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First Drive: 2015 BMW X6 Review by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

2015 BMW X6 Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
Henny At Speed : 2015 BMW X6

The One and Only, is still the one and only in its class

By Henny Hemmes
Sr. European Correspondent

     • SEE ALSO: BMW Buyers Guide

2015 BMW X6 Review (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6

In 2008, with the debut of the X6 Sport Activity Coupe, BMW started a new segment. Its design with the aggressive front and the steeply raked roofline generated a lot of comments; positive and negative. But the introduction of the X6 turned out to be very successful and so far BMW has sold more than a quarter million units.

2015 BMW X6 Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6

The premium 4-door coupe did not only start a new segment, it is still the only model on offer in this class. The new X6 will be introduced to global markets in December, but it will loose that exclusive status by mid 2015, when Mercedes introduces the MLCoupe. Porsche is expected to follow not much later with a similar body style, based on the Cayenne.

In the meantime, BMW has a chance to highlight the qualities and capabilities of the new model to potential customers, including the owners of the current X6.

2015 BMW X6 Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6

The second generation is not completely new, but a thoroughly renovated version of its predecessor. Designer Tommy Forsgren showed us what has changed and explained that the changes were not only design details, but also improved the vehicle's aerodynamics. For example, the bigger X-shape of the nose with the larger headlights and deeper radiator grille, the active air plate control (horizontal ‘plates’ in the big air intakes at the front) and the air breather and air curtains that help route air along the sides of the X6. Combined with the changes at the rear, such as the lower and more pronounced deck lid and the sharp edges in the glass of the rear lights they resulted in an improved coefficient of drag, which dropped from 0.34 to 0.32 Cd.

BMW had two models available for the first drives on a lovely scenic route near Spartanburg, South Carolina. I started my drive with the X6 xDrive50i. Its 4.4-liter V8-engine is carried over from the outgoing model but delivers 450 hp with 479 pound-feet of torque, up 50 hp and 27 lb-ft. It has BMW’s TwinPower turbo technology that features two turbochargers, direct injection and fully variable valve control, which max torque available between 2000 and 4500 rpm. The engine works together with the 8-speed speed Steptronic Sport transmission.

The V8 is a magnificent machine, but there is something I really miss: the typical V8-rumble. When I later told this to one of the engineers, he said: “We are working on this….” I guess that they will put some kind of a valve in the exhaust that you can control by a push on a button.

We were also invited to take the new X6 to the handling course and off-road track of BMW’s Driving Experience center nearby. This offered a great opportunity to get familiar with the new model’s capabilities, which are difficult to test on the public roads. I drove off with the xDrive50i to the handling course, where our exercises started with a slalom. After setting the X6 in Sport+ mode and quickly accelerated with launch control activated, it was easy to steer the big car along the pylons. I was surprised by its agility, something I had not expected of a car weighing 4,949 pounds. It was the same feeling at the handling course: you certainly realized you're in a heavy car, but the weight transfer going from a right hand corner into a left hand one was better then expected. The X6 definitely is not my preferred car to take to the track, but it is surprisingly fun to drive.

The V8 reacted instantly on even the slightest throttle input and when speeding through the short and longer bends, the car’s stability proved to be impressive. If you take it into the corners after braking hard and then accelerate, there is practically no under or over steer, thanks to the torque vectoring technology of the xDrive-system’s rear differential. It is part of the optional Dynamic and Professional adaptive suspension package and varies the power split between the rear wheels.

As I said, the performance was impressive and unexpected for a vehicle of this size.

But there was more. After changing the white 50i for the M50d, we headed to the off-road course to wade through water that just reached our door sills, and to climb over steep hills covered with rocks and dirt. With even more torque (545 pound-feet) than the petrol engine, the big diesel absolutely effortlessly performed the exercises.

2015 BMW X6 Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6

We even did not have to go out of the car at the highest point to see if there were any traps, or in which direction we had to steer the X6. The front camera showed on the display in the dashboard what our eyes could not see. To safely go down, we pushed the button of the HDC (hill descent control), which holds the car steady at a pre-determined speed, in our case 5 mph. It is interesting to see the 3D graphics showing the car’s body roll and pitch in the display after you activate the new ‘xDrive status’. We realize that the majority of the X6 owners will not take their X6 to such limits. But our short tests proved that the big BMW is able to deal with moderate off-road situations.

BMW expects the segment to grow further and to sell more units of the second generation. As usual, the Germans do not want to mention any figures, so time will have to tell.

2015 BMW X6 Review  (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 BMW X6

The base model will be the 35i with the 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 producing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It will be the first X6 to be available with rear drive or all-wheel drive. On international markets, BMW will also offer two diesel models, the xDrive35d and the X6 M50d. BMW offers the M Performance Packages for the X6, but an M model is not likely to arrive.

Prices of the new X6 xDrive 35i start at $ 61,900 MSRP, while those of the xDrive 50i start at $ 72,900. The 2015 BMW X6 will arrive at dealerships on December 6.