Road tests

BMW X6 35D

It's a mix unlike any other, but will this coupe/SUV cross-breed leave a lasting impression?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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In many ways, the X6 is very impressive. It weighs more than two tonnes, yet accelerates and corners with the verve of a hot hatchback. It’s also striking to look at, plus is impeccably well put together. We can’t ignore the fact that there’s very little room in the back, or that an X5 or 535d Touring would offer a similar experience for less money. But for those who rate being able to stand out above everything else – this is your car!

It’s the car that’s created a new niche in the market: an opinion-splitting mix of coupé and SUV the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Or so BMW would like you to think.

Auto Express first tried the new X6 in the US. But while we were impressed by its engineering and dramatic styling, we were unconvinced by its broader appeal.

Now, the world’s first Sports Activ­ity Coupé has arrived in the UK. So does it make any more sense here, or are our doubts over its lack of space and high price tag still justified?

If BMW’s marketing men are to be believed, the X6 is in a class of its own – and when it comes to the styling, that’s certainly true. It resembles a pumped-up X5 complete with a dramatically sloping roofline, and so is hardly lacking in road presence.

Every panel is new, though, from the sleeker bumpers to the widened wings and that incredible tail. But it’s a big car, and potential buyers would be well advised to specify the optional 20-inch alloys, which help to fill out the flared wheelarches.

At the front, the X6 has a similar face to the X5. And the familiar feel continues inside, with the same dashboard layout. It’s logically arranged and flawlessly put together, and features superb materials.

The driving position is perfect and space up front is generous, although the same cannot be said of the rear. Despite its size, the X6 is a strict four-seater – and passengers over six feet tall will struggle for headroom, due to that sloping roofline.

Boot capacity is a healthy 570 litres with the seats in place and 1,450 lit­res folded flat. And although the area is a little shallow, the hatchback tail makes loading much easier.

Under the skin, the X6 shares a lot mechanically with the X5, but adds BMW’s clever Dynamic Perfor­mance Control (DPC) package. This enhances the traction and stability served up by the xDrive 4x4 system by splitting torque not only between the front and rear axles, but also the left and right-hand wheels.

As a result, it can send power to the tyre with the most grip, depending on the conditions. The set-up works very smoothly, and only under extreme provocation does it make its presence felt, with one wheel clawing at the road surface to maintain composure. Combine this new transmission with a widened track, and the X6 simply flies around corners.

Most impressively, it does so while managing to belie its size. The BMW shrinks around you and is surprisingly agile. Much of the credit for this must go to the steering, which is direct and accurate, and the suspension, which resists body roll well.

Adding to the fun is the 286bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbodiesel powerplant, which features under the bonnet of the X6 35d driven here. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic trans­mission as standard, and provides outstanding performance, thanks to its torque figure of 580Nm.

The benchmark 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in only 6.9 seconds, yet the big X6 is also economical, returning 34mpg on the combined cycle. The oil-burner is refined as well, offering a hushed note at all times.

Other power choices in the range include a 3.0-litre diesel with a single turbo in the 30d. This delivers 235bhp and arrives later this summer. There are two twin-turbo petrol models: a 306bhp 3.0-litre and a 407bhp 4.4-litre V8 for the flagship 44i.

Predictably, the X6 isn’t especially cheap. At just over £44,000, our car costs nearly £1,500 more than the equivalent X5, even though it’s neither as practical nor as spacious.

So what you are really paying for is the styling. BMW is counting on potential buyers to do just that – and judging by the waiting list, it’s right.

RIVAL: Range Rover Sport
Land Rover should have beaten BMW to become the first maker to produce an SUV coupé – remember the three-door Range Stormer concept it revealed in 2004? Still, the Range Rover Sport is a fine machine in its own right. It can’t quite match the X6 for driver appeal or radical looks, but it’s a proper off-roader and a very capable all-rounder.

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