What is it?
Our first steer in BMW’s new ‘SUV coupe’, the X6. The current political climate makes this an unpropitious time to be launching a car like this, with massive levies for cars that produce more CO2 than a diesel supermini on the horizon and the SUV being the subject of derision among the chattering classes.
But BMW isn’t apologising for the X6. It’s a car that’s been designed for the American market, where big still equates to better, but there’s no doubting it’s towering road presence and upmarket image mean it’s going to be popular in the UK as well.
BMW calls the X6 a “Sports Activity Coupe” and says it will appeal to those looking to combine the commanding driving position of an X3 or an X5 with coupe-inspired styling and handling.
What’s it like?
Seen alongside the X5, the pieces start to fall into place. Although it is only 55mm lower than the X5 at it’s highest point, the combination of the heavily sloping roofline and much shallower side glazing makes the X6 look incredibly imposing, even intimidating.
The steeply raked window line further accentuates the car’s deep body sides and dramatically swollen wheel arches. If you regard the Porsche Cayenne as the most indiscreet SUV on the road, it has most certainly been toppled by the X6. The hackneyed ‘Chelsea tractor’ tag will have to be upgraded, too, for something rather more militaristic.
The building blocks of the interior are basically the same as the X5, including the entire dashboard, front centre console and door trims. The cabin is a fine place to be thanks to high quality construction and well thought-out design.
The range-topping ‘xDrive50i’ is hardly short of grunt with 407bhp and 442lb ft from 1750rpm is diesel-like in its low-end shove. It drives BMW’s excellent six-speed auto, which has the ability to ‘lock-up’ and behave more like a manual transmission, eliminating the characteristic ‘slushy’ feel of a conventional autobox.
Despite the 19in wheels and 255/50 tyres, the 50i rides remarkably well, almost uncannily well for a car like this. However, as well as four-wheel drive and the new ‘torque-vectoring’ rear differential, our car was also equipped with Adaptive Drive which alters the anti-roll bar and damper settings continuously. In its standard (non-Sport) setting this X6 was – when cruising - more GT than hard-core coupe.
So, should I buy one?
For long, fast journeys the X6 promises to be a superb place to spend time, with the added bonus of its willingness to be taken by the scruff of its neck and driven hard.
The problem is that the serenity of the X6’s occupants will be inversely proportional to the rage and irritation felt by those caught in its wake. Bizarrely, the X6’s provocative appearance is entirely at odd with the zen-like calm of its interior.
But on first impressions, BMW has done it again – creating a niche within a niche. Whether you love or loathe the concept behind it, the X6 promises to be another roaring success.