Such a good vehicle despite its oddities

Last updated 13:38 24/01/2013

BMW X6: Contentious styling, but a big seller nevertheless

Relevant offers


Phantom '48 ready for show ASX now on the automatic road From SBW to Super 15 titles One man's planting mission Falcon's farewell still a mystery Supersport the ticket on Kiwi roads Fiesta revamp here next month Levin couple comes up roses Family foray to Manawatu suits all Staunch advocate for Otaki students

Quirky looks fail to disguise a supremely competent car, and Dave Moore finds the BMW X6's faults actually endear it to him.

It's a pointless car, designed to solve a variety of problems no-one has ever really had, and with fastback styling atop an SUV platform, it's like wearing Doc Martens with a ballet tutu.

But then I thought, the late great Merseyside comedian Kenny Everett used to wear just that combination, and everyone loved him.

It might just explain why I loved the BMW X6. Yes, loved it. I can't justify the vehicle's sloping roof line, four rather than five occupant preference and why it costs $14,000 more than a similarly powered and far more practicable X5 - that's the one with a squared-off rear, and up to seven seats - but it drives sublimely, or at least it would have if I had chosen the wheels and tyres rather than BMW.

It also uses so little fuel that you shout at the fuel gauge and tap it constantly, because you don't trust it. But more about that later.

It's not even a dog-lover's car, for all its height and swoopy ruggedness. Not like the X5 can be, so sorry, Ruby (my new border terrier), you don't get your own space and air, like you do with a "proper" SUV, so you're not an X6 kind of passenger.

However, I am. My life-ravaged back demands decent seating, and up front and in the rear, the X6's chairs - seats, as a term, doesn't quite foot it - are superb, even if that standard wheel and tyre combination engenders more winces than fingernails down a chalkboard when traversing the earthquake acne of my favourite city.

After some time with the car, I was actually getting quite fond of its styling.

It has been said that the X6 was styled by a team that used one of those children's books with divided pages, where you can flick over the ring-bound leaves and match up cartoon upper halves with inappropriate lower halves.

I remember in the mists of time that the Queen's top half looked hilarious with a Greek army sentry's skirt, tights and bobble- ended shoes.

But I started to defend it. When fellow car- park users would utter, unbid, things like: "What were you thinking?" and "Geez that's ugly, mate!" - and that's just the women - I'd ask what they drove.

When they answered, I'd shake my head and just go, "Tsk, tsk". Well, I didn't ask their opinion, did I?

In a world of square-rigged conformity - the realm of every other four-wheel-drive out there - the X6 stands out like an intact office block in Christchurch and, to some, that's something worth paying extra for, just as coupes, the less practical two-door versions of sedans cost more because they look a tad different.

Where styling has no effect on a car is in its driving prowess, on and off road, and this car will go off road. I once took an early X6 petrol model from downtown Vancouver on a tour of Vancouver Island with a diversion from Cowichan Bay on the East Coast to the Jordan River surf Mecca on the island's western seaboard. Proper roads ran out not far from Cowichan Bay and we didn't come across anything approaching tarmacadam until we spotted the northwest Pacific surf several watchful hours later.

Ad Feedback

We were watchful, because other cars, even SUVs, ran out about the same time as the properly formed roads did, and the only other vehicles we came across were logging trucks.

We would see their smudge of dust well before they finally loomed into view, and with our wheels rim-deep in flinty gravel, and sometimes pattering over solid, rippled rock formations, the X6 tracked with amazing accuracy and nimbleness and afforded a remarkably effective mode of transport.

The X6's all-wheel-drive system can take much of the kudos for the car's nimbleness. Its sensors can send from zero to 100 per cent of the engine's torque to the front or rear axle, depending on grip, effort and attitude at the time.

Dynamic performance control also monitors and distributes drive to the left and right-hand rear wheels, which improves stability, and it really shows with the X6, whose on-road responses belie its 2.25-tonne weight and relatively tall centre of gravity.

The BMW X6 also features dynamic stability control in which, when traction and grip is in danger of being lost, the brakes are applied selectively to each wheel, stabilising the vehicle.

To my companions, it must have made me look like quite a good driver in the route's semi-wilderness, but it was the car, pure and simple.

The X6 40d test car I drove this summer was even better. It had the same less-than- sensible low-profile wheel-and-tyre combination, but instead of the Canadian car's twin-power turbo-petrol six, it had the good offices of BMW's gurglingly flexible 225-kilowatt, 600-newton-metre twin turbocharged diesel six doing the work, through eight brilliantly sorted gear ratios.

You can opt for three diesel versions of the X6 in New Zealand: the entry-point 180kW, 540Nm $138,000 X6 30d, the $152,000 225kW, 600NM X6 40d (our test car) and the 280kW, 740Nm X6 M50d at $180,000.

Just to confuse things, they all use the same 2993cc 24-valve inline diesel six, with the numbers 30, 40 and 50 denoting their pecking order, power-wise, rather than capacity. Simply, the engines differ in that the bigger the numbers, the harder the turbochargers blow.

If you really want your X6 to fly, there are two turbocharged V8 petrol engines to pick: the X6 50i $176,000 300kW, 600Nm offering, and the $211,600 408kW, 680Nm X6M, which will go from zero to "sorry, officer" in about 4.8 seconds, which is not hanging about at all.

My drive experience in the X6 40d was during our 104kmh limited holiday period, when cruise control is the only tool you have to guard against licence endorsement in such quiet and smooth cars.

Hooked up in cruise control at 100kmh, the X6's tachometer reads just 1400rpm, which accounts for why one particular top- up average was a ridiculous 6.2 litres per 100km - just under 45.6 miles per gallon in old money.

However, you don't buy the X6 for its economy, although travelling more than 1000km between fills is nice. You don't buy it for its total space efficiency, either.

It's not bought as a sports car, either. And it's not a dog-owner's car.

So why would you buy it? Well, you will meet interesting, often opinionated people in shopping-mall car parks, but you will also have four great cosy chairs, a stereo that will knock your socks off and a chassis and engine of inordinate talent that will outperform your common sense any time you like.

- Kapiti Observer

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content