Tuesday 22 August 2017

The BMW X6: ignore the looks and feel the power

Clandestine affair: Ugly is in the eye of the beholder with the BMW X6, but it has plenty of power.
Clandestine affair: Ugly is in the eye of the beholder with the BMW X6, but it has plenty of power.
The BMW X6 interior
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Right, let's get the ugly stuff out of the way first because, in this case, it can be quickly dispatched. There is no nice way to put it really.

I could say the newly revised BMW X6 is visually challenging. But that would be me hiding behind semantics.

In plain, everyday language it is, where I come from anyway, a downright ugly, large SAV (BMW insist their 4x4s are Sports Activity Vehicles).

To be fair about it, that is not a universal verdict. Hordes of people, especially from the US, have taken a great liking to it. So without insulting an entire nation at one fell swoop I'll just say beauty, or ugly, for that matter, is in the eye of the beholder and leave it at that.

I can tell you, though, that some of my fellow (Irish) travellers were distinctly taken aback by its looks.

But you know what? I'm nearly inured to those looks now. And as I've called it one of the ugliest cars on four wheels several times before, why go on about it?

The fact of the matter is this has been a big success in the US and that's a major endorsement for BMW.

So we'll leave it at that. I could not afford one but if I could, it would be among the last cars I'd consider.

Instead, I'd have the excellent X5 in the driveway. Full stop. No argument. It's better all round in every department.

And yet, this, despite its enormous visual effrontery, had surprises in store deep inside its love-hate frame.

It was a singularly good, big motor to drive. And it was as comfortable as a well-worn armchair.

The outstanding thing about the X6 was the sheer, unadulterated and almost addictive level of power it managed to conjure with, and convey from, its 3-litre diesel engine.

The way it channelled that power to the wheels and transferred the feeling of energy and velocity through the chassis and steering wheel was memorable.

It could be at times, believe it or not, such an engrossing drive that I utterly forgot all about the aesthetics and totally focussed on the gymnastics.

I kept it in Sport mode for much of my driving (Sport+ is a bit too extreme). I played with it by constantly slipping (touch of switch) from Comfort to Sport to sense those magical moments when the entire characteristic of a car changes from nonchalance to straining-at-the-leash.

I've had similar experiences with the smaller X4 but I have to say in this it was akin to those few seconds when your aircraft picks up thrust just before take-off.

I savour such transient moments; that loosening of the chains of power never fails to fascinate and thrill.

And the X6 can thrill, make no mistake about that. It has the wherewithal to give you a real drive. The only problem, truthfully, is maintaining a legal speed limit.

Mine was ridiculously powerful and torquey (loads of pulling power) and had the distinction of never, ever, feeling it was running out of puff or becoming raspy. And with 85 litres in the tank it will cover 900km at ease.

I was puzzled, however, over why they didn't have a little wiper on the rear screen. It is a parsimoniously small aperture and one that needs all the clarity it can get.

Thankfully the wing mirrors were big and broad and afforded me decent rear visibility.

And for a car of its stature and price (€100,000 for my test motor) I really, really missed electric lumbar support. You can set the driver's seat and have it remember your preferences but there was nothing of an additional substantive nature to bolster my lower lumbar that I could find. And I did search.

All my passengers, at some time or other, remarked on how much they liked the cabin and the breadth and comfort of the seating.

Several loved the fact that you stepped up, big-time, to get into this. They much preferred that to crouching and bending into 'ordinary' smaller cars. However, I didn't agree. The slope of the roof and my seat position meant I had to bend a bit to get in. Just goes to show how objective one's appraisal of a car can be.

After it all, I have to say I enjoyed the drive. A lot. It is the sort of car you'd love to drive but not be seen with so much. I could see a clandestine relationship developing because it grew on me. God forgive me, but I developed a sneaking regard for it with that impressive ability to use such power.

Maybe 'beauty' and 'ugly' are not that far apart after all.

Facts and figures: BMW X6 xDrive 30d M Sport

3-litre diesel (2,993cc), 258bhp, 0-100kmh in 6.7 secs; 6ltr/100km (47.1mpg), 157g/km-159g/km depending on version - €570  road tax.

Standard equipment includes: several airbags, spread of active/passive safety systems, 8spd auto transmission, xDrive four-wheel-drive, Dakota leather upholstery.

Options on test car included: Adaptive M Sport suspension, roof rails (€479), reversing assist camera (€609), sun protection glass (€560), adaptive headlights (€877), surround-view (€860 - great facility), head-up display (€1,615), special loudspeaker system (€787), internet (€154), enhanced Bluetooth telephone with USB/voice control (€568); multi-functional instrument panel (€609), speed limit display (€406).

X6 range starts at €85,200.

Price of test car before options: €91,790.

Total price with €8,442 worth of options: €100,232.

My side of the road

I don't know if you have noticed it, but there is a burgeoning problem with lines of parked cars on suburban roads. I think it will become a major issue.

You know the scene. Cars are parked, legally, within walking distance of bus or train or shops. But that makes it impossible for cars on that side to travel without crossing the broken-white-line middle of the road.

The problem arises when drivers take a chance and assume oncoming motorists will yield as they 'overtake' the line of parked vehicles. I see it every day. You get a build up of cars that can't progress because there is a strong flow in the opposite direction.

Then there is a short gap in the oncoming stream and there is a mad dash to get by from those held back by the parked vehicles.

I've seen a few really close shaves with a couple of cars having to pull up on the path to avoid a collision. Your views?

ecunningham@independent.ie

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