Creating a new niche altogether to introduce a kind of product that never existed before, and to market it in such a way that the whole category becomes mainstream in less than a decade is no mean feat. This is what BMW did with the X6. In the 12 years since BMW first unveiled the rakish, fastback version of the conventional X5 SUV, nearly every major automaker has released their own versions of the coupe SUV. Some, like BMW’s arch rival Mercedes-Benz, have even come out with a whole range of such models in different sizes. The segment moving mainstream, and formidable competitors entering the fray means the Bavarian carmaker cannot afford to rest on its laurels. And the fact that the X6 has been one of BMW’s best sellers for the past decade leaves large shoes for the all-new third-generation to fill.

If the X6 M50i that we tested in the UAE this month is any indication, the latest edition is more than capable of carrying the mantle effectively. First, this iteration is beyond doubt the best looking so far. Sharp, crisp lines all around and a still lower roofline add copious amounts of character to the new X6. The new design gives it a less bulbous, less polarising appearance than its predecessors.

The cabin has also been spruced up substantially, and decidedly looks more premium with the crystal gear knob adding further to the overall ambience. The design of the cockpit is driver oriented with all controls on the uncluttered dashboard being easily accessible. Vernasca leather upholstery comes standard with massage function for the driver and front passenger being an option. The best thing about the interior though is that sloping roofline doesn’t seem to have much of an adverse effect inside the car, leaving ample headroom and legroom in the X6’s second row for adults of above average height. However, rearward visibility for the driver still remains one of the compromises.

 

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

My tester is the new X6 M50i, the most powerful iteration of this model until the bonkers X6 M makes an appearance. In fact, looking at what BMW has achieved with the M50i in terms of performance, the next X6M promises to be one of the wildest SUVs ever. The M50i’s 4.4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 puts out 530 horsepower and a whopping 750Nm of torque. While the power output is just about 70 horses less than the current X6 M, the torque figure is the same. Also the 0-100kph time of 4.3 seconds is only one-tenth of a second off the current X6 M’s acceleration figure. On the road, the result of the enormous power reserves at your disposal is astounding. The effortlessness with which the X6 M50i tears away from standstill to three-figure speeds defies logic. The transmission is smooth, shifting seamlessly when left to its own, and ever so slightly perceptible when changing gears using the paddle shifters. For a high-riding vehicle that weighs in at 2,235kg, the apparent agility with which it carries itself is incredible. The V8 also provides enough aural theatre to go with the performance, its deep burble accompanied by a faint turbo whistle seeping into the cabin. The double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle setup, along with Dynamic Damper Control, offers a good blend of dexterity and comfort. Safety and convenience features include Cruise Control with braking function, Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, Active Cruise Control system with Stop and Go function, Lane Change Warning and the Emergency Stop Assistant among others.

For the first time, the X6 appears worthy enough to be recommended over the X5. It looks sleeker, has more character, drives as well, and doesn’t eschew a lot in terms of practicality. If the coupe styling speaks to you, and if you are okay with whatever minor compromises the sloping roofline brings in terms of visibility and rear headroom, then the X6 M50i is arguably the best fastback utility vehicle on sale today.