Fusion on wheelsJun 8th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Featured Articles, Lifestyle, On Wheels
The BMW X6 is a blend of the best SUV and sports car qualities. Go for it if you can afford it
The X6 possesses a fantastic blend of desirable SUV qualities — high ground clearance, presence and a commanding driving position — with the performance and handling of a sports coupe. It is this blend that forms the massive appeal of this sporty SUV. When put to the test, the BMW X6 xDrive 50i (yes, that’s the ludicrous full model designation) can outpace a Porsche Boxster. To us, BMW’s ‘Sports Activity Coupé’ is like the offspring of an SUV that mated with a sports car. This kind of vehicle will at best be a ‘niche-within-a-niche’ but that doesn’t stop it from being hugely desirable.
There’s a lot more substance to the X6 than its unusual looks would suggest. It shares its platform with the X5, it is a more driver-focused version than the 5, and looks much sportier than a full-fledged SUV.
In actuality, the X6, which is imported into India directly from BMW’s Spartanburg plant in the U.S., shares a lot of its interiors, several of its dimensions and a few mechanical bits with the X5. The wheelbase at 2933mm is the same as the X5’s as is the front track. The rear track, however, is far wider than the X5’s partly because of the new rear differential and partly because of the humongous 315/35 R20 rear tyres. The X6 is just 55mm lower than the X5 at its highest point, but the combination of the sloping roofline and shallower side glazing makes the X6 look incredibly baronial. The steeply raked window line further accentuates the car’s deep body sides and dramatically swollen wheel arches. On the visual front, the X6’s head-turning design comes out ahead of the Porsche Cayenne.
Under the hood, the X6 houses the same direct-injection, 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 that powers the 750Li, and this SUV that boasts 407bhp with a huge 61kgm of torque from 1750rpm is more than grunt-worthy. The car features BMW’s excellent six-speed auto, which has the ability to ‘lock-up’ and behave more like a manual transmission, eliminating the characteristic slushy feel of a conventional auto-box. Sending power to all four wheels via BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the X6 also debuts BMW’s new rear differential — the Dynamic Performance Control. At the heart of the X6’s appeal is its engine. With a diesel-like bottom-end torque that feels more locomotive than automobile, the engine is never short on grunt. The engine musters tremendous thrust that’s instantaneously addictive. 0-100kph is achieved in a hardly-believable six seconds flat and it will cross 200kph in under 25 seconds.
The X6 accelerates to its 250kph (limited) top speed at a phenomenal pace. The gearbox is quick and very obedient, downshifting almost every time we asked it to. While the 4.4-litre V8 engine is restrained in the 750Li, the sporty X6 can afford to be more vocal. Though the SUV idles with a distant hint of an American V8, sounds like a chained beast at part-throttle, and hones in on a refined howl as it closes in on 6700rpm, the sound-effects from this car don’t come close to making it a ‘public-nuisance’. From the inside, the engine’s soundtrack is completely endurable as the cabin is well insulated from unwanted noise, and considering the continental width of those tyres, there’s surprisingly little wind and tyre noise.
The X6’s agility stands apart from other 4WD cars weighing as much as 2,190kg. The SUV’s optional active steering (it increases assistance and speeds up the rack at low speeds, while reducing assistance and applied lock at higher speeds) is accurate and provides fantastic feel. In ‘Sport’ mode, there’s almost no body roll and the X6 remains stable through corners thanks to the adaptive drive system that swivels the anti-roll bars and adjusts damper rates. Once thrown through corners, the massive 315 rear tyres claw into the tarmac, and the xDrive and the new differential sort out any mid-corner traction issues that come your way.
As for the ride experience, you expect the 20-inch wheels and the run-flat tyres to test your spine’s limits over anything less-than-perfect tarmac. But the ride is firm, thumps over sharp bumps, and doesn’t get as uncomfortable as you would expect.
For a car its size, you would expect a lot of space inside but you’ll be disappointed. The X6 is a pure four-seater and rear accommodation — given the slope of the roofline — is not impressive. But with plenty of shoulder room on offer, and the contoured cabin roof that allow as much headroom as possible, we feel that BMW has done what it can. Legroom is perfectly acceptable, but anyone of above-average height will probably feel cramped.
Up front, space is fantastic though. There’s enough headroom, legroom and width to make finding a comfortable position on the snug seats easy. The cabin is a fine place to be in, thanks to its high-quality construction and well thought-out design and the entire dashboard, front centre console and door trims that are essentially the same as the X5.
On looking at the rear windshield, if you think the rearward would be pathetic, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Reversing and parking can be a nightmare in the confines of the city. Though the car has parking sensors, a reverse camera would do more than good in this SUV.
As expected, for an SUV with a high kerb weight and a huge engine, the X6 is immune to fuel efficiency (despite the 85-litre fuel tank).
For the record, we got 3.3kpl in the city and 5.1kpl on the highway. With the X6, the amount of fun you can have driving this car is unbelievable, but only if you have the pockets to pay the price.