By Andy Enright
Let's not beat about the bush here. The BMW X6 isn't for everyone. Fortunately for BMW, however, it's had enough about it to guarantee a steady stream of orders. Yes, many of us might wonder who these people are who walk past a perfectly good X5 in a dealership to plonk down an additional £2,000 for something with more challenging looks and less practicality, but then if everybody liked the same cars as us, we'd never manage to find any used bargains. Problem is, if you like X6s, you're not likely to find too many screaming used deals either as prices are pretty buoyant. Here's what to look for if you want to improve your chances of avoiding a dud.
The X6 first appeared in 2008 to a vaguely horrified motoring press. Here, most of us declared, was the answer to a question nobody was asking and which BMW would surely regret launching. Who on earth would want to pair the impracticality of a coupe with the size of an SUV? You lot did, that's who. The British public couldn't get enough and by 2012, BMW decided to update the X6. It's these later facelifted cars that we examine here. The mainstream range consisted of two 3.0-litre diesel models (the X6 xDrive30d and the xDrive40d), and two petrol engines (the xDrive35i and the xDrive50i). Then there was the triple-turbo M50d and the 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol X6M. With revised styling and better efficiency, the X6 continued in much the same vein as before, eventually being replaced by an all-new model at the end of 2014.
What You Get
Even BMW dealers will freely admit that the X6 divides opinion. It's certainly not one for the shy and retiring: all your friends will have a view on whether that coupe-like tapering rear roofline really works - or doesn't. The standard 19-inch alloy wheels also lend the X6 the look of something that has just leapt straight from a designer's sketch book. Flared wheel arches, long overhangs and big front air intakes complete the aggressive look. And it's wide, 50mm wider in fact than an X5, so car washes and road width restrictors will be challenging.
The styling's been tweaked in the facelifted first generation model we're looking at here, but not radically so. A broader front kidney grille and repositioned foglights both attempt to further accentuate the already prodigious width and there's the option of incorporating the LED technology used in the revised rear tail lamps into a set of optional adaptive front headlamps that glow with a cool white light.
Positioned behind the beautifully grippy leather-trimmed steering wheel with its lovely gearshift paddles, you sit on supportive seats that are mounted a little lower than you might expect in a large luxury SUV, this adding to the rather disorientating feeling of sportiness. It's a cabin largely lifted straight from BMW's X5 which is no bad thing, with its iDrive infotainment system control unit on the centre console together with the electronic gear selector and the handbrake.
Where you might be expecting problems though is when it comes to a seat in the rear. That tapering rear roofline has to tell somewhere and, sure enough, the really tall may well feel a little cramped. BMW has contoured the roof though to make the best of what's on offer and as a result, averagely-sized adults should be quite comfortable, enjoying decent leg and elbow-room. Only two of them could be accommodated at the back when this car was first launched but fairly quickly afterwards, BMW added the option of a three-person rear bench so that family buyers could also enjoy the X6. Out back, the boot has quite a high loading sill - it's almost 900mm off the ground. Still, once you get your stuff over it, you'll find that there's a more than reasonable 570-litres of space with all the seats in place - or up to 1450-litres if you fold the rear backrest forward.
What to Look For
The X6 is mechanically pretty solid. No significant problems have yet to be reported, although minor niggles such as blown LED lights have been reported. Be aware that the desirability of the car is very dependent on colour choice. The usual BMW advice to stick to blacks and silvers doesn't really apply to the extrovert X6 - quite the opposite in fact. Check the electronic functions work as some of these can be a very expensive fix. Also check the tyres for signs of uneven wear and look for kiddie damage in the back. Check the wheels for kerb damage as they're rather susceptible, especially when shod with ultra-low profile tyres.
(approx prices based on a 2013 X6 xDrive50i ex VAT) An exchange starter motor retails at around £245 while a windscreen will set you back around £350. Expect to fork out £475 for an exchange alternator, while front brake pads costs a hefty £150. An entire headlamp pod will relieve you of £375. Replacement xenon bulbs are £99 a pair.
On the Road
Things have moved on in terms of vehicle dynamics since BMW's first so-called 'SAV' 'Sports Activity Vehicle', the X5, was originally launched. That car was a revelation back in the Nineties and even today, remains one of the very best luxury 4x4s to drive, but the X6 is playing to a different crowd who want the raised seating position but are after an even more sporting drive. It delivers it too, thanks to what lies under the bonnet and some very hi-tech electronic trickery.
Most popular with UK drivers is the 245bhp xDrive30d, though that's still good for rest to 62mph in 7.5s on the way to 148mph. Next up is the 306bhp xDrive40d, which improves those figures to 6.5s and 147mph. The heaviest hitter amongst the diesels is the astonishingly rapid triple-turbo xDrive M50d, with 740Nm of torque and 381 braked horses that'll demolish 62mph in just 5.3s and power you on to 155mph, at which point the car has to be restrained by an artificial limiter.
With these diesel choices on offer, there has never been much appetite amongst UK X6 buyers for petrol power, but BMW doggedly continued to offer it in this facelifted MK1 X6. There was a 3.0-litre six cylinder 306bhp unit used in the xDrive35i and a 4.4-litre V8 powerplant found in 408bhp form in the merely very quick xDrive 50i and in frantic 555bhp guise in the flagship X6M. That X6M was a car capable of sixty in just 4.7s and uses a 6-speed auto transmission. All other variants use an eight-speed auto gearbox.
All models feature four wheel drive and an innovative Dynamic Performance Control set-up. This is one of the only stability control systems in the world able to provide a stabilising effect when you get out of shape in a corner, whether or not you have your foot on the throttle. Let me explain. Go into a corner too fast and in most quality cars, there's an 'ESP'-type stability programme that uses braking on the inner wheels to 'pull' your car back into shape. Dynamic Performance Control is different. Rather than using braking, it instead sends additional wheel speed to an outer rear wheel to 'push' you around the corner. The effect is a smoother, quicker and less obtrusive way of exiting a bend.
The revised first generation BMW X6 didn't really offer too much that the original version didn't. The appeal was the same, but the look was slightly different, equipment levels were subtly tweaked and efficiency improved. The British public continued to largely ignore the petrol models, with the xDrive30d soaking up the lion's share of orders. While there is quite a lot of stock out there, the best bargains can be found amongst the xDrive40d cars, which add around 60bhp and aren't a whole lot pricier or, indeed, thirstier. Choosing this marginally more expensive variant makes sense. An X6 that makes sense. Now there's a thing.