Ith a high centre of gravity, heavy weight and compromised handling, off-roaders aren’t really cut out for emergency lane changes – but the bold BMW X6 is no ordinary 4x4.
Billed by the firm as the world’s first Sports Activity Coupé, it takes the lofty height and dimensions of an SUV and merges them with a sporty appearance. Added to this is a chassis that’s tailored to perform on-road rather than off it.
In xDrive35d trim, the smooth 282bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel delivers superb performance, and the X6 cruises with refinement to rival the Mercedes S-Class. But can something that weighs 2,100kg and stands 1.6 metres tall change direction and stop well enough to cope with our tough brake avoidance simulation?
The X6’s composed handling has amazed us on previous road tests, and it has recorded the best stopping distance from 70mph we’ve ever achieved in a big 4x4. Huge 20-inch wheels hide large-diameter discs and, as with the S-Class, it comes with brake assist and drying, plus adaptive tail-lights and corner brake control. The result of this technology is breathtaking braking performance.
Incredibly, the big 4x4 recorded the shortest stopping distance of all our contenders in both the straight-line and avoidance tests. Its ability to change direction and steer around the cones was simply amazing.
Vehicles of this size normally suffer from plenty of lean during sudden changes of course, as well as lots of nose dive under braking. But the X6’s superb body control meant none of these issues arose.
The agility and grip of the BMW was impressive, and is helped in part by the £2,250 optional Adaptive Drive System, which automatically tightens the anti-roll bars. Its physics-defying body control and powerful brakes make this one of the most dynamic and secure SUVs we have ever driven.
It’s also testament to the X6’s mechanical grip that even with the stability control turned off, the BMW changed direction without losing rear end grip. In fact, when you do reach the limit of adhesion, the X6’s default handling balance is for small amounts of understeer.
The level of steering feel in the lane change test was also reassuring. It is heavy at low speeds, so the wheel requires muscular inputs, but it responds sharply, thanks to its variable ratio technology. The German firm’s £890 Active Steering option makes it even sharper.
We already knew the X6 was a superb piece of technology. Now, it’s proved that large SUVs can be made to stop, steer and respond to the toughest of emergency situations better than a standard family car.