BMW classifies their SUVs either as Sports Activity Vehicles ® (SAVs) or Sports Activity Coupes ®. SAVs represent more traditional SUVs, whereas SACs are sportier looking SUVs that feature sloping rear rooflines you’d see on a coupe.
The BMW X5 was the best-selling BMW SUV in the US until sales of the X3 surpassed it for the first time back in 2018. The X6 is based off the X5 and is almost identical in performance and features, but trades practicality for a sporty, more athletic design.
In this comparison we’ll be comparing the X5 and X6 to give you a better idea of what the similarities and differences are.
The X6 is basically a X5 that draws inspiration from a coupe. It features the same engine, transmission and even the interior is clearly borrowed from the X5. Although the sportier design sacrifices practicality and pushes up the sticker price, it appeals to drivers looking for something a bit more exciting than a bog-standard SUV—both in design and driving experience.
For 2021, the standard X5 is available in 2 trims, the sDrive40i/xDrive40i and hybrid xDrive45e which replaces the previous year’s petrol xDrive50i. These start at $59,400 and $65,400 MSRP respectively.
Gearheads need not miss the outgoing xDrive50i, since the X5 M50i and X5 M deliver monstrous performance if your wallet is deep enough.
Meanwhile, the standard X6 will set you back $65,050 for the rear-wheel drive sDrive40i. If you want BMW’s patented xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, you’ll need to spend a little extra.
The X6 also comes in performance variants. The M50i starts at $86,250 and the even faster X6 M will cost a whopping $108,600.
The X5 takes on the form of a more traditional luxury crossover with a straight roof. By contrast, the X6 has a sloping rear roofline.
There are also other styling differences on the exterior of the two models. While the front looks very similar on both crossovers (with BMW’s signature dual-kidney grilles), you can very easily tell them apart by looking at the rear end. The taillights are noticeably slimmer, giving the X6 a more aggressive look.
While appearance is subjective, we definitely think the X6 is the better looking SUV.
Although the X6 has a slicker profile and sportier look overall, it comes at the cost of less cabin space and passenger space in the back row.
Passengers in the back have around 1 extra inch of headroom and legroom sitting in the X5 than they would in the smaller X6.
As for cargo, the X6 has a 26.6 cu.ft. cargo area behind the rear seats. Because of the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats you can potentially increase your hauling space to 59.7 cubic feet with the seats down. The X5 has a more generous 33.9 cu.ft. cargo hold (72.3 cu.ft. with folded seats).
Therefore, if you frequently have passengers in the back or carry a lot of cargo, the X5 is the clear winner.
Engine Performance and Fuel Economy
The xDrive40i trim of the X5 and X6 both have the same 3.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. This is matched with a 8-speed STEPTRONIC Automatic transmission that has Sport and Manual shift modes.
Producing 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, the X5 and X6 can go from 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. Both are electronically limited to 130 mph, but the X5 can potentially hit 150 mph while the lighter X6 can hit 155 mph.
The X5 and X6 have a gas mileage of 20/26 mpg (city/highway), for a combined fuel efficiency of 22 mpg.
Although the X5 and X6 share the same engine, differences in their body and suspension make for a slightly different driving experience.
The X6 has a lower center of gravity and sport-tuned suspension. This makes it more grounded and a better handler around sharper corners. It also features Dynamic Performance Control which helps it feel like a sporty coupe and an off-road crossover depending on the terrain.
By contrast the X5 is better at tackling rougher terrains thanks to its higher ground clearance and more absorbent suspension. It is also already set up with a trailer tow, although the X6 is definitely capable of towing trailers itself.
Everything inside is virtually identical, save for the sport-seats on the X6. Both can be fitted with dual 12.3 inch infotainment/instrument screens.
For 2021, both models get the latest technology, including the likes of lane-departure warning, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. Optional extras include adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
BMW M Versions
Both the X5 and X6 have M Performance and full M versions.
The BMW X5 M50i and X6 M50i are part of the M Performance series, BMW’s in-house performance division.
There are also the BMW X5 M and X6 M, which are considered ‘full-blown’ M models. These are produced by BMW AG’s subsidiary, BMW M, and offer unmatched acceleration, speed and handling.
The BMW X5 and X6 are both similarly priced and feature the same 3.0 liter V6. Although they share a lot in common, there are fundamental differences that each appeals to a different kind of driver.
Being lower to the ground and with a sport-tuned suspension, the X6 will give the driver a coupe-like driving experience. It also has a sportier design, and for many buyers its attractive and more distinguished profile will be the deciding factor.
The BMW X5 is the more practical choice, with more cargo space and cabin room for passengers in the back. It is also better suited for off-roading and towing trailers.