Photographs tend to mask the X6’s real size; it’s actually both longer and wider than an X5. Thanks to its more acutely raked windshield and shallower side glass, though, the X6's roof is around 60mm lower.
Practicality has clearly been a secondary consideration, with entry to the rear severely restricted by the intrusion of the large rear wheel arches into the door apertures, and rear seat headroom compromised by the heavy curvature of the roof. In an odd move, BMW has also decided to equip it with just four seats – a move that’s clearly aimed at separating it from the X5, which now comes with the option of a third seat row to boost its seat count to seven in total.
Based on the same four-wheel drive underpinnings as the second-generation X5, the X6 receives new driveline components that add to its dynamic prowess. Central among them is DPC (Dynamic Performance Control) – an advanced new torque vectoring system which allows the engine’s reserves to be apportioned not only between the front and rear axles dependant upon grip, but also between the individual rear wheels, in a process that is claimed to provide more neutral handling.
The idea is to direct drive to where it can be used most effectively, in an operation not dissimilar to that of a traditional locking differential on a rear-wheel-drive car. Unlike similar systems developed by its rivals, DPC operates both under load and on the overrun, meaning the X6 continues to be stabilized even when the driver steps off the throttle mid-corner.
During understeer, it automatically directs the majority of drive to the rear wheels and loads up the outside rear wheel, providing additional turning momentum beyond that generated by the steering. During oversteer, it essentially reverses the action, sending the majority of drive to the front wheels and loading the inside rear wheel.
Other changes over the X5 include a 60mm stretch in rear track. The ride height also drops by 10mm, reducing the X6’s ground clearance to just 202mm. The lower roof also helps reduce the car’s centre of gravity by around 30mm, according to Hans Krausche, head of BMW’s chassis development.
We can’t tell you much about the engine line-up just yet. BMW would only admit that the prototypes we drove ran developments of its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. The German car-maker is tight-lipped on the actual outputs of each unit, although it does hint that power will be extended beyond the 306bhp and 286bhp seen in other BMW models.
Also planned to head into the X6, but yet to be made official, is a turbocharged version of BMW’s 4.8-litre V8 with around 410bhp. There will also be a hybrid version.
What’s it like?
For a big and heavy SUV, the X6 possesses a healthy turn of speed and is remarkably agile through tricky combinations of corners.
A new eight-speed automatic gearbox provides a wide spread of ratios that help make the most of the engine’s strong torque characteristics. For the most part, it shifts smoothly, but can prove indecisive with an odd pause between shifts when you’re really hauling along. Paddles behind the steering wheel allow you to shift manually, as does the electronic shift lever.
BMW’s not making any official performance claims just yet, but expect the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol-powered X6 to hit 60mph in under 7.0sec, on the way to an electronically limited 155mph top speed. It’s all helped by a standard brake energy regeneration system that decouples the alternator under acceleration and uses energy created under braking to recharge the battery.