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- 2009 BMW X6 xDrive50i 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8, six-speed automatic, sport activity coupe - $146,000 (RRP)
Words by Alborz Fallah Photography by Tristan Schoonens
A few years ago when someone mentioned the idea of a sports utility vehicle being fun to drive, I'd spend hours arguing that making a sports car and making a big family "mum's car" is not a process that can be combined. These days I still find myself in the same argument, but on the other side.
I think of BMW as a car company, the same way I think about Christian Bale (Batman) as an actor. Both are brilliant at what they do and they do it based on a philosophy and a set of beliefs.
BMW takes its cars very seriously, and is not going to start designing front-wheel drives all of a sudden to save costs. It is not going to take the sporty fun factor out of its cars to save costs. BMW makes cars fun, Christian Bale makes movies worth watching and I salute both.
I previously drove the X6 xDrive35i, the twin-turbo, six-cylinder version of BMW's Sport Activity Coupe (SAC) and fell in love with it. Sure, it was a little awkwardly shaped and sure it was a little impractical, but it was fun. It made sense!
A few weeks ago I got a call from the lady at BMW wondering if the idea of a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 X6 sounded like something I'd be interested in! Needless to say I was half way to Brisbane BMW before the phone call was over.
So what do you do when you have 24-hours, 300kW, 600Nm, a full tank of fuel and a car that sounds like an Apache helicopter gunship? You go to yoga.
Well, you go to yoga for two hours.
I was thinking to myself on the way to yoga that, here I am, driving a car that is born out of the idea that building an even faster car, with an enormous amount of power and torque and one that can make lots of intoxicating noises, is a good thing. It became kind of hard then to spend the next two hours in silence, peace and relaxation.
The yoga centre car park went something like this: Prius, Prius, Civic Hybrid, Lexus Hybrid, Prius ... twin-turbo V8 BMW. Even when I entered the car park I could sense the other owners were instantly scared, it was like a wolf joining a pack of sheep.
"Clear your mind" the yoga teacher kept saying. "Focus on nothing in particular". I couldn't! There was a twin-turbo V8 BMW sitting downstairs begging me to come and take it for a spin. I'd spent about 30 minutes in it already and I was so overcome by the noise from the engine that at one stage I had to pull over, call about 30 people and let them hear it too.
"Think of a green forest of peace beauty and undisturbed nature" - the other 20 people were lost in their own version of the forest, for me and in my forest, an X6 xDrive50i came screaming past, roaring with the might of its twin turbocharged V8, the birds flew away, the deer and even the bear couldn't run fast enough. I was in heaven.
Yoga finished and without a word to anyone after the class I power walked back to the car park, opened the door and sat inside, waited a few seconds, I couldn't help but smile. I felt like Gollum being reconnected with The Ring.
Even when I've had the pleasure of driving supercars worth more than three times the price of this BMW, very few could make me feel like a school boy when they accelerated. The noise from this engine is simply mesmerising.
BMW says it uses about 13.8 litre of fuel per 100km, that may be true if it's driven by a deaf person. Anyone with even the slightest bit of motoring passion in them will find it excruciatingly hard to avoid stepping on the accelerator just to hear the engine work, and then stepping on it again, and again, and again.
The same engine is also available in the 750i I drove last month, but for what ever reason (perhaps the two giant exhausts at the back and the limited noise insulation compared to the 7 series) the X6 sounds like a supercar.
Acceleration is brisk, but it's not the 0-100km/h time that is exciting (5.4 seconds), it's the way it will go to 200km/h at the same level of ferocity that makes it addictive.
If there was ever a car that deserved the title "wolf is sheep's clothing" or "sleeper" this would be it. At least with the M3/M5/M6 a few educated glances can tell you you're looking at something quick, with the X6, the sheer size of it throws most people off. They have no idea that under the bonnet is an engine that eats its competition for breakfast. I find it hard to imagine what the X6M can do better.
Do you remember the TV commercial Ford did with the Territory Turbo, the one that showed it driving around, eating supercars? It was a clever ad, but it featured the wrong car.
The xDrive50i is not cheap, at first glance. BMW sell the X6 for $114,094, but you have to pay $11,409 GST and $20,497 in Luxury Car Tax before you can take it home, so it will cost you a total of $146,000.
A friend of mine said that $146,000 was a lot of money to pay for a car that was confused about its personality. Of course he is no longer my friend. I left him at yoga and I believe he managed to get a ride home in the back seat of a Prius.
Paying near $150,000 for a car is the wrong way to think about it. The X6 xDrive50i is not a car. It's a masterpiece of German engineering in a stealth suit.
From the inside, the only criticism, if you want to call it that, is that it looks a little too similar to the X5. Some additional customisation and differentiation would have been good.
Before we go on let me tell you a few things that annoyed me about the X6. The iDrive system is not as good as the one found in the 7 series, understandable given the price difference.
The Bluetooth phone integration is buggy. For example if you're reversing and a call comes in, it simply doesn't let you pick it up, yet it will keep ringing. Sometimes I would try and pick up a call and while sound would be received it would not transmit - and yes, my phone was on the supported phone list.
Speaking of reversing, the reverse camera really needs to be replaced, a Toyota Kluger has a higher resolution reverse camera, that's something that can definitely be improved.
The 16-speaker audio system doesn't sound as good as other 16-speaker audio systems, although for me this was no concern as the car had another form of audio system that made a much sweeter sound.
That's really about it.
This car makes a lot of sense in lots of different ways. I can see outgoing and adventurous small families fitting this car perfectly.
I can see successful childless couples having heaps of fun in this too. This is the perfect cruising car with the guts to back it up.
The X6 has enormous road presence, bystanders and other drivers can't help but stare. If they don't stare initially, touch the accelerator as you go past and they will start looking around for an Aston Martin, only to see you, smiling in your X6.
When it comes to handling, I decided I would need to read the entire BMW documentation to work out how a car this size could go around corners the way it does. I read it a few times and then I read it a few more times. Something about BMW Dynamic Performance Control (DPC), which essentially is smarter than the computer that put a man on the moon in the '60s, but then again so is your microwave.
You can read more about why it handles so well in my previous review of the xDrive35i, but to put it in a nutshell, it doesn't make sense, it really just doesn't make sense.
There is a weird feeling through the steering wheel at high speeds and tight corners. It's as if the car is telling you, let me show you how this is done. It feels as though it's guiding you in the right direction. Very few cars feel extremely confident at high speeds around bends and corners, this is not the car I thought I'd ever say is one of them, but it is.
So it goes fast, but how does it stop? BMW has installed an exclusive brake system for the xDrive50i. Front discs measure 385 millimetres, which is just enormous, in size and the aluminium floating calliper construction for both the front and rear also make brake fade non-existent.
The engine works in perfect harmony with the transmission, you'd be forgiven for thinking the car has a twin-clutch DSG style gearbox, it's incredibly smooth and instantaneous.
From the outside, the X6 is starting to grow on me. First glance, no one seems to like it, second glance, people warm to it, and in a few days they fall in love.
I recently went out to inspect a new property to buy and the builder was telling me that he was in the process of buying an X6 (I suggested he buy the twin turbo diesel as 300kW wasn't his thing). What he said though was that when the X6 first came out, he essentially laughed at the design, but now, he is about to buy one!
The 24-hours was nearly over, I had done about 300kms and averaged 17.6 litres/per 100km. I didn't want to give the car back. For a moment I was thinking about going to my bank and telling them I needed an extra $150,000 to buy the BMW and a house. Unfortunately, even I have some common-sense.
If you're thinking about buying an X6, stop thinking as the car literally has no competition! The X6 xDrive50i is the definition of a cool, fun, sporty and extremely addictive car.
Click to see the full BMW X6 Image Gallery.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
- Engine: 4395cc twin-turbo V8 (MSD85)
- Power: 300kW @ 5500-6400 rpm
- Torque: 600Nm @ 1750-4500 rpm
- Induction: Twin-turbo
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Driven Wheels: All-wheel-drive
- Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
- Top Speed: 250km/h
- 0-100km/h: 5.4 seconds
- CO2 Emissions: 299 grams per kilometre
- Fuel Consumption: 13.8 litres per 100km (ADR)
- Fuel Consumption: 17.6 litres per 100km (As Tested)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 85 litres
- Fuel Type: 95+RON petrol
- ANCAP Rating: Not tested
- Airbags: front, side, head all-round, crash-activated headrests at the front
- Safety: ESP, brake pre-tensioning, brake drying, hill-start assistant, brake fade compensation
- Spare Wheel: space saver
- Cargo Capacity: 570 litres
- Tow Capacity: Not listed
- Turning Circle: 12.8 metres
- Warranty: Three year/unlimited kilometre
- Weight: 2190kg (Kerb)
- Wheels: 9J x 20-inch light-alloy