BMW's X6, the German automaker's curiously styled four-seat "sports-activity-coupe" crossover, is more than just a new vehicle in a segment made up by BMW's marketing department. The X6 is also a launch pad of sorts for a number of advanced technologies that'll undoubtedly be diffused throughout the rest of the automaker's lineup.
The X6 will come in two variants. The xDrive35i is powered by the now familiar 300-horse, 3.0-liter twin turbo inline-six. But the big stuff what's under the xDrive50i's hood -- a new to the BMW lineup 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8. Both engine variants are mated to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and as the names imply, come standard with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system that sends 40 percent of the power to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear under normal driving conditions.
The new V-8 is rated at 400 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful engine ever available in a BMW sport/ute, easily topping the X5's 350-horsepower, 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V-8. Engine torque reaches its peak at 1800 rpm and stays there until 4500 rpm, which makes the M3's rev-happy V-8 -- with its 295 lb-ft of torque -- seem puny by comparison. BMW says the engine will propel the X6 from 0 to 60 in just 5.3 seconds -- an impressive number for a vehicle likely to weigh well over two tons and just 0.4 second slower than the 500-horsepower Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph on 20-inch-wheel-equipped models
Like the twin-turbo inline-six, the new V-8 uses direction fuel injection and small sequential turbochargers. The turbo units are innovatively packaged along with catalytic converters in the center of the block between the two cylinder banks. This packaging means reduced pressure losses due to shorter intake and exhaust manifolds, improving engine efficiency. And as with the twin-turbo six, BMW has worked hard to use the setup to help eliminate turbo lag, which will be especially helpful on a vehicle as heavy as the X6.
The X6 is also the launch platform for the new Dynamic Performance Control system. Standard on the X6, this computer-operated system distributes power between the two rear wheels and works even if there's no throttle input and can handle a power differential between the two wheels of up to (read more about this system in our X6 preview drive story). It works in tandem with other power and chassis management systems on the vehicle, including traction and stability control, xDrive all-wheel drive, active steering, and Electronic Damper Control to maximize the vehicle's traction in any condition and greatly improve its handling. The X6 rolls on standard 19-inch wheels, with 20-inchers available for the xDrive50i.
Interior space is reasonable. Rear-passenger headroom, a common concern with sloping-roof vehicles, is said to be 37.2 inches -- about 1.8 inches less than in the X5 and 0.9 inches less than in the 5 Series, but 1.1 inches more than in the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class "four-door coupe." Cargo space is a respectable 25.6 cubic feet that balloons to 59.7 with the rear seats folded. Standard BMW fare will be present -- iDrive, navigation, power seats, side, knee, and curtain airbags, power tailgate, rear-seat entertainment system, the works from Bavarian Motor Works. Eleven leather options will be offered along with three trim options, including an X6-exclusive ash grain. In case you missed the X6's sporting pretensions, the bolstered sporty front bucket seats are augmented with kneepads on both sides of the center console to help minimize cramping while cornering.
The X6, first seen in preproduction "concept" form in September at the Frankfurt motor show, will make its world production debut in January at the 2008 Detroit auto show, with sales beginning in the second quarter of the year. Pricing and detailed specifications will be released as the on-sale date approaches. It is not clear exactly at whom BMW is targeting the X6, but the most likely candidates are people who want an SUV that not only goes fast like the Porsche Cayenne, but also looks like it's supposed to go fast. If it succeeds, expect other automakers to hop on the "sports-activity-coupe" bandwagon. Just what we need, another segment.