These are the first official pictures of the BMW X6, one of 2008’s most intriguing cars. It’s a 4×4 with a coupé body, seriously high performance engines including a 407bhp twin-tubocharged V8 and a trick diff to give it a flavour of the M division’s finest. The X6 is based on the X5’s chassis and shares its wheelbase, but its around 20mm lower and has a wider track, to enhance its dynamic ability.
So this is the car the Porsche Cayenne should have been…
It’s certainly the sportiest SUV so far. While the front end is X5 Xeroxed (aside from the aggressive lower bumper with vast air intakes), get to the windscreen pillars and the two cars go on divergent paths. That’s downwards, in the case of the X6. The roofline tumbles to a slimmer boot, with a wedgy tail. There’s a spoiler atop the rear screen, which is more sports car than SUV – and a clear nod to the X6’s performance bias. The standard wheel measures 19inches in diameter.
How spacious is the X6?
With the X6 being a sports activity coupé (according to BMW-speak), this is a four-seater, like the 3- or 6-series coupés. BMW claims rear headroom is ‘unusually generous for a coupé’ but that means it’s quite tight for an SUV. Although the roof tapers dramatically, compromising vertical boot space compared with a traditional SUV’s, there’s still more capacity than in a 7-series behind the rear seats, which also fold flat to swallow 1450 litres of junk. The dashboard is nigh on identical to the X5’s: the few changes include knee pads on the transmission tunnel and different trims and flourishes.
Enough of boot space – tell me the exciting numbers…
The X6 xDrive 50i, as the top model at launch is concisely named, is the world’s first petrol V8 with twin turbos mounted in the V. The 4.4-litre unit, which also features direct injection, generates 407bhp at 5500rpm and peak torque of 442lb ft from a subterranean 1750rpm. BMW has taken the winning formula from the 335i’s brilliant blown straight six and applied it to its V8, so expect a delicious blast of torque from the merest toe wiggle. The 50i charges from 0-60mph in 5.4sec, just half a second slower than the M3. Staggering. Top speed is 155mph, but drive like an angel and you’ll be getting 22.6mpg and emitting 299g of CO2 every kilometre.
And the other engines?
The 35i runs the 3.0-litre blown six already mentioned. With 306bhp and 295lb ft, the 35i is up there with the quickest hot hatches, despatching the 62mph benchmark in 6.7sec and topping out at 149mph. It consumes 25.9mpg and emits 262g/km of CO2.
The European market will be more interested in the two diesel options, both using the 3.0-litre straight six block. The 35d has variable twin turbocharging, to yield 286bhp and 427lb ft. 0-62mph takes 6.9sec, top speed is 146mph. But fuel consumption should nudge into the 30s (the claimed figure is 34mpg) and 220g/km of CO2.
The base engine is the single turbocharged 30d, with 235bhp and 383lb ft. Its green credentials are little better than the 35d’s, with 34.4mpg and 217g/km of CO2. The 35d takes 8.0secs to hit 62mph and peaks at 130mph on the autobahn.
The X6 utilises fuel saving features from BMW’s Efficient Dynamics programme, so brake energy is harnessed to recharge the battery and the air conditioning compressor is disconnected whenever air-con is off. BMW will top this with a hybrid X6, which will be on sale in 2009.
What about the transmission?
The X6 is equipped with BMW’s xDrive 4×4 system. Torque continuously flows between the front and rear axles depending on driving conditions, to optimise traction, although it is typically split 40:60 front:rear.
The new development for the X6 is Dynamic Performance Control, a rear-mounted diff which also shuffles torque between the left and right wheels. The diff is claimed to dial out understeer or oversteer during hard cornering, creating the sportiest-handling SUV yet claims BMW. With the Dynamic Performance Control diff keeping things tidy, the engineers have increased the threshold at which stability control has to kick in, which should also make for a more dynamic drive. The system also manages wheelspin, by channeling torque to the wheel with the most grip.
All engines are coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, operated by paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
What else do I need to know?
Adaptive Drive – which varies the ride comfort by adjusting the anti-rollbars and damper settings – will be optional. BMW claims its FlexRay system, which captures data from more vehicle sensors more quickly than rival systems, will provide the right balance between comfort and sporting settings, depending on the conditions and how the vehicle is being driven.
Naturally, front, side and curtain airbags are standard and the front seats have active head restraints, to reduce whiplash.
The X6 will land in UK showrooms by autumn 2007. The 3.0-litre diesel will start the range at £41,955, while BMW has yet to announce a price for the X6 xDrive 50i.