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BMW X6 35d xDrive

Click to view picture galleryThe latest rule breaker from BMW
the new X6. Fast, furious and
  formidably must-have, BMW
s Sports
  Activity Coupe is also packed with
  cutting-edge technology that really
  does deliver driver benefits. And
  with prices starting from 42K, can
  you honestly afford not to buy one?”

SO 4X4 SUVS — OR SPORTS ACTIVITY VEHICLES, (SAVs) as BMW prefers — need to be tall, high-roofed glass houses. Not anymore; because BMW is just about to introduce their new X6 Sports Activity Coupe which goes on sale in the UK from 31 May (2008).

Of the 1,600 X6 vehicles available to UK customers this year, over 1,200 have already been sold. Next year, in addition to around the 7,000 X5 SAVs they sell annually, BMW UK expects to sell 2,600 new X6s.

The X6 takes BMW's X5 to a further and much more radical stage in its development. It takes the X5's design, layout and technical attributes but then adds coupe styling from the waistline up to create a five-door Sports Activity Coupe — a world first, says BMW, and a logical next step in the process of anticipating customer demand.

The X6 sets a new performance benchmark for 4x4 SUVs with the world debut of its unique Dynamic Performance Control rear differential and advanced stability systems, designed and engineered to provide car-like driving and handling capabilities. The vehicle also includes other fuel- and CO2-saving EfficientDynamics elements.

The new model range is BMW's answer to the undoubted success achieved by the Range Rover Sport — it too benefits from a lower roofline over the 'glasshouse' standard Range Rover. Perhaps the X6's only other competitor is the Porsche Cayenne. In answer to that, BMW points to the lack of a diesel engine option for the Cayenne — a major sales issue. However, the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz ML should also be considered as rivals.

BMW UK obviously hopes that customers opting to buy the new X6 will mostly be conquest customers to the brand rather than existing customers moving from BMW's high-selling X5 range. Given that well over 50 per cent of existing X5 sales are for seven-seat models (BMW UK's order books are full until September), the four seats offered in the new X6 will not see many buyers making the change from X5 to X6.

BMW UK believes that the customers who are being attracted to the X6 are buyers who want the command driving position a BMW 'X' product provides, but they also aspire to the sporting style of a coupe. Early adopters looking for something unique in the market and people who must be seen driving the latest premium wheels are certainly candidates for X6 ownership. So, too, are BMW X5 (or any other premium Sports Activity Vehicle or SUV) owners whose family has left home but who still desires a similar car — but one that doesn't scream 'family'.

At launch, the X6 range will consist of three models but a fourth, the 50i (a 4.4-litre, V8 turbocharged petrol), will become available from November this year. For the first time in BMW's history, a model range has been launched solely powered by turbocharged engines: two petrol and two diesels. Both diesel units — 30d and 35d — are sub-225g/km giving a VED Band F rating of 210. Both petrol engines — 35i and 50i — are Band G, with a VED cost of 400.

Prices for the new BMW X6 range start at 41,965. A price for the range-topping X6 50i has yet to be announced, but it is expected to be close to 50K.

BMW UK predict that 85 per cent of X6 sales will be for diesel models with about 12 per cent of customers choosing the flagship 50i turbocharged petrol variant. So far the vast majority of advance order customers have chosen the 35d turbodiesel version, which costs 44,145.

Perhaps this particular moment is not the politically correct time for a high-performance sports coupe wrapped up in a SUV body, with a lower roof and all the aggressive styling looks of a Raid Rally competition car, to be making an appearance. But try telling that to real customers who, as already noted, have snapped up 1,200+ of the 1,600 X6s available in the UK this year — even before the official on-sale date.

Anti 4x4 lobbyists, traffic congestion, high fuel prices, demand for lower CO2 vehicles and ever higher personal taxation levels are all having an effect on new and used car sales. However, customers with plenty of money, and those not worried by increasing costs and who really want to stamp their independence on the type of car they wish to buy — the more outrageous the better — will love the BMW X6.

With prices from in excess of 40K — plus lots more if you specify all the must-have options — the X6 is big, bold, brash. And very fast and capable. It might be a high-off-the-ground 4x4 but forget the X6 being an off-roader. Although it will cope with muddy tracks, snow, ice and flooded roads better than any sports car, the X6 is all about having a high-profile, very fast and capable sports machine.

The X5's imposing front end styling, plus wide stance and five-door layout, has been amalgamated with what looks similar to the upper section of the 6-Series coupe. The X6 is 1,983mm wide (more than the X5) and it is 23mm longer as well, at 4,877mm. The overall height is 1,690mm. Depending on engine size, the X6 weighs in the region of 2.2 tonnes and for the record — in particular for 'lifestyle' owners — the maximum braked towing weight is in the region of 2.7-tonnes.

The X6 carries just four passengers — in luxury. Not five or seven, as does the X5. It has a large tailgate accessing a reasonably large load area (570 litres) that, while marginally less than the X5, can be increased to a substantial 1,450 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded, making it plenty large enough for the golf bags and trolleys.

The steeply raked rear roof section gives the X6 a dramatic sports side profile although it does limit headroom for six-foot tall rear seat passengers. Headroom getting in and out of the rear passenger doors is also limited. The steep angle of the tailgate and high waistline also restricts rear visibility. However, the interior is exceptionally well equipped and of high class.

Engine options consist of four turboed units: the 235bhp 30d and 286bhp 35d diesel units with better fuel economy and low CO2 emissions. For some well-heeled owners economy is nothing more worrisome than how fat the car goes between fill-ups and for them the 408bhp turbocharged petrol unit, the 4.4-litre, V8 50i to be launched in November, will be irresistible. At launch, the 2007 and 2008 International Engine of the Year, the 306bhp petrol twin-turbocharged 35i, is available. For the record, both diesel units fall into the Band F 210 for road tax category and both petrol units are Band G rated, at 400 per year.

All four X6 models utilise elements of BMW's much publicised and highly-rated Efficient-Dynamics programme. Brake Energy Regeneration is standard across the range and combines with active aerodynamics and low viscosity fluids in the steering and transmission systems. Third-generation common-rail technology diesel-engined cars and high-precision direct injection on the petrol models both serve to optimise the combustion process.

In addition to BMW's well known xDrive all-wheel drive system and other handling prog-rammes, the power of the BMW X6 is harnessed by an advanced chassis that incorporates Dynamic Performance Control for the first time on a BMW. BMW says that their new Dynamic Performance Control offers drivers optimum cornering ability courtesy of a complex multi-clutch differential that, effectively, helps drive the vehicle around a bend. This feature is fitted as standard to all X6 models.

A conventional differential wastes power through wheel-slip during cornering. A limited-slip differential locks-out an unloaded wheel to transfer drive to the wheel with most grip — but the locked wheel can act as a drag on performance. However, Dynamic Performance Control improves on the traditional, performance-oriented limited-slip differential because it allows an inside wheel to still deliver power and provide drive, while at the same time sending more drive to the outside wheel that has more grip. The result, combined with one of the most advanced stability control systems available, is a vehicle that out-performs the current benchmark BMW X5 and some sports cars in terms of dynamic capability.

In real life this technology really does work. Driven back-to-back on a test circuit against the latest X5 — considered to be a handling class-leader for SUVs — the new X6, fitted with all the standard and optional handling packages, literally leaves it standing. The agility and control of the X6 for such a large and heavy vehicle at high speeds is outstanding and the grip totally predictable.

On the open road, the big alloy wheels and huge wide tyres can give an unsettled ride over poorer surfaces but in general the ride is comfortable, quiet and with little body roll even when the X6 is hustled along. Huge mileages over normal A and B roads, traffic conditions permitting, can be covered by this vehicle in a short time. You can travel very quickly, very easily with no sensation as to the true speed of the vehicle — eerie, in the nicest possible way!

The result of all this technology is a unique Sports Activity Vehicle or 4x4 Coupe — call it what you will, but it has great engines and an industry-leading array of drivetrain technologies. The styling people will like or loathe; the fact it only has four seats will be an advantage for some and a disadvantage for others; and for many people the X6 will be a pointless exercise. However, the fact that it is so different and so distinctive will appeal to many users. And you can be sure that the technology under the skin of the X6 will be used in more and more 4x4 and sports models as it unquestionably sets new standards in handling for big and heavy machines.

Is it for you? If you're looking to find faults, then you'll have to look pretty hard. Limited rear headroom for taller passengers, styling that's a step too far for some people and the fact that it will upset the anti-4x4 brigade are not really strong enough reasons to look elsewhere. On the other hand there's much to recommend the X6, including road presence, bold and unashamed styling, great agility for such a large vehicle, power and performance aplenty, a first class 'command' driving position and a well equipped and premium class interior.

Now is probably a very appropriate moment to remind you that there are less than 400 X6s left to go around for the rest of 2008. And they're going fast. — David Miles

BMW X6 35d xDrive
| 44,145
Maximum speed: 147mph | 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 22mpg | Power: 286bhp | Torque: 427lb ft
CO2 220g/km | VED Band F 210 | Insurance group 19