Striking looks, stunning pace... the SUV ‘coupé’ is a strong choice

Few cars stand out like the X6. On top of the bold styling, it serves up impressive refinement and an upmarket cabin, and it feels like a luxury product. Add in the excellent diesel engine and composed handling, and it’s difficult to fault.

The X6 is one of those models you could never lose in a car park! Not only is it big, it’s also as bold as they come. The idea of a coupé-bodied off-roader won’t make sense to the average car buyer, but this BMW isn’t for them.

Instead, it’s designed as a sportier version of the X5, and sits on the platform of the big-selling SUV. The lower bodywork is barely changed from that car, although its sloping rear end and tall tail are unique. The X6’s coupé aspirations are most obvious in the back, where the sweeping roofline affects headroom. A storage tray replaces the centre seat, so it’s strictly for four – despite the huge dimensions. But there’s plenty of rear legroom.

The load area is long, too. At 570 litres, the BMW’s boot is 25 litres smaller than the X5’s and 30 litres up on the Cayenne’s. Yet it’s blighted by a high lip – this is down to the blunt rear end, which also makes visibility terrible. Even small cars can be obscured in the vast blind spot beneath its elevated window line, so it’s a good job parking sensors are fitted as standard. A £350 reversing camera can also be specified.

Up front, the interior is high quality. The chunky steering wheel and heavily bolstered seats add to the sporty feel, although the X6 doesn’t yet have the latest generation of the iDrive cabin control system seen in the new 3 and 7-Series. Drive the X6 and you get a lofty view, as you do in the Cayenne, but the BMW is 79mm longer and 55mm wider than the Porsche. That makes negotiating narrow lanes and city streets a real challenge.

The firm’s 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo diesel is bursting with torque across the rev range, and makes light work of hauling the X6’s hefty 2,110kg kerbweight around. With an extra 45bhp and 30Nm more torque, it’s quicker to respond than the 130kg heavier Porsche. The X6 is more refined than its rival, too, delivering turbine-like smoothness and a hushed idle note. To underline its appeal, the BMW is cleaner and more efficient. Better still, its chassis is as impressive as its engine, with body control and grip that seem to defy the laws of physics.

You simply don’t expect a vehicle this big and heavy to corner as well as the X6. The clever xDrive 4x4 transmission and stability control systems make it almost impossible to reach the limit of grip on the road. And helped by the optional electric damper control fitted to our test car, it rides surprisingly well, too. The dynamic package isn’t flawless. At low speeds, the 20-inch wheels (an £875 option) crash over bumpy surfaces and the steering is heavier than most rivals. The optional Active Steering set-up (£190) provides greater agility over all surfaces.

Driving an X6 is a bold statement, however you choose to look at it. In terms of practicality, the slightly cheaper X5 is a much smarter alternative. But the more powerful, distinctive and exclusive X6 is a tough rival for the Porsche to beat.

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WHY: Coupé-styled SUV has bags of street cred, and is the ultimate, sporty on–road 4x4

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