If you're hoping that BMW is about to ditch its controversial styling direction, there's nothing all-new coming through to suggest that'll be the case. Yet the latest models to get a facelift – the BMW X5 and X6 – aren't that radically different in terms of looks. The facelift sees a number of updates, including the switch to BMW's latest infotainment system, an increased range for the X5 50e plug-in hybrid and the adoption of mild hybrid engines throughout the rest of the lineup. The new look though is palatable enough. We mean that relatively, of course: palatable as far as other recent efforts go.
It all begins at the front, with the slimline headlights, but thankfully not the twin-stack headlight arrangement that you get with the current X7 – you can see those in our twin test video of the M60i versus the latest Range Rover. The headlights are now adaptive as standard and can be specified with M Shadowline details that darkens the internals of the lamp units. If you add the M Sport Pro pack, you get an Iconic Glow grille. This illuminates when you open the doors (classy) as do the new LED taillights, which have a vaguely 'X' motif at the back of the X5 and a squiggly 'L' shape on the sportier X6, which adds trapezoidal exhausts as well.
Inside, BMW’s Curve Display replaces the two-piece instrument and infotainment screen with the now familiar screen that bends towards the driver. In actual fact, it’s still two screens – a 12.3-inch screen for the instruments and a 14.9-inch infotainment screen, which are covered by a single piece of glass. Sadly, this means fewer buttons. The climate controls, for example, are operated via icons, and as that mirrors what we tried in the X7 it is unlikely to be an improvement over the physical controls that you got in the old models. At least you still get an iDrive controller.
The whole fascia is trimmed in vegan-friendly faux leather, which BMW calls Sensafin. On the passenger side, there's a 'crystalline' lightbar that's backlit by LEDs. This forms part of the ambient lighting package and offers 15 colour options. The Sensafin trim with quilted stitching is also standard for the seats, but you can pay extra to have BMW Individual Merino extended leather. Other features include ‘thermo’ cup holders, which heat or cool your drinks as required, and a Sky Lounge panoramic glass roof that uses LED light that spreads across 15,000 patterns in the glass to create a night sky effect.
One of the more important changes this facelift introduces is the new xDrive50e plug-in hybrid. The petrol side of that equation sticks with a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six, but the engine now runs the Miller cycle that shortens the opening duration of the inlet valves. Other changes include redesigned intakes and combustion chambers, a new dual-injection system, active coils and an exhaust manifold integrated within the cylinder head. This all adds up to 313hp from the petrol engine, which is a boost of 27hp over the 45e, and 332lb ft of torque.
There’s an even greater uplift in the power delivered by the electric motor. With an increase in both power density and rev limit (to 11,500rpm) the motor produces another 84hp, which combined with the ICE upgrades means a system increase of 96hp. That’s pretty useful, then, and drops the 0-62mph time to 4.8 seconds. Because the battery’s useable capacity has been increased to 25.7kWh, which is 25 per cent more than the outgoing PHEV, the electric range is extended to a WLTP maximum of 68 miles – that put the BIK at eight per cent. The charging rate has also risen from 3.7kW to 7.4kW. The 50e is available only in the X5, though.
As for the rest of the engines, those have been enhanced, too. For the X5 that’s the 30d and M60i, and for the X6 it's the 30d, 40i and M60i. These all come with 48-volt mild hybrid assistance, driven by a compact electric motor located within the eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic gearbox. It delivers an extra hit of 12hp and 148lb ft, and in the X6 40i (but only the X6 40i) it can move the car at slow speeds and over short distances on electric power alone.
On top of the mild hybrid motor’s added performance, upgrades to the engines mean the 40i now produces 380hp and 384lb ft for 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds, while the 30d yields 298hp and 494lb ft, which means it’ll crack 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds. The M60i is the same S68 4.4-litre V8 that first appeared in the X7 M60i and will soon be appearing in the XM. Outputs for that are 530hp and 553lb ft of torque, and that translates to 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds.
Along with the 48-volt motor integration within the gearbox, internal changes to the transmission are said to make it more efficient, plus it has better vibration damping and optimised shift times. Launch control is also standard and the M60i has a Sprint function for ‘a quick burst of speed’ to help with overtakes. BMW says it’s set the xDrive up to feel rear-biased – the M60i features and M Sport rear differential – and all M Sport versions have adaptive dampers as standard.
Air springs are standard on BMW X5 xDrive50e but come as part of the optional xOffroad pack offered on the 40i and 30d. The air springs let you raise the car by up to 40mm for off-roading, or lower it by 40mm from the standard height to help with off-loading, and this can now by done via the My BMW App if you’re outside the car. Along with air suspension, the xOffroad pack also adds the M Sport diff and dedicated driving modes for snow, sand, gravel and rock. Other mechanical upgrades that are available include rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars.
The new X5 and X6 also work via a smartphone, which means that up to five users can simply walk up to the car with their smartphone on them, get in and drive away. There's also augmented sat nav and improved voice activation that's part of the new BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Along with the usual features, like adjusting the interior temperature, now you can open a window and operate the panoramic roof if you ask the car nicely, which, quite frankly, sounds like more hassle than using a button. And finally, there’s video-on-demand streaming. This allows the front passenger to watch YouTube on the infotainment display, and the range of available services ‘is set to expand as the BMW Group adds further third-party apps.’
The pricing starts with the 30d at £66,230, the X6 30d is £72,430 and the range tops out at £89,910 for the X6 M60i. Ordering is now open and cars should arrive in the UK by April 2023.
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