Faster, louder, flashier
THE GOOD
  • Drives great for an SUV
  • Luxurious interior
  • Plenty fast
THE BAD
  • Exterior styling
  • Impractical
  • Expensive
2020 BMW X6 M50i Review

There’s a line with luxury cars where they’re no longer just about luxury and style, but where they are designed to make a statement. The BMW X6 is a perfect example of this. Logically, the X6 isn’t as practical as the X5, but is just as high-tech and engaging to drive – not that high-end SUV-coupe buyers are looking for any of that. They want a car that makes a statement – like athleisure – that they’re too cool to care about anything like style or practicality or performance. In that regard, the X6 is a pretty big success.

Power: 9/10

We put the new X6 M50i through its paces in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it’s built alongside BMW’s other SUVs (except for the X1 and X2.) The M50i means that it’s a step below the hardcore M models, but still sports a twin-turbo V8 engine with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot of power, and enough to get the X6 M50i to highway speeds from a standstill in just 4.3 seconds, leaving those pesky metered on-ramps in a daze. That’s almost on par with the last generation’s full-fledged, X6 M, meaning this model will satisfy almost every speed demon and have new buyers looking down their noses at the owners of yesteryears top-dog X6.

But power isn’t worth much if it isn’t managed properly. Fortunately, the eight-speed automatic is refined, smooth and smart. It uses information from the navigation system and the adaptive cruise control system’s radar to proactively downshift when there are hills, curves, or someone hogging the left lane. Lastly, the engine sounds fantastic, with a standard M Sport exhaust that can up the volume for extra road-presence.

Driving Feel: 8/10

The motor is at the heart of the X6 M50i experience, but it isn’t the only thing worth discussing. There’s the tried-and-true, rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive system. It sends all the power to the rear in most situations but can shift the juice to the front axles when needed. The M50i also comes with an electronically controlled rear differential, which can transfer power between the left and right rear wheels, for better traction.

For a large SUV, the X6 handles very well. It comes standard with the active M Suspension and offers even more handling and steering goodies. The extra features include rear-wheel steering, and an active roll stabilization feature, to help the vehicle feel confident and less wobbly when making transitions, taking corners, and driving aggressively. Of course, the steering lacks feedback – it is a luxury SUV after all – but the X6 feels far better than it should, though such could also be said about a well-equipped X5. Even better, the large 22-inch wheels seemed to have a minimal impact on the ride, thanks to some impressive suspension technology. There’s an available air suspension system that helps to smooth out imperfections and other obstacles that would upset the ride.

The brakes are where I’d ask for a bit more refinement. While they’re grabby and strong, there are some inconsistencies in the application. This could have to do with some of the extra work going on behind the scenes, as the air suspension senses the load of the vehicle, delivers that information to the stability control, and adjusts the brake pressure needed.

Styling: 7/10

Saying that the X6 has polarizing styling is just the tip of the iceberg. But the vehicle is a pioneer among coupe-like SUVs, and it set a standard of being an odd-looking but high-end car. It reminds me of the Mercedes G-Class in a way, a definitively unattractive vehicle that nonetheless reeks of coolness due to the way it owns its ruggedness.

Despite being an SUV the X6 isn’t rugged, but it’s gained a following for its careless nature about the norms and expectations of how an SUV should look. It has confidence with its filled-out wheelwells that, when combined with the large (optionally illuminated) grille, it looks like a caricature of the superficially important aspects of a car.

Others will see the point: it has a huge BMW grille and it has big blingy wheels. Around back, the design gets extra loud, as the roof slopes into the hatch. There are a pair of slim LED taillights which might be the only place the designers were reserved with their pens. Everything else was styled with the mantra of taking what was unique about the old X6 and making it bigger.

The interior, on the other hand, is classic and well done. It’s a stark contrast to the busy exterior. There are elegant ambient lighting accents, and sporty trim pieces to accommodate soft, high-end-feeling leather. The steering wheel is thick and there are plenty of high-tech displays to give you all the details you need to know – from the large head-up display to the digital gauge cluster and the bright, high-resolution infotainment system, you’ll feel like you’re driving an ultra-modern luxury car – which you are. One last gimmick that is sure to impress is the large, illuminated panoramic sunroof, which can imitate a starry night.

User Friendliness: 8/10

All those displays are somewhat easy to figure out, even if you don’t have the time to familiarize yourself with BMW’s iDrive controller, it has a touch interface that will help with infotainment selections and to make things easy to modify and customize. It doesn’t seem to have the same digital assistant feature as the BMW 3 Series, but the large head-up display is one of the best in the business.

What makes the BMW X6 friendly are all of the tasks it can do itself. There’s a back-up assistant that can retrace your last 50 metres, for when you make a wrong turn into a tight alley. And there’s an optional driver’s assistance package that provides full-speed adaptive cruise control. And that’s a BMW standard of “full-speed” too: it works up to 210 km/h. When the system brings the car to a stop, the cruise control will remain active with the brake applied for 30 seconds before turning off or needing a restart. Most systems turn off after being stopped for about 3 seconds, so this is a huge help in traffic.

Features: 9/10

The X6, as wacky as it looks, packs a lot of equipment for specific purposes. It is high-tech and helps with the tedious parts of driving. It also packs other equipment to make the drive fun. Beyond that, there are other extras like heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled cupholders, four-zone climate control, and Apple CarPlay compatibility (which requires a subscription). It even offers an optional 1,500-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system, as well as a wireless phone charging pad. Let us not forget to mention the available massage seats upfront or the side window shades in the rear. This is as customizable as any executive-level luxury car, and while each option will add to the price tag, BMW will happily offer it.

Comfort: 8/10

A smooth ride is only half the equation when it comes to how comfortable the X6 is. Yes, the X6 feels soft in its comfort settings, but when you look at the sloping rear of the vehicle, you can’t help but worry about rear-seat comfort. Fortunately, it’s better than before with more space for rear-seat passengers. The leather upholstery is soft and supportive, and as long as you keep the vehicle in its comfort mode, you’ll find the X6 pleasant even on rough roads. Select the sportier settings and the suspension firms up, and you’ll feel the road a bit more intimately. This isn’t ideal, but some enthusiasts will like the connection that the X6 M50i offers.

Practicality: 4/10

The X6 is not as practical as some of its stablemates, but it gets the job done when needed. Indeed, the rear cargo area is compromised, offering just 580 litres of space. It also has a fairly high load floor, although that can be lowered if the vehicle has the air suspension system. For reference, a Honda HR-V, a $20,000 sub-compact crossover, has more space behind its rear seats than the X6. (If you don’t spend any money on options, you can use the savings to buy a practical crossover as well!)

The seats in the X6 fold with a 40/20/40 split, and when all seats are down the total cargo capacity extends to 1,525 litres (still less than a subcompact crossover). And while the rear seats are hospitable, even offering dual-zone climate control back there, the doors don’t swing very wide and may present a problem for some when entering the car. I can’t imagine it would be easy to load a child seat with the limited space.

Safety: 8/10

The X6 comes with forward collision warning with automatic braking, active blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, and a drowsy driver detection system. It also comes standard with adaptive LED headlights.

The optional safety features that come with the adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance include a feature called evasion aid, which helps in emergencies to sharpen the response from the driver. There is also a front cross-traffic warning system, for when you’re entering an intersection with limited visibility. The new X6 hasn’t yet been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but considering it’s so similar to the X5, which has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating by the institute, the X6 will likely follow suit.

Fuel Economy: 6/10

The 2020 BMW X6 M50i has been rated by Natural Resources Canada to return 14.5 L/100 km in the city, 10.7 L/100 km on the highway and 12.8 L/100 km combined. Those looking to save fuel may want to check out the six-cylinder X6 xDrive40i which is good for 11.7 L/100 km city, 9.1 L/100 km highway and 10.5 L/100 km combined.

Value: 4/10

Value is secondary when it comes to a style-forward SUV like the X6. Fans of the design will happily pay the $79,000 asking price for a six-cylinder xDrive40i model, but the $92,000 price tag on the eight-cylinder M50i may feel a bit steep. That’s just the base price, without the frills like fancy leather ($1,900 to $3,900 extra, unless you get it in a $17,000 package), adaptive cruise control ($2,000), Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($4,900), massage seats ($750 when not in a package), and more. You should expect to pay a lot for the features you’d expect in a range-topping SUV, BMW isn’t just giving away these goodies for free.

The Verdict

A great driving SUV with polarizing style, the X6 is a crossover that has earned BMW many fans with its past generations. It’s a vehicle with an unspeakable amount of confidence in its style, but that is backed up with lots of tech, luxury, and features. It’s pricey, as any vehicle this ostentatious and garish should be, and that’s the important statement it makes that few other vehicles can. It says, “I paid a lot for something this cool and exclusive, and you can’t miss me.”

If you found the looks too ostentatious or if you “just didn’t get it” before, the new model won’t sway you. And X6 lovers are happy with that.

Faster, louder, flashier 11/11/2019 8:00:00 AM

Specifications

Engine Displacement 4.4L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 523 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Fuel Economy 14.5 / 10.7 / 12.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 580 / 1,525 L seats down