- Published: Saturday, 10 January 2015 13:33
Photos: Derryn Wong & Gerald Yuen
One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and I don’t mean that in any way but literally. Case in point? The ancient Egyptians worshipped many things, including gods with animal heads, such as Anubis, who’d judge the dead upon their entry into the afterlife, sniffing out sin and wrongdoing.
They also worshipped scarabs, those curious, round beetles with a robust body shape and shovel-like front end. The Egyptians saw these insects as mirroring the cycles of the sun, their top god of all, with life giving spheres that rejuvenated the earth.
Of course where the Egyptians saw holy scarabs everyone else saw crap, literally. Scarabs are also known as dung beetles.
How does this have anything to do with the BMW X6? Well it looks just like one, especially from behind. The X6 was, of course, the first four-door coupe trying to be an SUV at the same time. It didn’t help that BMW came up with its own term for it - a Sports Activity Coupe (SAC).
Predictably mixed reactions happened with love, hate and everything in between. I don’t mind admitting to being in the latter group, since it was hard to see a point in a car that did everything with less practicality than the X5 it was, and still is, based on but with less boot space and only room for four. And the fact that it drove much as it looked (and weighed) didn’t help, and made me grow poison sacs rather than sacs up my lifestyle.
Snide snipes aside, the X6 did get better along the way - one particularly memorable edition was the X5 M50d which somehow overcame all the baggage to become a hoot to drive.
With the new X5 debuting earlier in 2014, this new X6 runs on similar underpinnings which are all-new, although strongly modified from the previous version, there’s enough new stuff to make it all new, really. There are three diesel - 30d, 40d and M50d which we tested overseas - and two petrol variants - the 35i and 50i - on sale, the latter is the one tested here.
The X6 preserves its dung-beetle looks (this is a good thing) and looks especially good from the side-on, where the flowing roofline is most obvious. It’s still contradictory and bears multiple glances, but with BMW’s new, aero-optimised design language laid over the basic shape, it looks more fetching than it used to. The fact that tastes have evolved, and coupe-inspired designs have become the more common nowadays also plays a part.
At 4.9-metres long and 1.7-metres high, the X6 is still a high-riding, big-presence beast, something its metallic brown paintwork, large dark chrome grille and adaptive front LED headlights accentuate. Overall the car’s only slightly larger than before and about 20kg lighter.
Climb in and it feels equally towering, with that stance lent to the driver in the tall seating position. Forward visibility is good, although the view out of the rear is still hampered by the sloping rear roofline, as is passenger headroom in the second row.
BMW’s stonking 4.4-litre twin-turbo engine, as found in the 750 Li and X5 xDrive50i, is ported over from the previous version of the car and mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Now the big V8 gets Valvetronic variable valve timing and lift plus direct injection. Those might seem like small improvements, but overall the car gets 10 percent more power
We once described the 4.4-litre V8 as volcanic and it’s no different here. There are different driving modes to help you suit the mood - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Eco Pro activates coasting mode, while Sport is tunable for chassis/drivetrain, and Sport+ removes a layer of electronic intervention. But the V8 is so muscular than you’ll never want for power, torque or subsequent acceleration, and to hear its throaty song is quite addictive.
Its 450bhp/600Nm makes light of the X6’s mass and the eight-speed gearbox is fast and near flawless. The only complaint we can muster is that the torque delivery can be a bit snatchy at low speeds - coming out of a low speed corner for instance - but overall the xDrive50i has tonnes of power and the grip to translate that into motion, especially since the xDrive all-wheel drive system does its thing almost imperceptibly.
We never took the X6 off-road, but if the X5 can handle a volcano, then the X6 shouldn't be too far off.
From the helm there’s a bit of a distant front end feel, especially just off-centre and when there are mid-corner bumps or dips. Chalk this down to the huge, 20-inch wheels and massive tyres, although things do get better in Sport mode and when the suspension is loaded with weight. The X6 rides very well, much better than its predecessor ever did, cancelling out the uncomfortable stuff and letting you get on with going fast.
The new interior takes major cues from the X5 and that’s a good thing, with build quality and material choice all adding up to a luxurious experience. As befitting the latest BMW’s, the X6 is packed with technology and options, from the ‘doodle-pad’ iDrive system, internet connectivity, advanced navigation and premium Bang & Olufsen sound system. You can tweak everything - from seats to heads-up display - to your liking and that includes the new mood lighting too.
The only drawback for the range-topping X6 is that it’s not cheap, thanks to ARF increases and likely won’t be cheap to run either, with the volcanic V8 also being all-consuming in its thirst for petrol too, and we didn’t get anywhere near the quoted efficiency figure. But that’s pretty much the same in any big, V8-packing luxo-SUV now.
More importantly, times have changed. Cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the X6 were the first of their kind and kicked off a car design revolution. The X6 is no longer the answer to a question nobody answered, but a legitimate extra choice for those who love crossovers. It's even spawned a son, the X4 which was launched here last year.
We should point out that the ancient Egyptians also worshipped cats, and their cat god Bastet. Ever been on the Internet lately? Yep, so the Egyptians were way ahead of their time and so was BMW with its X6, which is now enjoying its time in the sun at last.
BMW X6 xDrive50i
NEED TO KNOW:
Engine 4,395cc, 32V, V8, twin-turbo
Power 450bhp at 5500-6400rpm
Torque 650Nm at 2000-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 4.8 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 9.7L/100km
Price $488,800 with COE
Also Consider: Range Rover Sport S, Porsche Cayenne GTS