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First drive: 2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2023 BMW X6 M Competition
Can BMW’s new-look X6 M Competition still mix it with the best high-performance SUVs on the market?


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Like the X5 that spawned it, the BMW X6 has been subjected to a minor facelift, adding more technology and style to the big coupe-SUV. While the design may not be to everyone's tastes, the car is certainly in for an upgrade, so we tried out the most powerful M Competition version to find out whether the tweaks have made it more appealing.

Test Car Specifications


For the most part, the X6's upgrades are in line with the X5's, with narrow new headlights and a new front grille, as well as reworked bumpers. For reasons unknown, though, the X6 goes without the new tail light design afforded to the X5. Still, it's an improvement on the old car, with a decidedly more modern vibe than before. And because this is the high-performance M Competition model, it gets its own sporty styling with the boot spoiler and the big black chrome exhaust tips, not to mention the massive wheels and aerodynamic door mirror caps.


In many ways, the X6's interior upgrades are more remarkable, with the Curved Display taken from the iX and i4 electric cars. That includes the touchscreen and the central infotainment screen, both of which use BMW's latest software to be clearer and sharper than their predecessors. The instrument display is particularly good, with a more user-friendly and configurable display than that of the old X6, while the touchscreen remains logical and ergonomic, as well as more modern than before.

That's helped by the continued implementation of the iDrive rotary controller, which lives on the centre console. With that, you can navigate the infotainment system more or less by touch, which is safer than using the touchscreen, but there is an ergonomic weak spot in the whole system. That's the new climate control panel, which has been removed from the dashboard and placed in the touchscreen, making it more difficult to use than the traditional switchgear. It's far from the worst implementation of such technology, but conventional buttons would have been better still.


Of course, the X6 – whether in M Competition form or not – is not as practical as the X5 that spawned it. But this M version is every bit as spacious as any other X6, and it’s more than spacious enough for most people’s needs. You might expect rear headroom to be remarkably tight, but not a bit of it. Sure, there’s more space in an X5, but legroom and headroom are both more than generous enough. And while the boot is smaller than that of an X5, the 580-litre load space will be ample for most people’s needs.


The X6's engine range isn't quite the same as that of the X5, but there is some crossover. Both are offered with the xDrive30d 3.0-litre diesel, which is expected to be a big seller in the UK, but only the X5 gets the xDrive50e plug-in hybrid. Both cars, however, get the petrol V8 M60i xDrive and the M Competition model tested here.

In the case of the range-topping M Competition, the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 churns out a whopping 625hp, all of which goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. That means 0-62mph is done in less than four seconds, while the top speed is 155mph, although customers can exceed that with the M Driver's Pack, which takes the top speed up to 180mph.

That's plentiful performance, and it's accompanied by a throbbing V8 soundtrack. The BMW engine might not be as characterful as some, but it still has quite the voice, with a gravelly grumble that turns into a gunfire-esque rattle at higher revolutions. It sounds as fast as it is. But it drinks accordingly, managing around 22mpg on the official economy test.

Ride & Handling

Naturally, the X6 M Competition is fractionally more driver-focussed than the equivalent X5, and thanks to its lower centre of gravity, it feels a bit more stable in the corners. But otherwise, the two cars feel pretty closely matched, with the same trademark BMW steering feel, the same pedal feel and similar amounts of grip and traction from those massive tyres. And though the X6 still feels pretty big – there’s no hiding that bulk – it’s remarkably agile for a car of its size. Perhaps it can’t quite match a Porsche Cayenne on a race track, but when will customers ever take it there? On a country road, the X6 feels big but manageable, not to mention incredibly quick.

And despite that, it still has a bit of compliance to the ride. Again, it isn’t as good as a Cayenne or an X5, and our test took place on smooth German roads, but it’s more than acceptable. When a car drives this well, you might reasonably expect some compromises in terms of ride comfort, but the X6 doesn’t penalise your spine too much when it comes to riding out the bumps.


With prices starting at almost £130,000, the X6 M Competition is not what you’d call cheap. Naturally, you get plenty of equipment – the navigation system, climate control and sports seats are all thrown in, along with all the performance-orientated extras – but it’s difficult to describe it as good value when a Porsche Cayenne S Coupe is around £40,000 cheaper. That said, you will have to add extras to the Porsche, whereas the X6 M Competition comes with everything you need right out of the box.


In many ways, the X6 M Competition is very good indeed. It's absolutely rapid, and it drives brilliantly for something so big, while the drop in practicality compared with the equivalent X5 is nowhere near as big as it could be. The problem is, with such a lofty price tag, a car needs to be more than just good. It needs to be great, in the ways you can measure and those you can't. That's where the X6 M Competition struggles.

James Fossdyke - 16 Aug 2023    - BMW road tests
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2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.

2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.2023 BMW X6 M Competition. Image by BMW.


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