flamenco Red color and turned heads wherever we went. The sloping roofline round the back and the high boot lid create a massive rear end that, simply put, is downright imposing everywhere you drive. We didn’t get to cover more than a couple of miles before we noticed fellow drivers taking pictures. Yes, this thing has plenty of that ‘wow’ factor imbued in it.
The same story repeats itself inside the cabin. The materials used are of top notch and the new design looks a lot better than the old one. The dash features a clearer, layered style with new ambient lights that are simply mesmerizing at night. The biggest plus for them is that you can change their color this time around, from the classic white/orange theme to white and blue. Not too many choices are offered here but things had to be kept classy, so magenta or violet definitely wouldn’t have made the cut as they did in the new MINI, for example.
Apart from the new lights, other elements impress you the moment you get in. The center stack, for example, now has a new design that comes with padding that goes from the dash all the way to the armrest. On our tester it was dressed in black Alcantara like the seats and it created a beautiful contrast alongside the interior trims, for example, which were made in the Aluminum Hexagon guise.
The same motif repeats itself on the seats that are decorated with contrasting white stitching. Another plus is the fact that the transmission tunnel is almost completely sunk within the floor, allowing rear passengers to slide over easily.
The biggest concern inside the cabin as we were opening the rear doors was the room you get in the back.
Inside the E71 version there wasn’t a lot of it and taller people (read: over 6 ft) couldn’t sit up straight without having to do some sort of crazy gymnastics with their necks. Before we get into how much room you get back there exactly, we should mention that our tester also had a sunroof that cuts into the available space.
By the pure numbers, the new model has 11 mm (0.4 inches) more elbow room up front while in the back that difference is reduced to just 1 mm. As we said, barely noticeable. Headroom is also a bit better, both up front and in the back. Drivers with torsos measuring up to 1,013 mm (39 inch) should be comfortable while in the back those measuring more than 961 mm (37.8 inches) would have a hard time on longer trips. On the first X6 launched, those measurements would add up to 973 mm (38.3 inches) up front and 946 mm (37.2 inches).
Therefore we have, in theory, an increase of 40 mm (1.57 in.) of space up front and 15 mm (0.59 in.) in the back, all of them to be found in the headroom department. In real life, you get plenty of space both in the front and the back. Even though headroom is not as generous as in the X5, legroom seems to be even better. That’s because the seats were positioned lower and moved towards the back of the car in the X6, compared to its brother.
As it is usual by now in the modern car industry, the seats themselves were a bit on the firm side but they were the standard Sport model so there’s an excuse for that harshness. However, you can have a different set installed that have a more than suggestive name: comfort seats. Yes, we tested them on a BMW X5 and they feel like a mother’s warm embrace. They also cost a pretty penny but it’s all a matter of choice and if comfort is what you’re after, you should definitely spend more for your preference.
Up front, the driving position is commanding and allows you to navigate busy city streets with ease. The A-pillars don’t get in the way and the side mirrors offer great visibility, even though they are now smaller (and better looking). The only problem is rearward visibility but that was to be expected considering the little porthole you have to peek through due to the coupe body style.
However, all new models come, as standard, fitted with park distance control so if you’re be careful, you won’t back up into anything. Our recommendation would be to get the $750 side and top view cameras that create a 3D display of your car and help you park it easier than a 2 Series Coupe. We actually tested them and were surprised to see how easy they make navigating this tank around town. And that’s where this sort of car will be used most often. Sure, it was a high ground clearance and comes with xDrive as standard but nobody will ever take this thing off road. It just looks too good to get it wet and muddy.
While cruising around town, we started playing with all the electronic bits that were offered on our tester. The one that captured our attention the most was the adaptive cruise control with stop & go function and the active driving assistant. Together they will set you back $1,900 but they are worth every cent. That’s because they basically drive the car by themselves around town while you just make sure to stay in lane. All you have to do is start the cruise control, set the maximum speed you want it to reach and then let the car drive itself.
What will follow will be nerve wrecking. That’s because you’ll have to trust the car to brake on itself and that will give you a queasy feeling at first. Using a radar installed in the front bumper, the system detects the car in front and brakes according to its speed, bringing you to a complete stop if needed. On top of that, once the car you’re following starts up again, you get an indicator in your dash telling you to start. Just touch the gas pedal and the X6 will continue to follow the cars in front up to the speed you set on the cruise control.
We found ourselves entering this way of traveling around town quite often, combined with the ECO PRO mode of driving, to make sure we sip as little fuel as possible. And it worked, with our M50d returning a fuel consumption of 11.5 l/100 km (20.4 mpg). Not bad for a 2.1 ton car with a 3-liter tri-turbo diesel engine making 381 HP
and 740 Nm (546 lb-ft) of torque.
You can also get the Traffic Jam Assistant that will even keep your car in lane during massive traffic jams. The only problem is that it only works on motorways and we all know that most of the time, the inside of a city is even more crowded than the outskirts. Furthermore, this feature will only work up to 60 km/h (37 mph) while the ACC
will work at higher speeds as well.
All X6 models have mills under their bonnets that will allow you to reach high speeds in no time.
Furthermore, they are all equipped with the 8-speed ZF gearbox that responds perfectly to each of your commands, so overtaking won’t be a problem. The tall body and the wide wheels create an interesting effect on the highway. Actually, the engineers said that the X6 was built with the 20” wheels in mind and that that was the optimal size for the best possible handling. That was a problem on our tester as it was wearing winter tires on 19” rims. Nonetheless, we got to see exactly what the engineers did to create a BMW-characteristic driving sensation.