HAS BMW MADE A FROG OR A SPORTS CAR?
- 25 March 2013
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BMW X6 xDrive30d review
Road tested by Blake James in Germany.
Base price: AUD $111,400 Price as tested: AUD $113,400 before on road costs (metallic paint).
Standard features: Dual zone climate control, front and rear park distance control, rear view camera with top view, cruise control with automatic braking function, BMW head-up display, xenon headlights for high and low beam, power windows, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with steering wheel mounted controls, split folding rear seats, automatic tailgate operation, hill decent control, leather trim, 19” alloy wheels, steering wheel gear shift paddles, 8-speed sports automatic transmission, BMW professional navigation.
Pros: Attracts allot of attention. Handling is very good for such a massive car.
Cons: Engine has too much weight to carry around. In base model form at least, this is not a sports car as BMW suggests.
As I write this review I am sitting in the back of a BMW X6. Surprisingly, my 187cm frame has just enough head room, reasonable leg room and allot of elbow space to play with. With my test cars beige leather and dark bamboo grain/aluminum trim, it’s a pleasant place to spend time. On the motorway it is quiet and all the materials are high quality and soft touch, even the ones low down. I’d still be more comfortable in a 5 series though, due to the X6’s sloping roof line.
Still, the sloping roof line does at least make the car look like a coupé, according to BMW. This is debatable. What is not in question however, is how much attention this car attracts on the road. Especially with the beige leather, everyone who passes by wants to have a look to see who is driving. You get a warm gooey feeling that makes you feel like you are better than everyone else.
To be honest, this is the only reason I could think of for buying the BMW X6. But then, I drove the X6 through a winding mountain pass in Kochel, Germany and my opinion began to change. The speed at which this thing can take corners is amazing. Turn in aggressively and there is impressively little body roll. Your confidence keeps on building and you go faster and faster, wondering when the grip levels will end.
They do end, of course, into a rearward slide, followed by more four wheel drive grip. It really does defy belief. The thing is, because the car is so heavy, you would never call it sports car fun.
The ride does suffer as a result of the performance handling. Even in this base model diesel, you do feel everything on the road beneath you. This could be good or bad, depending on your point of view. The thing is, the sound isolation from the bumps is quite good. It’s an odd combination of ride and handling that I have not experienced before. Generally, it works quite well. Approach the X6 thinking it’s a sports car and you will be disappointed. But approach the X6 thinking it’s a four wheel drive with great handling, and you will be delighted.
My only major gripe is, the X6 is getting on a bit, and it feels that way inside. After stepping out of a new 1 series, it is clear the X6 is now a generation behind when it comes to BMW interior design and technology. Still, you could do much worse. And I suppose with the right options you can make this car look quite special. For example you could specify 20” wheels and a paint finish from BMW individual. How about matching the exterior of the car to your favourite sweater or pair of pants?
Engine and transmission
My test car had a 3.0 liter straight six diesel engine. It’s very commonplace now in several BMW’s in different states of tune. This one has 180kW @ 4000rpm and 540Nm @ 1750-3000rpm. It’s smooth and powerful enough, despite the 2075kg the engine has to lug around. There is however, a distant diesel clatter under full acceleration that has been eliminated in several competitors’ cars. In the right gear at the right RPM, the engine does sound lovely and meaty. Thankfully, the crisp 8 speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters make this easy to achieve.
When you want to get a bit of a lick on, change down a gear or two and ride the engines torque from around 2000rpm – 3000rpm. You will pick up pace quickly while enjoying a nice engine note and getting reasonable fuel efficiency for such a mass of metal. In the real world, with city driving and motorways, you should see 9l/100km if driven with some care. Drive around town and keep your foot down, and expect to see 11.5l/100km. My trip over 900km averaged 9.5l/100km. This included around 15% high speed autobahn, 50% country roads, 20% city and 15% mountain thrashing.
As you would expect the gearbox is smooth, quick and doesn’t really make itself known in any driving condition. In summary then, the engine and gearbox are rather nice, but not BMWs best effort. Much of this is because of the cars weight.
On a positive note, adding passengers and luggage doesn’t seem to perceptibly change the sensation of pace inside the car, thanks to the engines massive dollop of torque.
Here the X6 is a mixed bag. The boot is big enough if a little shallow. The rear seats fold forward so longer items are not a problem. However, the sloping roofline means you’re not going to get taller items like plants in as easily as a BMW X5. There is the usual array of cup holders. Two in the front, two in the rear, as well as the door bins. There is also the split folding glove box that is a novelty if nothing else.
The X6 has poor visibility. A Porsche 911 is easier to see out the back of. And the windscreen is quite shallow, thanks to the coupé like design. This means you have a limited view even looking forward. I found myself at some traffic lights having to stretch my neck to see when the lights went from red to yellow (as they do in Germany before they turn green).
Leg room for the front passenger is also limited, presumably because there are various suspension/electronic items hiding behind the footwall. Not the most practical car.
Some people say it looks like a frog from the back. BMW says it looks like a coupé. I’m going for somewhere in between. It does at least stand out and look different. It looks less boxy for example than a Porsche Cayenne. The only time I found the car a little ungainly looking is from straight on at the front. Think of it this way. I didn’t feel embarrassed driving around in one.
The BMW X6 really is very unique. It’s hard to criticize the little things when the X6 looks almost like a high riding coupé, and handles corners better than you might expect. When I first drove this car I didn’t particularly like it. I thought the ride was too firm, the car too heavy and the interior slightly cramped. However, as the days rolled on it grew on me. I learned how to get the best out of the engine. I got used to the ride and was able to appreciate the stunning handling.
Only trouble is, the handling was so good, my passengers felt rather unwell.