So we got a 2009 BMW X6 and went offroad
After ages spent on the waiting list, we finally got our hands on a BMW X6. The version home-delivered to us also happened to be the xDrive50i version, powered by a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, if we remember correctly. BMW’s new naming convention is too confusing. Either way, we managed to park it right next to some random X5, so the differences between the two models became all the more clearer. And thus began our test of the loved/hated X6, both on-road and off-road.
I may have smeared the X6 before, but only because it’s a vehicle no one asked for. Actually having the keys to one made me appreciate the flamboyance of this “Sport Activity Coupe” more.
The front end is very similar to the X5, and yet, differs by way of bumper and lighting details. By the end of our four-day test, the white paint was covered in badly-splattered dead bugs. No doubt, we killed a few every time we accelerated full-throttle.
Its insect-killing abilities are due to the amazing 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet, although the only indication of the engine is a small badge on the door that says nothing but “xDrive50i,” which doesn’t mean anything to the average person. It sure delivered though, as we almost matched BMW’s advertised 0-100 kph time. No excuses here, unlike the Infiniti FX50 we tested, which happens to be the X6’s nearest competitor.
We had certain preconceptions about how impractical the X6 is, with that chopped roof. But front passengers will not encounter any issues. Indeed, the only issue I had was that the driver’s seat didn’t go high enough, leading to a car-like sitting position. The seat-backs are the highest we’ve ever seen, with unique headrests that fold along the sides to hold the head like a glove.
The entire front seats are power-adjustable, including the headrests and thigh-supports. Conspicuously, there were no butt-cooling fans, which even the cheaper Infiniti FX had.
Surprisingly, for average-sized midgets like us, the rear seats were perfectly spacious. In fact, there is much more useable legroom than the Infiniti FX. Headroom would only be an issue for very tall people.
Even more amazingly, cargo room may be chopped off but the floor area is still very big and flat. With total cargo volume almost as much as the Infiniti, the BMW again gives the FX a run for its brownie-points when it comes to practicality.
The X6 also gets all the fancy features that are in other BMW models, including the joystick gear-shifter, the iDrive computer, and a heads-up display.
And special cabin touches such as the two-piece glove-box cover, reddish-brown upholstery and black-patterned metal trim make sure you get an interior worthy of your money.
On-road, let’s just say I was more comfortable pushing this to its limits on public roads than I was with the Jaguar XK-R! More driving impressions will be in the upcoming full review.
So far, we found out that the X6 drives like a sports car, is as practical as a midsize sedan, and has more gadgets than an Apple store. If it also conquered the dunes, I would’ve slapped this abomination onto my Recommended List for sure.
Bringing the tyre pressure down to 17 psi, I and my semi-expert off-roading buddy went onto the sands of Lahbab, among desert-safari Land Cruisers, private Land Cruisers, and other Land Cruisers. The tyres didn’t even look deflated, considering they are super-hard run-flats. We were moving along fine for a while, as the powerful V8 and the wide tyres were doing rather well on very mild slopes, as long as you keep moving. Then my buddy stopped on a soft spot, and the X6 just sank. A proper-tyred 4×4 wouldn’t sink that easily. Thankfully, we didn’t damage the plastic underbody plates, designed more for aerodynamics rather than rock-defence. With no low-range gearing, there was no other choice but to start digging, as playing with the throttle was making the hollow alloys sink further.
A few desert-safari guys stopped over, helped us drop the stiff tyres to 10 psi, dug the ground some more, and one squiggled the steering wheel. Then with someone at the wheel, altogether me, my buddy, two desert-safari guys, a European tourist and his 10-year-old kid all pushed and finally drove the car out, while other tourists took photos. It was a fun time, in good weather too. It was also funny when a desert-safari guy kept looking for the non-existent “4-LOW” button.
The V8-powered X6 is an amazing piece of engineering. Stories suggest that it can lap the N’ring track in 8:54 minutes, half-a-minute slower than a Porsche Cayman S and obliterating the Porsche Cayenne GTS by 7 seconds. I just wish BMW went all the way and turned it into something truly spectacular off the tarmac too.
For more information on prices, specs and fuel economy, visit the BMW X6 buyer guide.