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The BMW X6 has can reach 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, but it is also able to go off road.

Take a bow, Tommy Forsgren. With his design handiwork, the new BMW X6 looks less like a monster truck tribute and begins to communicate its unique performance potential.

The original 2009 X6 boggled the beholder. Nothing about its appearance – slab-sided sedan jacked up like a hot-rodder's High Rider – suggested what it was up to. BMW called the X6 a Sport Activity Coupe to differentiate it from other X-models it designates Sport Activity Vehicles. Why? To avoid the down-market SUV classification. But what activity? High heels and overalls?

Some 260,000 buyers have recognized its appeal in six years' production, even as millions didn't: The X6 is a three-in-one vehicle: a luxury cruiser, an off-roader, a track car. Product manager Jens Gerloff puts it simply, introducing the X6 as "sportier than a X5."

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Forsgren, the exterior designer, was directed to dial up the excitement accordingly. A raised crease kicking up from the rear wheel alleviates the old slab-sidedness. Headlamps are broadened to reach from grille to fenders – suggesting more width, and tail lamps similarly are more dramatic. Not a lot of change, really, as the 2015 model is a revamp rather than a new vehicle. BMW calls such a facelift a "Life Cycle Impulse." Really.

Whatever your take, one glance and you know a X6 will never ever scrape its nose against a curb or driveway like an M3. For this alone, the condo coupe merits consideration beyond its appearance.

A track adjacent to the X-factory is home to the BMW Performance Driving School. Here we spend the morning.

My get-it moment? Discovering the full-zoot X6 traces the pavement like a low-flying drone, with no lean, no squat – even if it's too tall to feel slotted into the road like an M3. This moment comes with foot-to-the-floor, peaking a blind hill turn on the handling course, 480 lb-ft of grunt pulling the next corner closer, in complete comfort.

Optional adaptive suspension facilitates the fun. The variable sway bars and damping make a huge difference: In Comfort setting, rather than Sport Plus, the X6 staggers around the turns and the safety nanny systems sense impending skids.

Acceleration to 100 km/h is said to be 4.8 seconds. But in our exercise, pylons call for maximal braking just shy of 100, then a slalom course. All calm in the X6.

I'm easily impressed when the off-road course delivers us through 20 metres of water 380 mm deep, excluding the waves rolling forward from the vehicle.

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A forward vision camera comes into play when all you can see through the windshield is sky cresting an off-road peak. Pointing down, the camera affords a view of the descent you otherwise can't see. However, the sounds of splitting fence wood and bending metal and a German-accented voice shouting, "Stop-stop-stop," indicates I've flunked this test and just avoided plunging off the side of the man-made mountain.

But it's time for real roads. Now that the seat belts stop their incessant tugging – their response to sensing impending collisions on track – it's easier to catalogue what's new: the larger glass sunroof, automatic tailgate operation, bi-xenon headlights, knee pads on the centre console.

The Head-Up Display, soft close doors, four-zone climate control, heated rear seats, and Harmon/Kardon sound are ingredients in the $4,900 premium sound package. The options list is long and enticing.

The X6 is destined to remain a mystery to the majority. Those that get it, though, understand.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

TECH SPECS

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  • Base price: xDrive35i $68,890. As tested: xDrive50i, $83,700-$93,240
  • Engines: Twin-scroll turbo, 3.0-litre six; Twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V-8
  • Drive: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): N/A
  • Alternatives: Porsche Cayenne S/Macan S, Audi Q7 Sport, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Mercedes-Benz ML 400/ML63; Range Rover Sport/Range Rover

RATINGS

  • Looks: Like hip waders, designed for off-road, in-water service. Few consider hip waders stylish, so designer Tommy Forsgren added a crease here, a jewel-like complexity there, with mixed results.
  • Interior: Cosy as hip waders – yet elegant, especially with optional leather.
  • Technology: Variable valve timing newly introduced to BMW’s turbocharged engines render both the six-cylinder and V-8 more responsive. Improved airflow within the front wheel wells is among measures contributing to lower drag.
  • Performance: Dazzling. Hefty as it is, the V-8 model can dance. Why? 445 horsepower.
  • Cargo: Ample with the rear seat fully folded.

The Verdict

9.0

On road, off road or in a parking lot, the X6 is pure delight, unless your friends declare it ugly. It's a condo coupe in a class all its own.

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