Jack Yan tests the BMW X6 Xdrive40d, the diesel counterpart to an SUV we love. It’s better for the environment and your pocket, so we should love it more, right?
photographed by the author on a Voigtländer Bessamatic Deluxe
THE BMW X6 is, as discussed in an earlier edition of Lucire, one of our favourites. While others had their concerns over the lack of logic of a fastback coupé version of an SUV, we loved the lusty twin-turbo V8, the sound it made, and the impression it gave. Put together, it was a formula that worked precisely the way BMW intended: to impress through being imposing and different. The Tonka-toy looks of oversized wheels and a purposeful stance were more than enough to compensate for a poor rear view and the fact that it didn’t have the off-road capability of a Range Rover.
As an urban cruiser for those who want to be seen, the X6, in petrol guise, works. The package is an impractical one, and Heaven be praised. If we only ever wanted logical cars, then there would be no need to build in any design ﬂair, and such an unemotional approach to the idea of conveyance would vindicate the Soviet model of offering Shigulis to us all.
Therein lies the problem about making an illogical car logical. BMW also sells a diesel version of the X6, one which we tested in Xdrive40d guise. That means a straight-six diesel, again with twin turbos, 306 PS, and an astounding 600 Nm of torque. Carbon dioxide emissions are down from 298 g/km to 198 g/km, making the big BMW more environmentally acceptable, and we even achieved, despite hard driving, 27·9 mpg (Imperial).
That level of torque gave us a similar sense of urgency when pulling away at the lights in the diesel X6, though even without a stopwatch, it was obvious that the car was down by 100 horses. It certainly wasn’t lethargic by any means—we had a heavier X5 with the same powerplant that more than ably kept up with a Porsche 996 over the Rimutakas—but it was the fact that this lovely toy didn’t put a smile on our faces in the same way.
One thing that makes the X6 in Xdrive50i petrol guise is the noise it makes. In motoring terms, it’s primal. If it’s meant to be an expensive toy for the poser—and let’s not beat about the bush about its purpose—then why shouldn’t it be throaty? But replace that with a diesel, and suddenly something is missing. The mix isn’t complete any more.
Of course, it’s as well equipped inside as the petrol model, so there’s no faulting the cabin. It’s as comfortable and welcoming as our earlier test car. The leather is well stitched, the automatic shifter is neatly designed, and the head-up display is just as clear, displaying Dalton Maag’s BMW Type properly ahead of the driver. Given that this is the latest model, the Idrive system draws downtown Wellington’s buildings in colour and three dimensions, a neat feature that has you marvelling at the computing power required—even if it makes the map less practical (but it’s a toy, remember—and you can switch off the building display).
It even steers and handles the same, which is to say rather well for something of this size and weight—it tips the scales at 2,185 kg. BMW has made the X6 a competent handler, more at home on the road than off, ensuring it never detracts from the slogans of Freude am Fahren or The Ultimate Driving Machine. The body roll is negligible, though we detected a hint of understeer.
However, take away that joyous sound of the bent eight and you begin noticing the faults. That small rear window gets to you more, for instance, and you begin thinking: if this is a diesel that gets respectable mileage, then surely it should be practical in other respects?
Being sensible with fuel, coupled with an engine note that similarly spells logic, seems to go against the raison d’être of the X6.
We were the ﬁrst to say that the Xdrive50i is thirsty, but the X6 buyer is already fairly well off if it’s in one’s consideration set. Will the price of fuel make that much of a difference?
Outwardly, there’s still pleasure to be had. People still stop and stare and the car nuts will ask for a closer look. They will want to climb in behind the driver’s seat and have a yarn to you. Some women will still be impressed because the car’s stance is identical to the 50i. That much of the poser’s day remains.
We’re not saying the X6 Xdrive40d is a bad vehicle, by any means. We are saying it’s going to be that much harder for BMW to shift them if a buyer gets to try both petrol and diesel models. We realize that in tougher times, everyone wants to save a bit—Lexus showed us that much when it converted many Americans into its products, on the basis that even rich people like a good deal—but we are talking a niche within a niche: the poser who wants to save a few bob.
In countries where petrol is ridiculously expensive—and that includes Germany—the X6 diesel makes a good case for itself. The best way, we think, that an X6 fan could be tempted to go for the diesel is by doing some maths on the fuel savings per year, and letting them know that that could amount to a rather nice holiday somewhere. But, you see, once again, mathematical logic has to come in to the equation, and the X6 really should not be a logical car. •