top-nav-left top-nav-right

Article Search




The BMW X6 xDrive 50i is an SUV that thinks its a sports car...

I'd just been reading doom-and-gloom headlines - recession, global warming, peak oil - and here I was, driving a BMW X6 that single-handedly thumbs its nose at all three debates.

My vertical hold kept going.

For this is an SUV that thinks it's a sports car; that's powered by a petrol-guzzling 4.4-litre V8 and costs close to 200 grand, especially at this specification level, with Satnav and heads-up displays and with a few options boxes ticked.

Worse, it isn't even good at traditional SUV tasks. The swooping roofline compromises boot space, there are just two rear seats - the middle is filled with cubbies and the like - and it's not designed to go off road, quite apart from the damage you'd do to these 20-inch alloy wheels.

Yet I couldn't help liking the X6 xDrive 50i. There's that engine, for a start. It cleverly tucks the twin turbo and catalytic converters into the vee between the cylinder rows, so it's compact and gets up to temperature fast.

Each turbo feeds four cylinders to reduce turbo lag, and the result is 300kW and a mighty 600Nm delivered from 1750 to 4500rpm. Plant boot and she grips and goes, with a feral roar that'd warm the cockles of any petrol-head heart.

Sure, it's a thirsty beast. BMW invites ridicule by referring to the claimed fuel figure as a "mere" 13.8l/100km. My average was 16.6 and rising all the time, for it's difficult to drive the thing sensibly.

Fortunately it handles like nothing this size should. In part that's thanks to the clever xDrive system which sends torque to whichever wheel needs it, not just for grip but to improve cornering performance.

Fire into that bend, apex and carve out with torque pouring to the outside wheels to literally power you round. There's even a handy trip computer icon to tell you which wheels are getting how much grunt. Check it out when you're parking for it also works then to improve turn-in, and this X6 felt far smaller and more wieldy in tight spots than I'd expected.

Which was handy, for at 4877mm long and some 2.2 tons in weight she's big - though you don't initially notice it as the coupe lines create an optical illusion. The handling does the same, for you really can throw this car around.

Yet good though it is, a niggling question remains. Does anyone want a sports car that's an SUV? Inevitably the X6 isn't as incisive a handler as a true sports car - the height alone's a handicap, however well controlled.

As pertinent, does anyone want a SUV that's also a sports car - the rear isn't as roomy as the traditional recipe demands.

Meanwhile though every petrolhead will like the engine's performance and its soundtrack, even the well-heeled might wince at the fuel bill, and will hope they never get a puncture. The car uses run-flats, and the front-to-rear wheel offsets mean you can't swap wheels. Yes, you can drive 1000km with a simple puncture, but much of NZ can't easily access the specialist tyres. Punctures may be rare nowadays, but why add to the inconvenience?

Overall, you can't help thinking this X6 xDrive50i may have a short run given the current sackcloth and ashes climate. Pity.

Auto Trader New Zealand