REMEMBER when BMW launched the X5? Most people thought they were mad, then tried not to watch as the 4×4 sailed up the sales charts. So, when rumours started surfacing that the men from Munich were working on a seriously sporty 4×4, this time those same people took them a little more seriously.
The X6 is a car that merges a coupe bodyshell with SUV all-wheel-drive ability. There is nothing remotely like it on the road, and if this wasn’t a BMW, you would think it’s a big risk. But it is a BMW, and it is already sold out for the first year – around 1,600 owners already eagerly awaiting their new toy.
The X6 is certainly a head-turner. BMW’s suits claim that they have simply given the X5 line-up a coupe option, just as all the saloon ranges have their own coupe variants. In truth, though, it looks like one of those saloon coupes has been thrown into the gym, subjected not to body-building, but chassis-building. This car doesn’t sit, it perches, high off the ground, on gargantuan 19-inch wheels, looking truly menacing.
The X6 boasts a four-way engine range at present, all of which are turbocharged – a first for any BMW line-up. Likely to be best-selling will be the 3-litre diesel of 235bhp, while the 3.5d uses a 286bhp version of the same engine, but adding a second turbo.
Petrol units begin with the 306bhp 3-litre unit named International Engine of the Year both last year and this. And topping the range is the 400bhp, 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 of the 5.0i, which will send this car through 60mph in 5.4 seconds – that’s faster than a Porsche Boxster…
We tried the entry-level diesel and a very impressive unit it is too, barrelling the car along in assured fashion.
There are hidden benefits too, whichever X6 you buy, because every version is a member of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics program designed to cut CO2 and stretch fuel mileage. This is achieved in clever ways such as harnessing the wasted electrical energy generated under braking, and using lightweight materials for various body panels.
Driving the X6 is slightly surreal, because while one sits high up, it really handles, almost as impressively as, well any other BMW. There is a secret to this prowess – it’s called Dynamic Performance Control, and uses a rear differential to stabilise the car even at high, rapidly changing, cornering speeds.
One thing’s for sure, BMW is taking no gamble here. What they have produced is a vehicle that has all the dominant road presence that makes SUVs so popular, with the performance one expects from a prestige performance saloon, and clothed in a suitably sleek shell. It’s a very impressive piece of kit.