BMW X6 Crossover

Crossover vehicles are perhaps the fastest growing segment of the automotive market. Typically, this marries an SUV body to a car-based platform. What if the reverse were true? Welcome to the new 2008 BMW X6.

The X6 is officially labeled as a Sport Activity Coupe, a pretty sleek 4-door coupe at that.

2008 BMW X6

It sits atop a modified X5 platform and is lower, wider and longer than the X5. Now BMW will likely give me grief for referring to the X5 as an SUV platform and it really is not in the truest sense of the term, but its as close as you are likely to get from this manufacturer.

An aggressively portioned front end flows back towards a chopped roofline and back over a sharply angled fastback rear window. The rear section is a delightful visual element not seen in this class of vehicle. BMW is taking a bold departure from the status quo, but its unique vision of automotive design clearly differentiates it from many other luxury manufacturers reluctant to boldly go where no car has gone before.

In North America the X6 will be offered with two power plants: a 3.0L twin-turbocharged engine producing 300 hp and a 4.4L V8, also twin-turbo charged, that cranks out a heady 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. European buyers will likely choose between the two diesel options available to them.

My tester was the x-Drive35i. It comes with BMW’s fabulous x-Drive system standard – it shuttles torque between the front and rear axles as traction permits. A secondary system is then able to split the torque between the left and right rear wheels. It not only alters the torque distribution on acceleration, it also looks after the vehicle when it decelerates – as such it becomes the first line of stability control.

As you enter the vehicle you realize that you are taking a significant step up to get into what appears to be a car-like cabin. Sure enough, the interior feel of the X6 is more like a 6 Series than the X5. The cabin is pure BMW, everything falls logically to hand and the overall feel is like that of a tailored leather glove – it fits just right with no excess and it looks marvelous.

Looking rearward through the rearview mirror reveals a tiny sliver of a rear window, which is, perhaps, the biggest vice of the steeply sloped rear glass. Another telling sign that you’re in a coupe is the seat mounted console located in the rear seat. This limits seating to four, but it does give the rear passengers the feeling one finds in an upscale coupe. The sloping roofline, however, does cut down on headroom for taller riders.

The X6’s 3.0L inline six with its twin turbochargers is one of the sweetest motors ever produced. The small turbochargers split the six cylinders – the front three blow one turbo, the back three the other. This arrangement provides power without the turbo lag found in lesser engines. It’s good enough to cause sweaty palms and a decent adrenaline rush in spite of the 2,220 kilos it’s forced to move. My speed trap tests returned 0-100 km/h figure in the range seven-second range, which is more than respectable, but less than neck-snapping.

For those looking to eat chunks of pavement you will want to graduate to the big 4.4L twin turbocharged model. While it adds an extra 170-kilos to the X6, extra the grunt drops the 0-100-km/h time down to 5.6 seconds. I guess that’s why BMW call it a Sports Activity Coupe.

Handling is another surprise. This steering response is seriously fast and will have the driver looking for slalom cones to navigate. The vehicle accepts steering input without fuss and given the lower centre of gravity and some truly massive tires, the X6’s feet stay firmly planted on the tarmac, even when driven to the limit.

Without track access, I can only say that real world driving experience in the more benign 3.0L model is, well, blissful. A firm ride is what most expect, and the X6 does not disappoint. The optional active suspension system (called Adaptive Drive) is responsible for the negligible body roll and tighter turns. You can firm things up more with the sport setting.

BMW X6 interior

Interior appointments include a multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, heated leather sports seats, a power glass sunroof, 2 levels of BMW premium audio system, on-board vehicle computer and parking assist warning sensors. Optional equipment includes 20-way power adjustable front seats, rear seat mounted 8-inch video screen with two wireless headphones (plays DVD’s or accepts aux inputs), 4 zone individual climate controls, windshield projected heads up display (V8 only) and depending on a slew of available packages, rear mounted camera, DVD based Nav system and soft close (assisted) doors.

Were there any beefs? Seating in a traditional coupe usually means you sit closer to the floor pan with your legs out in front. In a conventional utility vehicle, you’re up higher and your legs drop down to the pedals on the floor at a sharper angle, with your foot bent back. The upright position in the X6 caused my shins to complain after about an hour or so behind the wheel.

Furthermore, BMW bills the six-cylinder engine as being fuel-efficient; the best I could squeeze out of it was 14.5L/100km. However, buyers in this class of vehicle really aren’t making choices with fuel consumption charts in mind.

Potential buyers will also have to remember they are foregoing the storage and cargo room of a typical SUV. BMW rates the cargo room with the rear seat in place at 570 litres – folding down the 60/40-split seats bumps the number to 1,450 litres.

The entire package is truly impressive and offers something that may have been hinted at by other manufacturers, but has not been executed as effectively.

All the individuality, luxury and performance will set you back $63,900 for the xDrive35i. The V8-powered x-Drive50i adds an extra $14,200.