If there’s one thing German carmakers do well, it’s offer a lot of choices.
The BMW X6 is already a unique vehicle that some would argue has no real purpose sandwiched between the excellent BMW X5 and BMW X7. But even once you’ve decided to buy an X6, you then have the choice of xDrive30d, xDrive40i, M50i xDrive, or the range-topping BMW X6 M.
Between them is a price difference large enough to also buy you a decent X3, so why bother with the BMW X6 M50i?
Let’s first ask the question everyone should really be asking, why the X6 at all? Frankly, you are buying an X5 with less headroom, for more money.
The idea of a ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ is somewhat preposterous, but this is the world in which we live and the X6 has a rightful place, so much so that when BMW released the first X6 all the way back in 2008, everyone initially laughed, but then it was such an enormous sales success that Mercedes-Benz and Audi both followed suit.
So why does it exist? It’s somewhat simple and complicated. The idea is that when the kids move out, mum and dad no longer need a big SUV, but they also love the idea of owning something that sits up high and gives them that extra feeling of security which they have been used to. While in decades gone by said mum and dad would’ve probably just bought a 6 Series so they feel young and sporty, they now have the option of a 6 Series turned into an SUV. Hello X6.
Then it comes down to which X6. The 30d is a pretty conservative choice and something about buying an SUV masquerading as a coupe with a diesel powertrain just doesn’t make all that sense unless you’re an accountant. The 40i is actually a pretty smart choice, enough power and go to be fun without the hefty price tag that you have to pay for a V8.
That leaves us with the X6 M50i we are reviewing here. It’s the car that sits right below the X6 M. It seems like a sweet spot given it has the V8 heart of an X6 M for a good $58,000 less, but should you buy one?
The BMW X6 is available as a xDrive30d for $121,900, the xDrive40i for $124,900 and the M50i xDrive for $155,900. The range-topping BMW X6 M comes in at $213,900.
There numerous option packs for the models below the M50i, including an off-road pack which genuinely makes zero sense but again, it’s about choice. Our test car had $24,000 of options fitted to it, including the $6600 Indulgence Package, which includes air-conditioned and massage-capable front seats, heated rear seats, and Swarovski crystal glass on the gear lever and buttons.
In addition, the following options where also fitted.
- BMW Individual Full Leather Trim ‘Merino’ – $7300
- BMW kidney grille ‘Iconic Glow’ – $1000
- Bowers & Wilkins Surround Sound system, 20 speakers, 1508W – $7400
- Panorama Glass Roof Sky Lounge – $1700
The days of having to tick an endless number of options to get your already expensive BMW up to spec are long gone. The X6 in particular is well equipped from the get-go and comes with a ton of features standard.
All X6 models come standard with the M Sport Package including M Sport brakes, leather upholstery, aluminium interior trim inserts, ambient cabin lighting, a panoramic glass sunroof, Driving Assistant Professional package, Parking Assistant Plus including a surround-view camera, and the latest BMW iDrive with super crisp 12.3-inch driver instrument and infotainment displays.
Additionally, there’s a head-up display, a one-year subscription to the Connected Package Professional which means wireless Apple CarPlay integration is included, as is a wireless smartphone charger, and DAB digital radio.
You also get adaptive M suspension, keyless entry and start, an electric tailgate, the BMW Digital Key, 2.5-zone climate control, and adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist.
The M50i is treated to a leather-trimmed dash, soft-close doors, heated cup holders (yes, to keep your coffee warm), lumbar support, four-zone climate control, a Harman/Kardon surround sound system, and BMW won’t charge you extra for metallic paint.
The BMW X6 has technically not been tested by ANCAP, however, given this is just an X5 with a slightly different rear and some other minor changes, we’re going to take the X5’s five-star ANCAP safety rating and also its 75 per cent vulnerable road user protection score and 71 per cent safety assist score into account.
ANCAP says of the X5’s safety that despite getting five stars, “the driver’s knee airbag deployed incorrectly and the driver’s upper legs were penalised”.
“Structures in the dash were a potential source of injury for the driver’s knees and protection of the driver’s upper legs was rated weak.”
Not exactly what you would probably expect from a BMW’s crash testing report – you can read the whole thing here yourself.
Like most modern BMWs, the X6 M50i is sensational inside. Despite not being a fan of the black interior colour scheme in our test car, it’s hard to question the quality, fit and finish, as well as general cabin ambience of the X6. It’s superb, to say the least.
The standard leather quality is pretty damn good but our test car had the optional ($7300) Merino full leather package which really took it to the next level.
Apart from super soft and very luxurious leather for the seats, you also get it on the doors and dashboard. We also really liked the brushed metal trim pieces in the cabin and high-gloss black inlays.
Overall, the tactile sensation of nearly all surfaces, the whole package on the inside, is first-rate and in our opinion almost as good as what you will find at Range Rover, which does the most luxurious interiors. It’s simply a very pleasant place to be, and the sort of car you would love to do lots of kilometres in on a daily basis or take for long interstate drives.
In addition to the interior as a whole, we also love the BMW M steering wheels. They make the best sports steering wheels of any of the Germans and it’s a little delight to get in the car and grab it with both hands.
The driver and passenger seats are very comfortable with plenty of head- and legroom, but the second row is a little compromised in headroom if you have tall passengers (we still fit well, measuring 179cm tall).
Nonetheless, four normal-sized adults can have a tremendous time inside the X6. The fifth in the middle of the second row may complain a little, though you can easily shut them out with the kick-ass 20-speaker 1508W Harman Kardon sound system.
The boot measures a healthy 580L, which is decent but a 65L compromise over the cheaper X5. If you fold all the seats down that expands to 1530L.
Making use of a different variant of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 out of the X6 M, the M50i really does have more balls than you will probably ever need.
It makes a ridiculous 390kW of power and 750Nm of torque, giving it a a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.3 seconds. That’s only 0.3 seconds slower than the previous-generation X6 M, while the new big daddy does the dash in 3.8 seconds.
Like the rest of the X6 range, the M50i’s V8 engine is mated to a ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission which in turn makes use of the German company’s electronically-controlled xDrive four-wheel drive system with a rear differential lock.
This car is unreasonably fast. Despite its claimed 4.3 seconds to 100km/h, it actually feels faster and we suspect that number and perhaps its launch sequence is deliberately hindered to give the X6 M and the smaller M cars below some breathing room.
You don't need more power
You really have to ask yourself if you need an SUV that is faster than supercars of a decade ago
Nonetheless, we tested it against a brand new BMW M4 CS. On the run from 60 to 150km/h (yes, private road), the smaller ‘proper’ M car fell behind pretty quickly – though the difference would be far less from the lights given the M4’s claimed 0-100km/h of 3.9 seconds.
The question you have to ask here is: do you really need an SUV that can go faster than the X6 M50i? The answer is logically no. It is so crazy fast in a straight line that you really do have to ask yourself these types of questions.
But emotionally… why not? Faster is always better and that’s why we have the full-fledged M.
Paying the extra $31,000 over the 40i for the M50i doesn’t just buy a V8, it also buys adaptive suspension ‘professional’ – a step above the standard suspension – and steering, BMW LaserLights, and 22-inch M lightweight alloy wheels.
We found the adaptive suspension to be a godsend. In sport mode the ride in the X6 M50i is a little harsh, but in comfort it’s bearable. It’s by no means a soft car, and if you frequent poor roads, the massive wheels and the sporty nature will eventually take their toll on your spine.
We loved the individual mode, meaning you can have the engine, transmission and steering in their sportiest settings but leave the dampers in comfort. That’s really the ideal way to drive this car unless you intend to track it, which you really shouldn’t because it’s definitely not made for a race track, despite the M badge.
We took the BMW X5 M50i as close to its limits as we could and found at the very end of its tolerance lies a tendency to understeer. It pushes at the nose when it runs out of grip but considering the X6 in this configuration weighs about 2235kg (kerb), there’s only so much it can do to defy the laws of physics.
The only thing we don’t like about the X6 M50i was the fake engine noise. That’s unfair – it’s technically the noise of the engine, but it’s not the noise from the engine coming out of your car.
BMW has long understood customers of its performance cars are unreasonable. They want a quiet cabin, but also want to hear their mighty engine. In order to do both, the company basically pumps a pre-recorded noise of the engine in via the speakers, obviously matched to the RPM and all.
Once you know it’s not real it can be frustrating and for this driver at least, it kind of ruins the experience because the 4.4-litre V8 is a fine engine and from the outside, where the noise is 100 per cent authentic German Panzer, it’s a great sounding car.
With all the sport modes turned on, the M50i does crackle and pop, so you can definitely fit in with the performance car crowd when the time comes.
BMW offers what is called the ‘BMW Service Inclusive Basic’ package for $2150 that gives you peace of mind for your scheduled servicing needs on the X6 for five years or 80,000 km.
That really only includes basic servicing for oil, filters, spark plugs and labour and that’s all the car will need for that period so long as you’re not doing insanely high kilometres or super aggressive driving to wear down the tyres, brake pads and rotors, which you can also include in a Service Inclusive Plus package for a cost that is reliant on how often you will need them – an enquiry with a dealer will give you the specifics.
Overall, the BMW X6 is actually a reasonably inexpensive high-end European car to own.
This car makes a lot of sense and it also makes no sense at all. We love the BMW X6, we’re just not sure if the X6 M50i would be the pick of the lot, because it’s not quite an X6 M and it’s a fair bit more expensive than the X6 40i, which is an excellent choice.
If it was our money, we would probably just either buy the X6 M and know that we have the best, or go with the X6 xDrive40i and save the roughy $30,000 difference.
Then again, you can always buy this and have the engine tuned to put out the same power as an BMW X6 M (or more) for a lot less. First world problems.