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A superb blend of serene interior, sharp dynamics and provocative looks

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.

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James Read 14 April 2008

Re: BMW X6 xDrive50i

Jon Hardcastle wrote:

You are right, they start out small, but require rather alot of things taking along, prams, seats, feeds, nappies, spare clothes. The list is endless, but in reality you don't need a big car.

Look at it this way, when I was a nipper (born in 67), child seats were not in existence, so baby would go on the back seat in a cot! prams did not fold up and so wheels and chassis would go in boot of car (albeit, mainly estates), nappies were not petite pampers but bloody great terry toweling. Babies change bag with spare clothes, feeds etc. resembled that of Sherper Tensings back pack. Add in that cars (Whilst being estates) were smaller and people managed. Also add in that there was me and my brother, mum and dad all packed up in a Hillman Avenger estate. No problem.

Now, it's true that cars have grown in size since I was born and baby clobber has shrunk or can be shrunk to fit in car boots. Tell me why people need bigger cars?

Therefore, Niall your question is a valid one.

Jon, people like bigger cars because having more space is easier and more comfortable. Niall's question is naive; he's clearly never had any children. Anyone who has, knows that the amount of stuff you have to carry around from pushchairs to high chairs to bikes to sterilisers to suitcases etc etc etc is more than you would ever think.

There's little more frustrating than having to jigsaw pack a car and having to try several times to get everything in. Far easier to have a bigger car where you can throw everything in the boot easily and everyone can sit in the car in comfort without having to rub elbows together. The fact that you and your Mum and Dad got all your clobber in a Hillman Avenger only proves that when needs must that you can just about do it. Much better though, I would have thought, to have a bigger car if you need the space ? With one child, you can easily manage with a normal saloon car but when you've got three children like me then a large car is the only way it can be done if jigsaw packing is to be avoided and comfort is desired.

NiallOswald 8 April 2008

Re: BMW X6 xDrive50i

I believe my first ever car journey was in a Mini, from Scotland to Bedfordshire, in the company of my mother and a very unhappy cat!

My parents did buy a Volvo 240 estate after that, I remember four of us spending three weeks walking in three different places in Scotland quite happily with the contents of that car.

I guess you could argue the safety line, but with 5-star NCAP-rated small hatchbacks available, it's doesn't really stand up. In the 80s, buying a Volvo did, and the aforementioned 240 proved its worth in that department a couple of times!

Jon Hardcastle 8 April 2008

Re: BMW X6 xDrive50i

NiallOswald wrote:

Am I alone in not getting the whole 'got a baby, need a big car' thing? Unless I've missed something, babies are small.

You are right, they start out small, but require rather alot of things taking along, prams, seats, feeds, nappies, spare clothes. The list is endless, but in reality you don't need a big car.

Look at it this way, when I was a nipper (born in 67), child seats were not in existence, so baby would go on the back seat in a cot! prams did not fold up and so wheels and chassis would go in boot of car (albeit, mainly estates), nappies were not petite pampers but bloody great terry toweling. Babies change bag with spare clothes, feeds etc. resembled that of Sherper Tensings back pack. Add in that cars (Whilst being estates) were smaller and people managed. Also add in that there was me and my brother, mum and dad all packed up in a Hillman Avenger estate. No problem.

Now, it's true that cars have grown in size since I was born and baby clobber has shrunk or can be shrunk to fit in car boots. Tell me why people need bigger cars?

Therefore, Niall your question is a valid one.