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The BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupé: An Insider’s Personal View

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Story by Robert Dexter

I have been a proud part of the BMW Group Canada organization since 1991; it is perhaps inevitable that I am seriously addicted to the entire range of BMW Group products. They just keep getting better and more exciting with each generation! Whether it’s the latest M3 or any other model, we all know they just keep pulling that proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

My career with BMW began in the Training group, but more recently I’ve worked as a product Group Canada Corporate Communications. This means I occasionally have the good fortune to drive new BMW models; believe me, this is a privilege that never loses its thrill. I recently had the opportunity to drive the new BMW X6 xDrive35i—what a delight. This new model exceeded even my high expectations.

This year’s BMW “product offensive” included introductions of both the BMW 1 Series and a new generation of the M3 family. These are both hard acts to follow, but the new BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupé is such a unique and well-executed new concept that it just serves to underscore the relentless creativity and vision of BMW’s designers and engineers. First, the visuals. While I had seen lots of photos of the X6, nothing prepared me for the impact of seeing it in the flesh for the first time.

This vehicle has presence! The combination of high waistline, huge wheel arches with massive wheels (the standard is 19” but our press car had the optional 20-inchers) and imposing ride height gives the X6 a powerful, muscular profile and ensures it looks seriously “planted” on the road. The X6 also has a roofline that steeply is raked behind the b-pillar, meaning it exudes Coupé styling. From the rear, with its wide flanks, footprint and abbreviated rear glass, the X6 is downright intimidating. From any angle, this vehicle manages to convey both elegance and a genuine “road warrior” appeal.

When I stepped into the driver’s seat, my first impression was of the commanding view of the road the X6 gave me; its impressive ride height had me surveying the local traffic from what felt like a lofty promontory. My second impression, which was just as powerful, was of space and sumptuousness; the Nevada leather interior coddles both driver and passengers in richly sculpted contours crafted from premium materials. Later, when I took a turn as a rear-seat passenger, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the striking Coupé roofline did not intrude on headroom for my six-foot frame; in fact, the rear cabin, with its independent climate controls and centre console, was the most comfortable Coupé rear seat position in my experience so far.

A lift of the X6’s tailgate revealed what truly is a cavernous and well-appointed cargo area, especially for a Coupé. At 725 litres with the rear seats up, it easily swallowed luggage and ski gear for four (not including boards and skis). It also has a deep below-deck storage area for valuables (I used it for camera equipment, wallets and purses); this is a great feature for a paranoid like myself!

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The “activity” aspect of the new X6 certainly played out well for me on my weekend ski trip, and I’m sure that golfers will not be disappointed with the X6’s ability to transport four duffers and their equipment. Driving the new X6 was every bit as surprising and gratifying as its powerful look. Because some of its DNA is derived from the BMW X5, I was frankly expecting that the X6 would deliver an X5-like driving experience (and we know how impressive that is). But surprise, surprise: BMW’s canny engineers have clearly dialed-in handling dynamics more closely aligned with the X6 xDrive35i’s “Sports Coupé” orientation.

The X6 is nimble and agile, as befits its BMW genes, but is surprisingly light-footed for a vehicle of its scale and weight. Much of this is attributable to the X6’s robust chassis, sophisticated suspension and chassis dynamics, but the X6 also sets new standards by virtue of a new technology introduced for the first time on the X6—Dynamic Performance Control. Now, the BMW xDrive’s intelligent, all-wheel drive stability control system is standard equipment on the new X6 and across all BMW xDrive models. It seamlessly controls the distribution of power between the front and rear axles and instantaneously adjusts to driving conditions.

This is impressive enough. However, the Dynamic Performance Control feature (which is standard for now only on the X6) is a sophisticated innovation which ensures the variable distribution of power between the two rear wheels. While this sounds subtle, it adds a whole new level of steering precision and agility, both on acceleration and deceleration, in all road conditions. It was certainly a welcome addition on my ski weekend in Quebec, where the snowfall had reached record levels. The combination of xDrive and Dynamic Performance Control actually made the snow covered roads feel somewhat irrelevant

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As for the engine in the new X6 xDrive 35i… I have had plenty of experience with our 3.0 litre six-cylinder, twin-turbo, direct injection engine in the 335i and 535i models. Suffice to say that the 300 hp/300 ft-lb powerplant, voted International Engine of the Year last year, took everyone by surprise on introduction, creating a new benchmark for performance and efficiency. Mated up with the silky-smooth 6-speed sports automatic transmission with standard steering-wheel mounted paddle-shifters, the 3.0 litre twin-turbo six is right at home in the X6.

With its torque curve kicking in at a low 1,400 rpm and hanging on through 5,000 rpm, the power rolls on like a turbine, projecting the X6 xDrive35i from 0-100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, enough to keep the X6 in front of most of the pack while delivering an excellent combined fuel economy rating of 12.4 l/100 km. As you read this, the X6 xDrive35i will be rolling out of the Spartanburg, South Carolina plant and as of April 26. While the twin turbo six should provide enough fire for most, some may want to wait for the X6 xDrive 50i, arriving later this summer.

Coming with an all new 5.0 litre, twin-turbo, direct injection V8 with 400 hp and a thundering 450 ft-lb of torque, the 50i will scoot from 0-100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds, putting it in a league of its own. Either way, the world’s first Sports Activity Coupé will be on a lot of people’s shopping lists! Given my incredible driving experience with it, I am certain that it is destined to successfully stake out its own unique place in the market—and the BMW lineup—by setting a new benchmark for innovation and driving agility.

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