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BMW's twin-turbo X6 V8 driven

2009-07-17 08:45
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model X6
Engine 4.4l V8
Power 300kW @ 5 500-6 400r/min
Torque 600Nm @ 1 750-4 500r/min
Transmission 6-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 5.4 sec
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Tank 85l
Fuel Consumption 13.5l/100km
Weight 2 265kg
Boot Size 570l
Airbags Six
Tyres 255/50 R19
Front Suspension Double track arm axle; small, negative steering roll radius
Rear Suspension Integral axle; space-effect suspension

Lance Branquinho

BMW’s inimitable X6 is finally available locally with blown V8 power, rounding off the range which was launched nearly a year ago.

Although BMW marketing jargon specifies the X6 as a four-door coupe, most people still class it as a severely stylised SUV.

If you wish to really antagonise BMW pundits you can even dare to call it a X5 hatchback….

A classless car?

Whichever class you wish to pencil it in at, X6 has been on sale locally for nearly a year now and demand remains high.

Despite the apparent pointlessness of design (especially considering the excellence of its X5 sibling) and the alarming styling, X6 sales figures are solid, which is all that counts, really.

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and with an increasing number of X6s operating in the right-hand lanes of most South African urban centres, its initially vilified styling has settled into a nuance of measured presence.

Parallelogram shaped exhaust differentiate the V8 50i from its in-line six siblings with their rounded gas exchange plumbing.

Best appreciated when viewed from a side profile perspective, where X6’s sharply sloping "coupe" roofline is most notable, the new xDrive50i version is nearly indistinguishable from its in-line six-cylinder petrol and diesel turbocharged siblings.

The X5 familiar front end styling has the requisite overtaking presence to clear slower traffic ahead, whilst the only visual clue to a forced-induction V8 residing above the front axle are a set of forbidding, parallelogram shaped dual exhausts at the rear.

An engineering tour de force

As easy as it is to take issue with the X6’s brazenly nouveau riche pleasing design, Munich’s engineering department has ensured – yet again – that whatever the product planning and marketing dream up rolls off the production line with a redoubtable standard of engineering expertise.

The 4.4l, twin-turbo V8 is a contemporary masterpiece.

All aluminium in construction (even the sub-assembly), with both turbochargers nestled between the two cylinder banks, it runs at an uncannily high 10:0.1 compression ratio thanks to the direct injection fuelling system.

Enthusiasts might scoff at its forced induction nature (an oddity for BMW’s V8s), yet with 600Nm of rotational force factoring in at a scant 1 750r/min, and a 300kW power peak streaming from 5 500-6 400r/min, the numbers take some beating…

V8 in configuration, 4.4l in displacement, and turbocharged in terms of fuel/air mixture. Not traditional BMW, yet hugely effective, and the probable basis for the next M5 engine too...

Drive is distributed to all-four wheels via BMW’s xDrive system, with an electronically actuated multiplate clutch splitting drive between the axles.

BMW’s Dynamic Performance Control (DPC) system operates to vary drive to opposing axle wheels. It acts like a fore and aft limited slip differential of sorts, with one key differentiating characteristic…

DPC has the ability to accelerate one of the opposing wheels on each axle independently of the other, instead of simply rationing power to the slipping wheel during high speed cornering when extreme lateral forces are at play.

Further mechanical engineering witchcraft courtesy of BMW is found in X6’s ability to apportion torque between the rear wheels even on trailing throttle or during a complete lift when the car goes into "overrun".

Thanks to a superimposed transmission with dual planetary gearing within the final drive, controlled by a multi-plate brake actuated by dual electric motors (one for each wheel), variable drive can be apportioned on the rear axle during overrun.

It might sound like a bit much of a muchness, yet if you’ve overcooked it and suddenly lift-off mid corner (usually initiating dreaded lift-off oversteer followed by an expensive insurance claim) this rear axle "overrun" system can help you remedy the situation without a full suite of DSC and ABS nannying.

This also ensures trailing throttle-to-gentle-lift-off when negotiating corners at speed and necessitating a tightening line, matched with secure rear axle behaviour.

Teasing Newton

BMW set us about a meandering test route around the KwaZulu Natal midlands, which as locals will attest, serves up a blend of challenging roads with – at times – feature treacherously depreciating surface quality.

En route the X6 V8s were awfully refined on the highway, with noise/vibration and harshness levels negligible.

Buyers who opt for this V8 instead of the excellent 3l in-line sixes obviously seek devastating overtaking urge delivered with the requisite V-formation acoustics.

Fortunately, BMW has pulled off an excellent technical balancing act ensuring the V8 engine is unobtrusive at median throttle openings, yet characteristically resonant when pressing on.

You could compare it with Cayenne, yet without low-range, and despite sporting neat ground clearance, X6 remains a secure traction performance car with curiously excellent pavement parking capabilities. The SUV moniker does not really apply...

And the X6 50i can press on with urgent alacrity when needed.

Those neat engine output figures (300kW, with rotational force double the first numeral at 600Nm) ensure the moment of inertia between throttle actuation, increased engine speed and unnerving velocity is uncanny for a car of the X6’s immensity.

Exploiting the V8 engine’s significant pace burdens the X6’s sophisticated all-wheel drive system and dynamic driver aids. Hardly surprising when you factor in that it runs 0-100km/h in only 5.4 seconds.

This is a heavy car (2.2t), with a disconcertingly high centre of gravity (ground clearance is 212mm, only 8mm shy of a Toyota Fortuner) considering its latent performance potential.

Although body roll is deftly controlled, and road-holding in general quite remarkable for something its size, X6’s weight and high centre of gravity mean mid-corner undulations and broken road surface surprises are not negotiated with aplomb at speed.

It handles well, yet you’re left with a sense of admiration for X6’s determination to fight off the burden of its dimensions instead of a traditional BMW sense of driving engagement.

In mitigation though, even on delicate mountain passes, you’ll frustrate the performance hatchback brigade no end with the unnerving amount of momentum X6 can carry.

At speed on immaculately surfaced, sweeping roads it’s as accomplished as most luxury saloons.

Interior is contemporary BMW - clean lines, uncluttered surfaces, yet cynically uninspiring. reversing camera, glass sunroof, SatNav, top-drawer sound, Park Distance Control, Xenon headlights, automatic tailgate operation and cruise control with brake function.

Is it the pick of the X6 range then?

As a high-speed conveyance transporting four-adults and their luggage in sumptuous comfort (with peculiarly pliant ride quality), X6 is now even more accomplished with the newfangled V8 power.

The 4.4l V8 adds the additional safety margin when overtaking, essential for high-speed travel in South Africa.

It makes an exemplary noise too, which will entertain owners no end from one traffic light to the next in the lower ratios.

Question is though – do you buy X6 50i now or wait for the 404kW M version coming towards the end of the year? Decisions, decisions…


BMW X6 xDrive50i Standard model        R890 500
BMW X6 xDrive50i Sport model              R906 000
BMW X6 xDrive50i Exclusive model        R926 800
BMW X6 xDrive50i Innovation model     R939 100
BMW X6 xDrive50i Individual model       R967 500

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