Some say Big is Better, or is it? I found myself confronting this question when I was given the opportunity to test drive the BMW X6 over a few days. The X6 is not new anymore since it was launched sometime back. However, its introduction back then caught the attention of many with its unique styling marrying a concept of a crossover SUV/coupe.
Until today, the X6 still holds its own in terms of styling. Put it next to the current crop of BMW SUVs, and it still makes the rest of the crew look dated. The design of the X6 is anything but conventional. The wide front gives the impression of strength and boldness, with the trademarked twin kidney grille look while the rear with a sloping roofline and an elevated rear end is unique for a SUV.
In the past, BMW had boldly ventured into adventurous styling concepts for some of its vehicles but not all of it worked. However, for the X6, I can safely deduce that this time it hit the mark. The X6 looks stylish whether it is viewed from the front, side or the rear. It is one of those vehicles that look better in the flesh. The fact that it does not ‘look like’ the usual BMW car is plus point.
At this time, the X6 remain the largest SUV in BMW’s stable. There are bigger cars on the road but in Malaysia where most cars are much smaller, this is a big car. With a length of around 5 meters, height of 1.7 meters and width of 2.2 meters, its overall dimensions would just about fit the standard parking lot here and not leaving much room for error.
On the road, the X6 is able to exert a dominant presence due to its size. It is hard not to notice the massive 20 inch wheels which have a width of almost twice the normal size of tyres we see on the road. This coupled with the large twin chrome tail pipes at the rear gives the impression that this car means business.
The test vehicle is the entry level X6 for the Malaysian market. It is a well specified model and is equipped not only with the usual range of standard features but include other extras such as Dynamic Performance Control, Active Steering, Hill Descent Control, Hill-Start Assistant, Heads Up Display, Tyre Pressure Control, Park Distance Control with top and rear view cameras, powered sunroof and powered trunk release.
Entry into the vehicle is via the side aluminum running boards with rubber dots for enhanced grip. It has ‘Comfort Access’ which allows you to unlock the car by placing your hand on the door handle so long as you have the car keys with you. You sit in an elevated position giving you the advantage to see the road ahead especially when you are caught in a jam. In this position, it becomes obvious if others have taken shortcuts in their car wash since you have an unobstructed view of their car roof.
The full leather seats are a bit too firm for my liking. The seating position can be electronically adjusted (with memory functions) including the height. There is sufficient headroom even if you elevate your seating position. There is only room for 4 since BMW has placed storage compartments at the centre of the rear seats. Headroom at the rear is adequate despite the sloping roofline.
Since the introduction of newer BMW models under the designated F codes (ie for the 7, 5 and soon to be 3 series) the dashboard/instrument panel has been revamped. Hence, the interior of this car looks comparatively dated. Even the paddle shifters are of the older design. One item which I liked was the stylish ‘aluminium flywheel black’ panels which gave a ‘carbon fibre’ look at strategic places.
From the interior, rear views from the driver’s perspective is almost non existent. You will have to rely on the Park Distance Control function and the side wing mirrors. Thankfully, for this sampled model it came with a rear view camera with top views. Aided by the visuals on the LCD screen, this enables you to reverse with confidence as well as park this car with a fair degree of accuracy.
Under the hood is the N54 2,979cc 6-cylinder twin turbo powerplant. It is capable of producing a max output of 225 kW (306hp) @ 5,800 rpm and a max power of 400 Nm @ 1,200-5,000 rpm. I was told (but could not confirm) that the entire bonnet is actually made out of carbon fibre. This explains why when I first lifted up the hood I thought there was a mistake or somebody cut some corners. Even a carton of canned drinks weigh heavier than this hood but I trust BMW know what they are doing.
The high point of this car is its impressive engine performance. BMW engines are usually first rate and the N54 did not disappoint. Under hard acceleration the car powers off the line with substance and authority so much so that it is ‘sports car’ like. The specs say it is capable of hitting the century mark (in km) in 6.7 seconds. This is believable as the car was quick off the mark and I was soon in tripe digit range and fast running out of road.
Handling is another strong point of this car. With the Active Steering feature, the car was easy to steer and it was not difficult to point towards the intended direction quickly. During lower speeds less steering inputs are required to turn the car. This made parking the car easier. Surprisingly for a big car its turning circle was better than the X1 as I was able to make a tight U turn at a junction easily.
There was no turbo lag as the car performed flawlessly in both town and freeway drives. Equipped with an 8 speed automatic gearbox with steptronic, gearchanges were seamless and hardly noticeable during normal acceleration. During our usual freeway test, the car was well balanced aided by the massive 20 inch tyres. Higher speed turns can be performed with a fair degree of confidence thanks to the Dynamic Performance Control feature which transfer more power and drive to the opposite rear wheel.
Throughout the entire test drive, average fuel consumption for this X6 based on the on board computer was about 15.5 litres per 100 km which is relatively satisfactory and expected considering the engine displacement, performance and weight. However, this is still quite far off from the official specs of 10.1 liter per 100 km (combined) stated in the brochure.
The test car is equipped with larger 20 inch Dunlop SP Sort Maxx tyres with aluminium Y-spoke alloys compared to the specified 19 inch in the brochure. Rear wheels are wider and narrower (315/35R 20) compared to the front set (273/40R 20). Coincidentally, our high speed cruise was performed after a short downpour and the tyres performed satisfactorily providing good levels of grip even in the wet.
Ride quality was a mix bag. Generally when road conditions are ideal, the car provided good levels of comfort for the driver and passengers. However, during mid level acceleration on less than ideal roads, the car provided a bouncy feeling. I am not certain whether this was caused by the sophisticated suspension system comprising the double wishbone front suspension and the multilink rear axle. Perhaps the set-up does not suit our road conditions. An updated X6 model with the option of a Dynamic Drive System might be the solution.
Noise levels during our test drive was quite good. At lower speeds of up to 90km/h, the sound level meter registered a max reading of about 52db inside the car. While at a higher speed cruise of up to 110km/h the max reading was about 62db. The car is well insulated from external noises even at this speed.
Activate the powered trunk release and you will notice that the X6 provides a generous amount of storage space. Without folding the rear seats, there is 570 litres of space. Pull down the 60:40 rear seats and the storage space increases to 1,450 litres. To shut the trunk there is a lighted pushbutton to activate the power close function.
The X6 entertainment system is one of the better sound systems I have tested from BMW. There are 12 strategically placed loudspeakers powered by a 205 watt digital amplifier to provide an optimal aural experience. To enhance cabin comfort, the car has 4-zone automatic air-conditioning, where passengers at the rear have access to control the climate in their respective zones.
Coming back to the initial question of whether Big is Better remains a difficult call. While I liked the overall styling, engine performance and features, I have some concerns over practicality. From where I am staying, it will be a challenge to maneuver the X6 on a daily basis in our tight and congested roads/carparks. Casting the affordability issue aside, had I stayed in less congested area with wide open roads, thereby enabling the car to show its true potential, then the X6 would be in my short list if I was looking for a large SUV. Having a diesel option would be even better.
However, my own reservations on practicality did not deter others from taking ownership of the X6 here in Kuala Lumpur. Even with the premium pricing, I have seen fair number of X6s on the road which is remarkable. There are cheaper alternatives in the market with comparable features, but the fact that a fair number has opted for the X6 shows that BMW has successfully presented its case well to the demanding automotive public.
|Full Tank:||85 litres @ RM162 (Ron 95)|
|Road Tax:||RM1,607 per annum|
|Standard Service:||Free service for first 3 years|
|Warranty:||3 Years or 60,000km whichever is earlier|
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|Engine:||BMW TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder in-line petrol engine|
|Max Output:||225 kW (306hp) @ 5,800 rpm|
|Max Torque:||400 Nm @ 1,200-5,000 rpm|
|Top Speed:||240 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100km:||6.7 sec|
|Fuel Consumption:||10.1 litres per 100 km|
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!