The driver who chooses a BMW X6 wants to go off the beaten path, and we don’t necessarily mean off-roading. With a grand touring body stacked on top of an SUV platform, the X6 is BMW’s quirkiest crossover. Among its competitors are the more conventional Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.
Quirky doesn’t mean unpopular, however. BMW boasts that over 443,000 customers have bought the Sports Activity Coupe around the globe.
But with the 2020 X6 coming to U.S. dealerships in November 2019, the question is how different is this third-generation crossover from its predecessor?
Some key differences exist between the two versions. A few, like the exterior styling, are easy to see. Others require a closer look, so let’s compare the new and old version of the X6.
Larger and Bolder Outside with a Bigger Grille
Compared to the second-generation X6, the 2020 model is 1.0 inch longer, 0.6 inches wider and 0.7 inches lower. Its wheelbase is 1.6 inches higher, giving it a more rugged look. The lower profile makes the X6 slightly more aerodynamic than the pre-2020 version.
Another important difference between the two cars is the modification of BMW’s famous twin-kidney grille, which in this case has morphed from gently-rounded oblongs in the second generation to more sharply angular shapes in the third. By making the grille more angular, BMW is signaling that the new X6 is even more performance-oriented than its predecessor.
Not only is the new grille more angular, but it’s also bigger than its predecessor’s. Taken with the lurking stance and the new more narrow headlights, the redesigned grille makes the 2020 X6 look much more menacing than the older version.
To top off this bold front end, an option on the 2020 version is an illuminated kidney grille that is connected to the daytime running lights. Overall, the newer version has a much stronger focus on the grille, echoing the design choices that BMW has recently made for larger, flashier grilles on the Series 7 vehicles and the X7.
Moving toward the back, the rear fascia of the new X6 has been reworked to appear lower, wider and sportier than the second-gen version. BMW has incorporated what it calls a “double-bubble” design below the sloping roofline and added both a split spoiler on the roof and a more defined one on the hatch. Wide, strip-like tail lights that seemed to have been borrowed from the 8 Series Gran Coupe and a strong rear fender line complete a look that is a noticeable departure from the earlier X6’s simpler, slightly less bulky rear-end components.
More Angles Inside and Glass Overhead
BMW has used high-quality materials for the interiors of both versions, so both are luxurious and comfortable, as would be expected from an upscale automaker. But details such as the new angular design for the tachometer and speedometer in the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that reflect the sporty geometry of the newer version’s grille distinguish it from the older version.
Interior space hasn’t changed much between the two versions. Front and rear headroom and legroom have been increased only slightly in the new version. And both new and old versions have 20.5 cubic feet cargo capacity with all the seats in the up position and folding the seats down in the new model only yields 0.17 cubic feet more than in the older version.
For the moonroof fans among us, BMW has upgraded the X6’s panoramic moonroof for 2020, which is 83% larger than the previous model. An optional Sky Lounge glass roof has 15,000 accent points that are illuminated at night to simulate a night sky.
Enhanced Safety and Tech Features
The 2020 X6 comes standard with BMW’s “Active Driving Assistant” that includes such safety features as blind spot detection, lane departure warning, frontal and rear collision warnings, and automatic emergency braking. This standard safety package has been expanded slightly for the 2020 version.
But the optional Driving Assistance Professional package available in the new model is truly comprehensive. The package includes additional assist and control systems such as active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, extended traffic jam assistance, and evasion aid.
As for tech features, the iDrive operating system is the same in the 2020 version as in last year’s model. But BMW has made the controls a bit more user-friendly with a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen which allows the driver to communicate with the OS by voice, touch, or gesture.
Boosted Performance across the Board
The new X6 has definitely gotten quicker. The base model, the sDrive40i, has rear-wheel drive and makes 335 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque, compared to 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque for the 2019 version. The all-wheel-drive xDrive40i has the same horsepower and torque as the sDrive40i for 2020 and 2019 respectively. Both the sDrive40i and the xDrive40i have turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engines.
But BMW’s greatest advance in the X6’s performance is at the top of the line. It replaced the old V8-powered xDrive50i variant with the M50i, which runs on a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine. For comparison, the M50i makes 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, leaving the xDrive50i behind at 445 hp and 480 lb-ft.
The new X6 sDrive40i will start at at $65,295, $750 more than last year’s MSRP at $64,545. Buyers should expect to pay $67,595 for the xDrive40i for the 2020 version as compared to the 2019 version at $66,845. The M50i will start at $86,645, as compared to $79,295 for the xDrive50i.
Bigger and Quicker…but Better?
Buyers might find it difficult to decide between the new and the old versions of the BMW X6. The exterior styling of the new version might be an acquired taste for some, even with the increased performance. On the other hand, the optional illuminated grille of the 2020 X6 might provide just the right flash of inspiration for some Bimmer drivers.
All images provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.