If there's one vehicle out there on the new car market that I've got mixed feelings about, it's the BMW X6. Is it a 4WD? Is it a sports car? Is it an SUV with an identity crisis? Is it any good? Well, until BMW sling an X6 press car our way we won't be able to answer that last one, however for now we can at least tell you about what lies beneath the X6's shapely sheetmetal and what makes this machine tick.
Without a doubt, the most noteworthy feature of the X6 range is its engine line-up. There's just two motors on offer for the Australian market - a petrol and a diesel - and they both sport a pair of turbochargers, so all you forced-induction fiends take note. The petrol engine is the same award winning 3-litre twin-turbo inline-six that powers the 335i and 135i, which produces 225kW and a very useful 500Nm of torque. In the X6 xDrive35i, this engine is able to propel the 2145kg vehicle to 100kph in a swift 6.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 240kph.
Fuel consumption is impressive for a car of this size too, with the combined test cycle delivering an average fuel economy of 12.1 litres per 100km. CO2 emissions are on the low side for this type of vehicle at 286g/km.
The X6 xDrive35d makes use of BMW's 3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, which despite being an oil-burner manages to deliver some worthwhile performance numbers. The 0-100kph sprint is taken care of in a respectable 6.9 seconds, while top speed is just a few clicks lower than the xDrive35i at 236kph. At 210kW power is slightly down on the petrol motor, however torque - always the diesel's forte - is substantially greater at 580Nm.
This makes the diesel the thriftiest of the two models, with just 9 litres of the black stuff being needed to haul the 2185kg xDrive35d over 100km. That gives the diesel a theoretical range of 944km on a single 85-litre tank, even more if most of the driving is done on a highway - fantastic for those long country trips. The diesel is also more eco-friendly too, with just 237gm/km of CO2 being emitted from its tailpipes.
The transmission for both models is BMW's excellent 6-speed sports automatic gearbox, which also features a pair of paddle-shifters behind the wheel. Unfortunately, these paddles still work on the unintuitive principle of being pulled to go up a gear and pushed to go down a gear, rather than having one paddle control upshifts or downshifts. Thankfully, you can still row through the gears in a more natural fashion through the gearlever's plus-minus plane.
Taking power to the road is BMW's xDrive AWD system, which is also combined with what BMW terms "Dynamic Performance Control". Where xDrive controls the front/rear torque split, Dynamic Performance Control (DPC) varies the torque distribution between the left and right wheels, giving the X6 the ability to keep the power on during cornering without losing traction and wasting energy through spinning wheels.
Consisting of electronically-controlled front and rear differentials and a set of G-sensors, the DPC system can also be likened to the Lancer Evolution's Active Yaw Control and Honda's SH-AWD system, which apportion torque between the left and right wheels to correctly compensate for the different rotational speeds of each wheel during cornering.
Sadly, Australia misses out on the range-topping xDrive50i, the 300kW, 600Nm, twin-turbo, V8-powered monster that is perhaps the only one in the range that truly fits BMW's claim that the X6 "redefines the concept of a sporting coup?? for the 21st century". Then again, do we really need a 2.2 tonne "Sports Activity Coupe" that can do 0-100kph in 5.5 seconds? Maybe, but what we certainly don't need is the fuel bill that comes with it.
Besides, the xDrive35i and xDrive35d look like the best all-rounders of the X6 line-up, and we've got no doubt that BMW will sell every one they make. BMW shares that sentiment too, and says that the X6 will appeal to new-car buyers wanting the stance and utility of the X5, with the sportiness of a coupe. BMW expects there'll be some cannibalisation of X5 sales, however they're also expecting several buyers to "cross over" (get it?) to the X6 from other brands. The petrol-powered X6 xDrive35i will cost $144,705 AUD once it lands in BMW showrooms across Australia on August 11, while the diesel xDrive35d will retail for $120,530 AUD.
If you want one though, you'd better be quick: BMW has only allocated a few hundred X6s to Australia for 2008 and 2009 and according to BMW Australia's marketing manager Tom Noble a large number of these are already spoken for. You heard the man, grab your chequebooks and nab yourself an X6 while you still can!