Having pioneered the premium Coupé SUV genre back in 2009, the BMW X6 was a butt of jokes among motoring journos in general and rival manufacturers in particular. The latter camp was vociferous in the Beemer being a pointless car at the time. Well, how wrong we were. Look at the automotive catalogue of respective premium manufacturers and you will find their own advocates in this genre. Audi has the Q8, Mercedes-Benz the GLE Coupe, while Porsche has the Cayenne Coupe. These all pander to the same market and, as the pioneer to the segment, the Bavarian marque must be patting itself in the back having created a niche segment that has spawned rivals from even the least expected quarters – yes, we’re talking to you, Porsche.
Now in its third generation, the X6 retains its signature sloping roofline and blistered haunches, but now looks even more elegant than the original. From that domineering kidney grille – finished in satin grey in our M50i variant and can also be optionally specified with LED lighting that looks spectacular under the night sky – to the headlights that can be optioned with Laser technology.
As part of the M Performance theme, the side mirrors are also finished in satin silver, while the rear is punctuated by those slim taillights and satin silver exhaust tips flanking the diffuser. It all looks decidedly sporty and elegant without trying too hard. At each corner are 21” wheels, which are home to blue painted M Performance brakes.
The cabin is familiar current BMW architecture, which means high quality materials – digital instrument cluster and touch screen infotainment system. Those leather-bound pews offer good comfort and support, but the seating position is not particularly spot-on as you at times feel as though you are perched a tad higher than desired. That said, space is abundant for both front and rear passengers, despite the sloping roof, while mood lighting also elevates the overall lofty ambiance to even greater heights of premium.
Brandishing that M50i badge means that this X6 plays on the leading edge of Beemer’s performance SUV envelope and, as such, has the firepower to back it up. Nestling under the ridged bonnet is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that puts out 390kW and 750Nm via an 8-speed automatic transmission that shuffles all that power to all four corners of the vehicle.
A relatively easy car to drive, it manages the mundane, daily trudge with the greatest aplomb and can be driven quite sedately with little effort. There is ample torque from just over tick over and the gearbox does a stellar job of shuffling through gears like a hot knife gliding through butter. Power delivery is silky smooth at worst and this X6 M50i does make a beeline for the horizon should the mood take you. Hook it into Sport or Sport + mode, and it slightly morphs into a more focused sports car than a lumbering SUV. Yes, of course, it remains a portly thing for the most part, but it admirably manages to mask its girth with a display of nimbleness that belies its weight.
Stomp the throttle with conviction from standstill, however, and the big SUV’s engine gulps a lung full of air before aiming its nose skywards and lunging forward with Usain Bolt-like urgency. It dispenses with the 0-100km/h sprint in under 5 seconds and continues its relentless acceleration fury right up to 250km/h. Introduce it to a series of corners and it has them thoroughly licked. It feels less ungainly than its X5 M50i sibling, which dives, rolls, and pitches a few degrees more than this coupe brethren.
Then there is the way in which it sounds when asked to gallop from the lower gears. It emits a guttural V8 war cry that is interspersed with flatulent belches between gear changes - enough to shake critters out of trees. Speaking of the gearbox, the 8-speed unit employed here does a stellar job of meshing through the gears at sedate speeds, all the while remaining snappy when hustling along at a fair lick. Those 21-inch wheels at each corner look the part, but the trade off is a slightly firm suspension that is pronounced over bumpy road sections.
While the M50i comes with a fair bit of kit already tacked on to it as standard fitment, you ought to be careful when ticking the options boxes, as that can quickly push the pricing even further up the pricing hierarchy.
As the slightly warmer M Performance model and not the piping hot X6M variant, the M50i offers the most rounded package as it doesn’t feel as though it is perpetually straining at the leash and foaming at the mouth like its bigger brethren. And that, if little else, makes it a compelling choice if you are after V8 thrills draped in SUV frills. You can, of course, also opt for the less powerful 338kW, but equally entertaining and prestigious, Porsche Cayenne Coupé GTS.
Images by Jeff Zonke