The Big X: BMW X6 xDrive35i Review

Before i start, let me get something straight and out of the way first. The BMW X6 is NOT what most people think it is, a “sporty SUV / soft-roader”. No it isn’t. What the X6 is, is a proper sports car draped in a body inspired by combat fatigues, a bulldog and that Warthog vehicle from Halo. It is massive and ridiculous. In short, it’s a sports car that looks like an SUV, not the other way around.

Few cars can make a BMW X5 look small and even fewer still can make a Range Rover look boring and clunky. The X6 does both these things, it sits fat, squat and hunkered down to the road. With big broad shoulders punching out sideways encompassing the cabin. From up front, few other cars on the road can have as much presence as this big chunk of BMW metal. Massive grilles to feed it’s intakes line the front bumpers leading towards its signature kidney grilles, only this time, much bigger. It looks mean and powerful without even moving an inch. The front heavy look continues with big sharp angular lamps leading the muscular front wings stretching from the front of the car towards the base of the front windscreen with big massive extended wheelarches pulled out for further dramatic effect.

Along the sides, the slab sided body further accentuates the no-nonsense, muscular look of the car with a high beltline giving the cabin its low slung performance coupe silhouette with the roofline tapering downwards right after the front windows end off. A single powerful stroke starts off just after the front 19inch wheels, coming together at the rear tail lights. Twin pipes extending out out the rear bumper complete the powerful, ready-to-pounce stance of this giant street machine.

– Few cars can make 19″ wheels with thick rubber look small(ish)

This car is big, it is massive, sitting at just below 1.7meters in height and just below 5 meters in length. It’s not the prettiest car around, but what you cannot deny it has, is presence, lots of it. A presence few coupes (and even fewer SUVs) can ever dream of. This powerful design of the car shouting out on what lies underneath that massive front bonnet.

Climb (literally) into the X6, you find seating for only 4 adults, why BMW chose to make this a strict 4 seater is to be honest, beyond me. (i always figured if they added in a proper rear bench, more cars would be sold.) But for those lucky enough to be inside, it is a rather nice place to be. For those seated at the back, headroom for taller people might be a tad tight, but still within reasonable comfort levels. Individual climate controls are featured for rear seat passenger and are easily within reach.

The main gripe about the interior space is the strict 4 seater layout, the middle of the rear seats is now for storage instead of another passenger. I hope for the next version of the car (if ever), an option to convert the rear seats to the traditional bench layout would definitely sell more cars.

– Adjustable opening height for the rear tailgate.

– Push button close, handy.

Moving upfront, the usual BMW ergonomics allows the driver access to all the important buttons as well as iDrive, which in this car, even allows you to preset the opening height for the rear tailgate. Making it easier for everyone to reach that “close” button on the tip of the tailgate. Perhaps, also to prevent you from smashing the tailgate in low leveled car parks too.

With all controls adjustable for reach and rake, getting that optimum driving position is all a matter of pushing buttons and knobs. The side mirrors on the car are massive and really, don’t need that much adjustment. The one thing that will need adjustment though is the driver’s sense of space the car takes on the road. For one, you sit quite high up when driving alongside local traffic and the sheer size of the car needs some getting used to, it takes quite a while. The view out the rear is tiny though, due to the rakish rear hatch.

– What you see out the rear view mirror

– What other people see out their rear view mirrors

With 19inch wheels as standard (and they look small on this car) and over 2 tonnes to shuffle about, you’d expect the steering wheel to require lots of grunt to operate, but no, with active steering, it becomes a doodle to move around in carparks. At low speeds, it is light and easy to swing from side to side, which should make for rapid progress out of the carpark. On the contrary though, again, the size of this machine means that i had to take it extra slow and be extra cautious getting the car out into the open. Curved slopes are best taken at what can be best described as a “snail’s pace” with all sensors and gizmos turned on to help whenever possible. Parking assistance, on, hill descent control, on. It’s almost like an airplane taxiing out, it feels like one too. I actually feel sorry for those that had to be stuck behind me in carparks.

Finally after a couple of weeks, i manage to get myself out of the carpark and onto our local roads. Now, i have a confession to make, before i had ever step foot inside the X6, before even i had a whiff of the interior, i imagined myself driving this behemoth, gangster-leaning, music blaring, full-on charging up the road barging anyone unfortunate to be in front of me out of the way. I’d imagine with such a monstrous nose, huge size and massive grunt, everyone else in front of me would bow down in sheer fear and filter out of my lane. What happens in real life though, is quite different.

Instead of becoming a hip-hop gangster pimp, i became Mr Courtesy or Mr Give-way-to-anyone-that-tries-to-filter-into-my-lane. You see, this car is wide, it is so wide in fact that on local roads, you pretty much use up most of your lane’s space just staying in the middle, and when some other dim witted motorist so much as think about coming into your lane, you’ll be tapping on the brakes for the inevitable. Progress is therefore, not always as rapid as you’d like. When the traffic clears for a second though, push down on those flappy paddle flaps on the steering wheel a couple of times and this X6’s 3litre Twin Turbo unit from the 335i, suddenly wakes up and with a surge or torques, torpedo you up the road into more traffic. Alsa, though you know there is so much more power in reserve, there just isn’t enough road , so just slot it back into “D” and potter along, hip hop music in tow. One neat feature this car has is “Auto-Hold”, which allows you to take your foot off the brakes in traffic. How it works is the car will sense when it has stopped, and applies the brakes for you until you decide to move off again.

– Yummy Yummy petrol!!!

– That’s a lot of bars to move around

How does it handle? One word, ridiculous. How ridiculous a car, as big as this can brake so hard just before diving into a corner, turning in without any complaints and pulls itself out when you apply the throttle with such poise and ease. It makes you readjust your driving senses, it just boggles belief at how BMW has managed to make such a big car hustle so quickly. Sure, there is some slight body roll, and the nose goes downwards on heavy braking, but turn-in is sharp and control is spot on. When the tip of the corner has been passed, just slowly straighten the car up whilst at the same time punching the accelerator inwards and you’ll see on the digital readout how this X6 “Torque Vectors” itself, pulling and pushing at the same time, out of the corner.

You will be aware of all the digital devices keeping this car on the road though, there is no other way a car as big as this can take corners even better then a number of cars with sporting pretensions. Here’s a rundown on all the geeky stuff. Ready?

This 3litre Twin Turbo BMW X6 Xdrive35i SAV features, xDrive, iDrive, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), Active Steering, ICM (Integrated Chassis Management), ABS, ASC (Automatic Stability Control), Trailer Stability Control, HDC (Hill Descent Control), DBC (Dynamic Brake Control), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), Automatic Cruise Control, ADB (Automatic Differential Brake), AutoHold, Adaptive Drive with FlexRay high-speed data transmission, Dynamic Performance Control, and many more other technical wonders i could have missed out.

One of those you should pay attention to is Dynamic Performance Control, this amazing magic potion of technology to put it simply, varies the amount of power going to each wheel, constantly adjusting to pull and push the car from bend to bend, corner to corner, making use of all four wheels to bring the car around. It even has a digital readout on the dash for drivers to see how much power is going to each individual wheel. All very high-tech stuff. How it works in a nutshell is imagine taking a right-handed bend, pushing the throttle pedal towards the carpet, Dynamic Performance Control senses a right-handed bend is on the way and sends more power towards the rear left wheel, increasing the turn arc of the car and at the same time, some additional power goes to the front right wheel, pulling the car towards the apex. In practice, how this all works to bring the X6 around a corner is mind boggling stuff, but it gets the job done and done very very well indeed.

It is a handler for sure, but on my first couple of days with the X6, i struggled hard to find a reason for this car, it was and is still massive and it only seats 4. Who would buy such a car? I pondered on this question for as long as i had been driving. You see, with most other cars, i will usually drive them endlessly until a certain point in time when everything clicks and when you realize what the car was made for. A certain point in time when you go, yes, this is it, this is what she’s meant to do. With the X6 though, i struggled to even find a point at all.

Yes, the car is utterly powerful, utterly quick round corners and standing next to it makes me look like a complete midget. But i drove on and on without being able to “feel” for the car. It just felt distant and almost like a pointless show of technologies and size enhancement.

That is, until it rained. When i say rain, i meant to say, it poured. Visibility was down to naught but with my high and mighty driving position, it wasn’t a worry at all, those massive wheels thundering through anything mother nature can give. (Locally anyway) This car feels planted and rock solid, and there are many worse places to be in a thunderstorm. Inside, my individually climate controlled environment, all i had to worry about, was which station played a proper song.

– You don’t get this type of views out your windows much anymore, best enjoyed AL-fresco

When the rain stopped though, that was when i was fast approaching my X6 epiphany. I took this high riding low slung 4door coupe into a beautiful sunset along a back road with all the windows down, wind blowing in my face and with the sun fast setting along my side. With the scent of rain that had just ended surrounding me, it felt good. The road curved slightly ahead and opened up just after, the X6 just loving it all, with power delivery of 400Nm all the way from 1300-5000rpm, it was easy to punch out of each and every bend. And with windows down, all that inline6 mechanical noise can be heard in full. This is what the car is meant for. Not for driving around the city, not even for blasting up and down tight twist and corners, but for beautiful open roads with long sweeping curves.

– Bringing you places no sports car can ever go

One highlight of the drive was towards the end of the road, the X6 with it’s raised right height was able to bring me just that little bit closer to the edge of civilization, where no low-riding sports car can ever dream of going. Just to bring me that little bit off the road to view a wonderful sunset.

Though such moments happen only on occasion, but when it all comes together, it feels pretty stonking good. Almost akin to how i feel about the X6. It’s a combination of brain and brawn that awaken your senses and uplifts your heart only on the right road in the right condition, but when it all comes together, it’s all rather good.

So if you are in the market for a sports car, but want the size and presence of an SUV and the luxuries of an executive BMW, without the businessman image of the 7 series, take a look at the X6. It might take a while to get used to, and it might not be for everyone, but take the off beaten path and get to know the X6 better and it might just surprise you.

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  1. bmw cars are like birdes flying in the sky i love very much the x6 is very very very very very beatiful car i love the bmw industri (factory …..)

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