Have you seen a professional wrestler do the Russian ballet? Well I haven’t either, but I suspect that it would have to be a very convincing performance indeed in order to actually enjoy watching what you can only imagine would be an ungainly wrestler attempting to perform a pirouette. Which brings me to the BMW X6, which is an SUV attempting to be a sports car. The same logic applies-it would have to be a truly exceptional to look beyond the inherent contradiction, and appreciate the X6 for its supposed dynamic abilities and audacious character.
BMW aren’t strangers to rewriting the rule book. When BMW launched the X5 in 1999, they transformed the way an SUV (sport utility vehicle) handled on-road, and therefore (rightfully) coined an all-new acronym - SAV (sports activity vehicle).
With the X6, they’ve coined yet another acronym - SAC (sport activity coupe). Let’s see if it’s justified this time around as well.
From the Inside
Shut the soft-close doors as you enter the X6 and you’re greeted by a cabin that’s swathed in Nappa leather from the dashboard to the knee pads. Interior quality, as you’d expect from a high end BMW, is extraordinary - it’s difficult to imagine how an automaker could further improve on quality. To give you an example of the toys in the cabin, if you look only at the seats ¬ordinarily you would expect them to move up, down, front, back and perhaps also provide lumbar support as well. Well, if that’s as far as your expectations extend, you wouldn’t be anywhere near as imaginative as a BMW seat engineer - for the seats in the X6 are infinitely adjustable. You call..single out any point in each of the front seats and adjust them accordingly. There are a few-dozen motors in each seat that allow you to add bolstering or support to just about any part of an individual seat - all the while being massaged, cooled or heated at the same time.
In terms of expected drawbacks, the sloping roof line doesn’t really affect interior space that much. In fact, even boot space is plentiful - that is, of course, unless you really do want to ferry around the kitchen sink, in which case an Xs may be more appropriate. The real downside, however, as you’d imagine, is rear visibility, which is limited at best through the steeply-raked and high-set rear windshield. Luckily, this particular car had a rear-view camera and sensors to help when reversing - the large side-view mirrors were helpful as well. On the whole, though, it’s a magnificent cabin in which to spend time - especially the drivers’ seat.
So, you find yourself sitting behind a beautiful three-spoke steering wheel, which is thick and sporty, in a seat that’s supremely comfortable but also hip hugging if you want it to be, staring at paddles to manually shift through the six-speed gearbox, and you begin to wonder if they’ve taken this sporty theme a little too seriously - after all, the X6 still weighs in excess of two tonnes and sits fairly high off the ground. However, you only question it till such time as you push the Engine-Start button - following which, everything you know to be true about the laws of physics simply goes straight out the window.
When I first saw the X6 in the US earlier this year, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It really did look like the silhouette of a coupe transposed on the body of an X5. And while it did look bold and completely original, I wasn’t quite sure that it was a cohesive design.
Well, when I saw this particular X6 in Delhi, it came as a bit of a surprise but it really did look stunning. It’s aggressive - menacing even - appearance and massive 20-inch wheels meant that there was no way it would go unnoticed. In fact, viewed from certain angles (the back especially, with its steamroller rear tires), it looked like a character from the film Transformers - you could almost envision it, if displeased, standing up on two feet and smacking you across the face.
The massive rear tires, at 315/35 R20, are something you’d normally expect exclusively on Lamborghini’s. Nevertheless, they do look purposeful indeed - especially since they’re encasing dinner-plate sized brake discs. However, being Run Flats, the tires would be agonizingly expensive to replace - although, its best not to even broach the subject of value for money in this case. On the whole though, the X6 does look very impressive indeed, and the overall design is surprisingly cohesive once you get used to it.
On the Road
Your senses just haven’t been tuned to process what the X6 is capable of. The marketing speak may claim that this is a sports car with the driving position of an SUV, but surely that can’t be true. Then you go around a corner for the first time, and the X6 takes the bend completely flat with no body roll whatsoever - belying its tall stance and relative girth.
Moreover, the chassis feels extremely taut and stiff. It probably helps that the engine compartment conceals two braces, one strut-brace that wraps itself behind the engine and another brace in front of the motor - both of which ensure that the X6 turns into a corner with no hesitation at all. The active steering on this particular car also works to camouflage its size - the result of which is steering response that’s direct and immediate in an uncanny sort of way. Of course, steering feels isn’t exceptional, but the overall effect is quite mind numbing. It’s even a little disconcerting - sitting as high up as you do, you just don’t expect the X6 to be anywhere near as agile as it really is.
It’s a case of simply turning the steering wheel at any speed, and having the car respond to your inputs - no matter how outrageous they may be. Adding to this feat is the Dynamic Performance Control, which, unlike traditional stability control systems, doesn’t simply apply the brakes to the wheel that’s slipping (which in turn slows you down), but instead supplies additional torque to the wheels that have grip. This not only helps you drive around the corner safely, but quickly as well. In fact, it’s near impossible to breach the monumental limits of this car on Indian roads.
The model we tested was an xDrive3sd, with a 3.0 liter, twin¬turbo, straight-six, direct-injection diesel engine producing 28S horsepower. The first thing that strikes you about this particular engine from behind the wheel is that it’s extremely difficult to tell that it’s a diesel- it’s actually rev-happy. Being a diesel, and that too one mated to twin-sequential turbos, the power delivery is instantaneous. Once you exceed 3000rpm, the second turbo kicks in, and you’re immediately propelled to illegal speeds. You’d think that 3000rpm would be difficult to achieve in a diesel, but not one as smooth as this. The revs climb with tremendous ease all the way to its 5ooo rpm red line, and it doesn’t run out of steam at the top end like most diesels. The only time you can tell that it is in fact a diesel is when you’re stationary with the windows down, and you can actually hear the clatter.
The X6 really does provide a mix of effortless speed and tremendous stability on the road - a good combination no doubt. And the brakes are no less impressive either, as they shed speed without incident every time - and do so with practically no dive at all, a testament to both the massive brakes and its stiff chassis.
Just to put the finishing touches on a complete package, on the convenience front things are equally good as well. Active steering means that it’s extremely light while stationary, which is surprising considering the size of the rubber. The ride quality is also unexpectedly good considering the 20-inch wheels and rubber-band thin sidewalls. And the drive-by-wire joystick-
like gear lever, which you’ll find on most new BMWs, is also very useful and easy to use. Once in a while there are certain innovations that aren’t just gimmicks - they actually work, and this is one of them. You simply press a button to engage Park, flick the lever forward to engage Reverse and flick it backwards to engage Drive. And speaking of innovations that actually work, this X6 has another - a heads-up display. Courtesy
of your favorite jet fighter, this is a digital display of speed projected in the direct field of vision of the driver. I thought it would take some getting used to, but it’s completely intuitive and unobtrusive, while ensuring that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.
Can we conclude, then, that the marketing speak is true - the X6 really is a sports car cloaked in the body of an SUV? Well, as you’d imagine, it’s nowhere near as tactile as a true sports car, but it could probably outperform most - and that’s certainly very impressive indeed.
BMW may not be taking orders for the X6 as yet, but you can order yours courtesy of Magus Cars - importers of specialty cars that aren’t ordinarily available in the country, Now, you might say that this isn’t exactly an appropriate time to consider an import that could well exceed a figure consisting of seven zeros. But the old adage holds true even In this economy, ‘if you have it, flaunt it’ - especially since it can only help end conversations centered around the word, ‘recession,’ And that’s not to mention the fact that the X6 is a truly incredible machine - like BMW intended, it really does signal a paradigm shift. Personally, I didn’t want to like this car, It seemed too audacious to be genuine, With too much marketing speak to actually conceal any substance, But then I drove it, and gained even more respect for the engineers at BMW - who obviously consider it a part of their job description to defy Newton’s laws of physics, which they well and truly have done