Innovation & Design

Test Drive: BMW X6


Taking a spin in the world's first SUV-coupe crossover

Why do people like some cars and dislike others? There are all sorts of reasons for sure, but there aren't so many cars that one both likes and also dislikes. The BMW X6 takes this a stage further in being a design that is likable and unlikable for the same reason.

Discounting the Ssangyong Actyon, the X6 is the world's first SUV-coupe crossover (the Munich-based manufacturer calls it a Sports Activity Coupe). And in marrying of these two leisure lifestyle-signifying car types we have the crux of the X6 identity, and the reason we both loved and hated it.

Jump in, just like an X5—the broad and chunky yet svelte driving environment is a familiar sight—albeit with your head slightly closer to the header and the roof lining. Clock the head up display and the elephantine door mirrors, engage the digital gear selector that doesn't move into different positions for different gear selections—it works more like a joystick, with an illuminated display on the handle—and power off with surprising élan. The model we tested was the European market only X6 xDrive35d diesel with 286bhp and a prodigious 580Nm of torque. Dynamically it impresses, and with its sharper than SUV responses yet SUV stature, the X6 makes for an even more confidence inspiring on-board feel than any SUV.

In the back, the two rear seats are set slightly inboard of the front ones as the body tapers rearwards, providing nearly as much space as in a 3 series; very comfortable for a six-footer—just. Being a strict four-seater means the rear seats are separated by a cheap looking and hard feeling plastic tray, and they sit facing cheap looking pockets on the back of the front seats.

Strutting around in an X6 is to make clear that you value highly the spacious front seat accommodation and commanding driving position of an SUV over, say, the 6 Series coupe. It says that you enjoy SUV qualities but don't need the space or want the practical image—that you don't want the 'utility' in 'sports utility'. It also says that you have the money to exercise these subtle preferences of yours and spend roughly $20k more than a 3 Series that does the same job (presuming you drive on the road, not off it).

But we loved the X6's subtle combination of SUV and coupe genes, it gelled somehow, and clearly it will appeal to the well heeled empty nesters out there. Yet we also hated it, just as we imagine a growing majority of people will.

BMW makes much of their environmental credentials with their efficient smaller engine cars, their development of hydrogen powered cars for the future and of their high level of recyclability. But with the X6 they are combining the profligate qualities of a fast coupe—powerful engine and reduced scope to carry stuff—with the profligate qualities of an SUV—high drag body and heavy mechanicals. And the result is a car that shouts very loudly about how profligate it is, about just how un-Prius it is.

For sure the X6 will be a success, at least short term, and particularly in the US. It has a strong and unique conceptual appeal, it's a svelte and attractive design, and it sits in the heart of the BMW brand. But there is also something ugly about what this handsome new design says.

Dimensions: height 4877mm; width 2195mm (including door mirrors); height 1690mm; wheelbase 2933mm

Provided by Car Design News—The leading online resource for automotive design

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