BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) review

Published:24 September 2008

BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies

By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies

Announcing the launch of the world’s first sports activity coupe is rather like announcing the world’s first six-decker sponge cake – probably quite tasty, but hardly a Jaffa cake moment, and way too tall to enjoy without getting yourself in a right mess.

So you don't think much of the BMW X6?

I wouldn’t say expectations of the X6 are low – it’s a BMW after all – but it’s genuinely hard to know how to approach a car that offers so little excuse for its existence. Usually you’re looking for a performance against expectation – will it handle as we hope, can it go off road, will the engine amaze, is the cabin the hoped-for revelation? But here the expectations boxes stand empty. So an open mind will have to do.

All very well, but you can’t ignore the X6’s looks, even if you’re being charitable. If you barrel-rolled an X5, or maybe jacked up a 6-series, you might expect a similarly resolved outcome – a kind of confident front end tailing off into an inexplicably flattened-off rear, the trajectory of which serves no purpose other than to look swoopy.  It’s a very uncomfortable look, like something on a catwalk that you know was designed by a genius, but which you secretly think looks rubbish. On the road it looks over-sized and disproportionate, and its body squats on its high haunches like the sort of nasty bugs that ran riot in The Mummy Returns. Oh dear.

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How does it drive?

Those ancient bugs were effective, and so’s the X6. This thing really handles. BMW’s smugly named Dynamic Performance Control – which dishes torque from wheel to wheel, maximising grip and stabilising the car, even when you’re off the power – is no gimmick here. There’s a terrific amount of body control for such a leviathan, giving an absurd sense of fleet-footedness in and out of dicey corners. The car’s biggest drawback is that it’s too good to be true – you can’t help backing off rather than approach a corner at this kind of speed this high off the ground.

BMW’s awfully good XDrive four-wheel-drive system gives the X6 its grippy urge, and the use of ‘Efficient Dynamics’ (a clever alternator and active aero) add further to the magic-trick that makes you believe you’re light as a feather.

You’ll believe you can fly but, with this engine, you can’t. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre six-pot petrol unit familiar to some 1- and 3-series drivers feels flat and uninspiring here, lacking both the character and the sheer grunt to gather up the momentum this chassis (and a kerb weight of 2145kg) demand. The engine’s 295lb ft of torque, although readily available from only just above 1000rpm, never quite feels enough. If you must get an X6, get the twin-turbo diesel six (you don’t need me to tell you this – it’s the one you’ll all buy).

Pressing on is further befuddled by the really quite awful gearchange buttons, made of silver plastic and mounted thickly on the steering wheel. You have to remember it’s ‘pull up, push down’ on both paddles, an anti-intuitive arrangement which made a mess of too many key changes while I was driving. I guess you get used to it. A shame, as the six-speed box is lively, and you really need it to be on its game to avoid falling into a lull in the power band.

Verdict

Ultimately, it’s a baffling experience, the X6. Let’s put it this way: I dislike BMW’s active steering, but behind this particular steering wheel I found myself yearning for its flighty assistance, and wondering why it wasn’t fitted. Which, like the idea of the X6, just feels somehow wrong.

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Specs

Price when new: £43,160
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2979cc twin-turbo 6cyl, 306bhp @ 5800rpm, 295lb ft @ 1300-5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 6.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 25.9mpg, 262g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2145kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4877/1983/1690

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  • BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) CAR review
  • BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) CAR review
  • BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) CAR review
  • BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) CAR review
  • BMW X6 XDrive 35i (2008) CAR review

By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies

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