X6 – The opposite of discreet

There is a new X6 around and I took it for a drive. Beware: this is not a car for those who want to go by unnoticed.

It was 2007 and at the BMW stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show stood a new concept of something called an SAV. A derivative of the SUV, the SAV was even more of a lifestyle product.

Whereas the SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, the SAV is a Sports Activity Vehicle. Less utilitarian, more adventurous.

This concept was the first X6. And the SAV is, fundamentally, an SUV with a coupé look, trading some of its practicality for a lot more style.

What BMW didn’t know at the time was that the X6 would start an SUV/SAV-with-coupé-looks frenzy that lives on to this day. If you look around the automotive landscape, you will notice they are everywhere. Mercedes have two of those. Porsche one. Audi have three. And that’s just the big boys.

In 2008, the production X6 arrived and it instantly became one of the most controversial cars in modern history. “Fabulous,” some said, and those who could, bought one; “Ghastly,” said others, and “why would you buy one over an X5?”

That discussion seemed never ending. Certainly, all through the first generation the press made sure it was. Journalists tend to be very emotional when it comes to something like a supercar, but less so if they are talking about a two-tonne people carrier.

On the other hand, owners kept raving about their X6 and how it handled like no SUV before it. They couldn’t care less that it had less space in the back or less boot capacity than an X5. And they absolutely loved the styling.

The second generation came along in 2014 with refined aesthetics and an improved interior, but the underlying idea for the car remained.

Every time I drove a second generation X6, I thought it was almost a miracle the way the car drove. While I have never loved the styling, behind the wheel the X6 has very few detractors and I am not one of them. You drive it and the bodywork suddenly seems more appealing. My dad actually loved it so much he bought one, so I am well versed in the pros and cons of X6 ownership.

Which takes us to the third iteration of the model. I think the whole X5 or X6 conundrum is no more. I mean, just look at the thing. It’s no longer a coupé version of the X5, is it? It has evolved into its own personality all alone. And BMW have turned up the aggression level to 11. Giant grille, even bigger overall dimensions and a rear end that is almost batmobile-like in its ‘in-your-face attitude’.

Put the new X6 next to a Porsche Cayenne Coupé or a Mercedes GLE Coupé and they fade into the distance. It’s definitely not what you would call beautiful, but if what BMW wanted was a ‘look-at-me approach’, well, they got it.

There is a new off-road package with added ground clearance, underbody protection and a dedicated mapping for the xDrive four-wheel drive system. All versions come with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox.

I tested the best-selling X6 30d, with the famous 3-litre diesel. In here it produces 258 horsepower. It’s enough to propel this behemoth to 100 km/h in a mere 6.5 seconds and onto an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.

Handling-wise, the X6 is better than ever, cornering with such aplomb you feel like stopping the car, getting out and making sure you are driving such a high-riding machine. But that’s not the biggest difference from the previous generations.

This new car rides with such confidence and comfort it really is gobsmacking. It feels absolutely settled over bumps like it never did before, so forget about compromises having to be made in the name of performance.

As for the cabin, the Germans have also turned up the premiumness. I think it feels like a luxury product on every journey, with carefully chosen materials and a fit-and-finish level which helps to justify this car’s price. BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is also better than ever and the trend towards more screens and less buttons has not gone too far with this one.

Since its creation, the X6 has found nearly half a million homes, making it fair to say the detractors are losing this battle. The latest generation improves on every area but I, personally, liked the look of the previous car better. That ginormous grille is hard to swallow.

Still, from every objective perspective, this is an extremely good car. From an engineering standpoint, it is incredible. The car I drove is the entry-level X6, but you can get the X6 M Competition version with a 4.4 litre V8 pumping out a whopping 625 horsepower and, probably, the ability to move continents.

The M costs almost €200,000 whereas you can get a decent-specced 30d for around €120,000. If the X6 is your cup of tea, trust me, you will love it. If it is not, there are now plenty of options out there. BMW invented the segment, now it must face a once non-existing competition.

By Guilherme Marques