• Added Muscle / #BMW-F16 / #BMW-X6-F16 / #2015 Road test

    A brace of X6s with a selection of M-Performance accessories. We sample a brace of M Performance-kitted X6s and try to pick a winner between the #BMW-xDrive30d-F16 and the #BMW-xDrive40d-F16 Words: Bob Harper /// Photography: Dave Smith

    I’ll admit that when I first clapped eyes on the X6 at the Frankfurt show back in 2007 I just didn’t ‘get it’. I’d been a big fan of the X5 since its arrival in 1999 but as I studied the concept X6 that BMW had just pulled the wraps off I couldn’t help but wonder who the ‘Sports Activity Coupé’ was aimed at and, more to the point, why wouldn’t you just buy an X5? After all, the X5 was cheaper, offered more interior accommodation and somehow just looked like a more coherent design. Did we really need BMW filling a niche no one knew existed?

    I went from doubter to believer after I’d driven an X6 though; it was just a little bit sharper than the X5 with all its responses feeling like they’d been finehoned with the driver in mind. The way you could pulverise a challenging bit of road into submission when behind the wheel of an X6 was something you had to experience to believe. It probably didn’t come as a surprise to BMW, but the car’s sales success certainly raised plenty of eyebrows, and if you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery you only have to have a look at how many other manufacturers have jumped on the X6-style bandwagon – the Mercedes GLC being the latest to join the party.

    There are plenty of people who still don’t ‘get’ the X6, though, but I generally find that the vast majority of those who don’t see the car’s appeal have yet to drive one. My first acquaintance with the all-new model, the F16, came a few months back when I drove one back from the Geneva Motor Show and despite it being the entry-level engine for the UK market, the BMW-xDrive30d-F16 , I was mightily impressed with the way it went about its business. This was a ‘nail it back as fast as possible, I’m on press deadline’ sort of a drive and despite it being a long night in the saddle I stepped out of the BMW-X6-F16 without any aches, pains or a feeling of tiredness. All in all it was an impressive performance with my most major gripe being a lack of rear visibility thanks to what is a bit of a letterbox rear screen when looked through via the rear view mirror. This really irritates me in a car, and just about the only machine I can forgive it in is an M1, for obvious reasons.

    Owners and potential owners don’t seem so bothered by this if the order book is anything to go by and while many owners are happy with their X6s as they left the factory there seem to be an equal number who like to personalise them, too. The X6’s success can also be judged by the number of European (and American) firms that are making aftermarket components for it and, as is often the case, what’s available from the tuners ranges from the mild to the wild with varying degrees of success – there are some very dubious-looking wide-body kits out there on the market!

    BMW itself obviously has its own set of accessories for the X6 and if any expression of the car’s sporting intent were needed you only have to look at the fact that BMW has made sure its range of M Performance accessories were ready for market virtually from the moment the car was launched. As per the rest of the model range we have a selection of parts available for the Sports Activity Coupé, including aerodynamic components (in a mixture of plastic and carbon), wheel and tyre sets and some choice interior goodies too.

    We sampled what’s on offer on a brace of X6s – an xDrive30d M Sport and an xDrive40d SE – with the former being kitted-out with a host of exterior items and the latter being blessed with the interior upgrades. As the M Performance styling can only be fitted to an M Sport model all the SE makes do externally is a fancy set of wheels. As well as evaluating the accessories it was quite interesting to drive the 30d and 40d models back-to-back as the question of whether to go for the M Sport with its sexy styling or to have the additional performance of the 40d but with the less aggressive SE looks may be on potential owners’ minds. For the record, in standard non-accessorised form the 30d M Sport weighs in at £56,100 whereas the 40d SE is actually a chunk of cash cheaper at £54,060.

    They both use the same 2993cc turbodiesel in different states of tune – 258hp versus 313hp – and naturally enough the 40d wins the torque output battle at 465lb ft compared to the 30d’s 413lb ft. Their top speeds are both pretty academic unless you live a stone’s throw from the autobahn, but both can do double the UK speed limit and the 40d wins the 0-62mph gong by quite a margin, recording 5.8 seconds compared to the 30d’s 6.7. It’s perhaps slightly surprising then that on the road the 40d doesn’t feel significantly faster under normal traffic conditions than the 30d. I guess if you were Sebastian Vettel attempting to come from the second row of the grid to beat Lewis Hamilton into the first corner you’d appreciate the 40d’s extra urge, but both pull away from the lights with more than acceptable acceleration without having to bury the throttle pedal into the carpet. There’s very little in economy and emissions too – both with official mpg figures in the mid- to upper-40s, but unless you drive like a saint you’ll not see much more than mid-30s in everyday driving and if you do a lot of town work it’ll be even less than that.

    When you do get hold of them and try to extract the maximum from both cars the 40d does delve into its extra bag of tricks and you do start to feel the presence of the extra power and torque. It’s the latter that’s most important – it feels less stressed when trying to extract the maximum from it and when the 30d is becoming a little breathless or a little strained the 40d keeps pulling hard and is less out of its comfort zone. It does have to be said that by the time you discover this you’re probably going to be travelling far faster than is generally deemed acceptable on the public road, and at the back of your mind you do have to keep remembering that you’re in command (and hopefully in control) of over two tonnes of metal. Overall the X6s – both 30d and 40d – do hide their bulk very well, but there’s only so much clever chassis work and the excellent xDrive system can mask. Ultimately the laws of physics do take over, but long before then you should really have backed off anyway. The bottom line is that something this big should not be this entertaining to drive.

    Which machine I would actually choose to own is a very tricky decision, ignoring the fact for one moment that I don’t have upwards of £50k burning a hole in my pocket. I do like the M Sport styling and I think its aggressive looks do suit the X6 more than the SE. But if I was in a hurry I’d much rather be behind the wheel of the 40d. I could be more than happy with either machine but would more than likely err towards the 30d M Sport, and if that was my ultimate decision then I’d also be able to add some of the fine M Performance accessories that we have here. In case you haven’t spotted it the Space grey 30d is the exact same machine I drove back from Geneva but since the last time I saw it it’s been slathered in a selection of M Performance accessories. If you approach from the front it’s hard to miss the lovely carbon fibre front lower spoiler which complements the M Sport front bumper treatment perfectly. Additional carbon items are the mirror caps and a rear diffuser which looks rather fetching, and a neat bootlid spoiler which is perfectly judged – not too small and not too ostentatious either.

    These rather lovely carbon goodies are backed up by black kidney grilles, M Performance side decals along the sills, a pair of winglets that sit just aft of the rear wheels and a couple of plastic rear fins that run up the side of the rear screen. Finishing off the whole look are a set of 21-inch Double-spoke 599M M Performance wheels complete with Pirelli tyres. These really are pretty impressive looking and measure 10x21 inches up front and 11.5x21 inches at the rear and are shod with equally huge 285/35 and 325/30 Pirellis, front and rear respectively. It says something about the size of the X6 that these 21-inch wheels don’t actually look that big on the car! Overall the M Performance accessories look pretty smart, although I’m going to add the usual caveat that the sill stickers aren’t my favourite part of the package and I’m not 100 per cent certain the little winglets or plastic fins by the rear screen bring all that much to the party. The carbon I love, though, although you do need to be pretty keen on it as the splitter, rear diffuser, mirror caps and spoiler will set you back over £3000 – and that doesn’t include fitting. To be fair, though, it’s certainly no more than you’d pay for similar parts from the aftermarket and obviously these ones have been fully tested by BMW and are backed by BMW’s warranty, too.

    If I was pretty keen on the exterior upgrades on the Space grey 30d then the interior on the Flamenco red 40d is equally impressive. There are swathes of carbon fibre running around the dash and onto the door cappings, and along the dash there’s also a nice sliver of Alcantara with the M Performance script woven into it. The gear selector and the surrounding trims are also in carbon fibre and look all the better for it and to cap things off there’s an Alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel that feels absolutely lovely to hold and has a delicate piece of red leather at the 12 o’clock point. A set of M Performance floor mats and some rather natty illuminated front door sill trims complete the package. The whole setup exudes quality and makes the interior seem significantly more sporting, too.

    The X6 might not seem like the most obvious choice of a sporting #BMW suitable for a set of #M-Performance accessories but in a way it makes more sense than on an X5 as the Sports Activity Coupé is the more sporting of the two big X machines. Some folk will still struggle to get their heads around the whole X6 concept but my advice to them would be to take one for an extended test-drive – they really do drive very, very well and are far more wieldy than their size and weight might lead you to believe. Of course this brace of machines we have here aren’t going to rival an M235i when it comes to ultimate cross-country pace, but they’re not quite as far as away as you might imagine. I’ll take mine as an #M-Sport and sign me up for the carbon fibre M Performance parts please…

    The bottom line is that something this big should not be this entertaining to drive.

    It’s perhaps slightly surprising then that on the road the 40d doesn’t feel significantly faster.

    M Performance #BMW-X6-xDrive30d-F16 and #BMW-X6-40d-xDrive30d-M-Sport xDrive40d SE.

    ENGINE: Six-cylinder, turbodiesel #N57 #N57D30O1 / Six-cylinder, turbodiesel #N57D30T1
    CAPACITY: 2993cc 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 258hp @ 4000rpm 313hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 413lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm 465lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm
    0-62MPH: 6.7 seconds 5.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 143mph 149mph
    ECONOMY: 47.1mpg 45.6mpg
    EMISSIONS: 159g/km 165g/km
    WEIGHT: 2140kg 2180kg
    PRICE (OTR): £56,100 (M Sport) £54,060 (SE)

    M PERFORMANCE EXTERIOR PARTS FITTED TO SPACE GREY M SPORT: Front splitter, carbon: £1225. Rear diffuser, carbon: £925. Rear spoiler, carbon: £595. Black kidney grilles: £131. Rear fins: £229. Rear winglets: £530. Carbon door mirror covers: £498. 21-inch Double-spoke 599M complete wheel and tyre set; Front 10x21-inch with 285/35 R21 Pirelli tyres; Rear 11.5x21-inch with 325/30 R21 Pirelli tyres: £5250.

    M PERFORMANCE INTERIOR PARTS FITTED TO FLAMENCO RED SE: LED door sills: £206. M Performance steering wheel: £775. Carbon interior trims: £1175. Gear selector and lower trim: £532. M Performance mats: £192.50 All prices quoted are for parts only but include VAT. Contact your local dealer for painting and fitting costs, plus details of any promotions running on M Performance packages.

    To cap things off there’s an Alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel that feels absolutely lovely to hold.