Bruiser of a cruiser

The new BMW X6 has a better fit and finish than its predecessor.
The new BMW X6 has a better fit and finish than its predecessor.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

BMW's new X6 is full of brawn and presence, but still a car of compromises

BMW claims every part of the second-generation X6 is new, but the massive "coupe-sport utility vehicle" looks and feels rather similar to its segmentdefying predecessor.

Up close, it is still an imposing hulk of a car, with pronounced bulges that make it a tad menacing - especially if it is black.

It seems higher off the ground than before, perhaps an impression given by the side-steps fitted on the test car.

Size-wise, it is slightly taller and a wee bit wider than its predecessor. Overall length has been extended, solely from a longer front overhang.

Its sloping roof makes getting behind the wheel a neck-bending exercise. That the seat has to be raised to give you a decent view of the car's front does not help.

Rear passengers need to navigate around wheel arches that intrude into the passenger cell like boulders. As before, the X6's cabin is not really all that big for a car its size.

It measures 4,909mm long, 1,989mm wide and 1,702mm tall, making it longer and wider than an X5, but not as tall. Its wheelbase is identical to the X5's 2,933mm.

While the X5 has three rows of seats, the X6 has two. Its sharply sloping rear roof makes it impossible to fit a third row.

In any case, the X6 - being a cross between a coupe and an SUV - supposedly offers a sportier proposition, and having seven seats is not part of that proposition.

Its boot is sizeable though, like a wagon's - wide, flat and deep. But its loading height is clearly higher than that of a wagon.

But if you are a tall individual, the loading height should suit you just fine. Then again, the low ceiling might not.

BMW calls the X6 a sports activity coupe, alluding to a level of on-road dynamism that you would not expect a tall off-roader to have.

Those expecting it to drive like an overgrown hot hatch might be disappointed. Although BMW is masterful in the art of motion, there are laws of physics that are just unconquerable.

The X6 feels a little truck-like at the helm, with a steering that is effortless but not incisive enough. It is fine as long as the tarmac is long and straight, but becomes a little untidy when changes in direction are called for.

It is not entirely surprising, given that the helm has to deal with a 2.2-tonne behemoth raised 212mm off the ground. As an SUV, the X6 is relatively decent in the driveability department, but to expect more of it would be akin to expecting an elephant to glide like a gazelle.

BMW has done remarkably well in other areas though. Ride quality is commendable, with a suspension that is firm yet pliant enough, and damping action that keeps body movements to a minimum.

There is no shortage of power, with the xDrive50i's 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 churning out 450bhp and 650Nm of torque. Together with slight weight savings (up to 40kg), the new X6 hits 100kmh in 4.8 seconds - down from 5.4 previously.

Power delivery is more torrential than linear. To be fair, this is an impression culled from driving the car immediately after the fantastically seamless BMW i3 electric car.

Together with its eight-speed transmission (six previously), an all-wheeldrive system that kicks in only when necessary and a lower drag-coefficient, the car is said to be up to 22 per cent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

The most visible difference, however, lies in the cockpit. The car has a new fascia, with instrument gauges that are fully digital. A new xDrive status display offers 3-D graphics that show real-time information on body roll and pitch.

Fit and finish, as well as quality of materials employed, are better than its predecessor's. These, perhaps, are the most tangible changes in the car.

christan@sph.com.sg