The attached picture of the instrument panel very aptly summarises BMW’s new uber-SUV/Coupé, the X6 M50d.
It shows the car’s cruising at just under 200km/h while the fuel consumption meter is reading just over 9 litres per 100km.
Before I’m accused of antisocial behaviour, I was cruising legally at that speed on the unrestricted German autobahn (the great safety record of German freeways proves that with competent drivers behind the wheel, high velocity is not the killer that our speed-trap-obsessed South African authorities would have us believe it is, but that’s a story for another day).
The point here is that where you expect a large and muscular brute like an M-badged X6 to quaff combustible fluid like a sailor on shore leave, the opposite is true. This Bavarian mega-diesel combines thrust with thrift.
A claimed 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.3 seconds and a governed top speed of 250km/h puts this diesel Beemer into the Usain Bolt category of SUV athletes.
It’s one of the most powerful diesel SUVs in the market with 280kW and 740Nm under the bonnet – but the surprise is that it manages this with a relatively compact 3-litre straight six engine.
This new-generation Beemer engine – which is also available in the X5 – employs no less than three turbochargers instead of the usual one or two.
Comprising two smaller turbos and one large one, it’s a setup designed to reduce low-rev lag, and I can confirm its effectiveness from the way the X6 had huge dollops of power from the word go. No lags or pauses, just instant thrust which allowed us to whisk effortlessly past most other autobahn traffic.
All this, and the X6 averaged just 10.1 litres per 100km. That’s higher than the factory’s 7.7 litre claim but still an impressive figure given that the test car was always filled to capacity with passengers and luggage.
It’s really an awesome drivetrain that’s impossible to dislike. An eight-speed auto transmission governs the thrust in smooth and slick fashion, and the car even has a sporty voice. You don’t usually expect vocal charisma from a diesel but this one makes a growl not unlike a petrol V8 when you boot the throttle with enthusiasm. When cruising however, the engine remains politely silent and vocally unobtrusive.
What does prove somewhat obtrusive during a long cruise is the steering’s super-sensitivity, which necessitates making constant small corrections to stay in a straight line, especially when there’s a bit of a side wind. For a long open road I’d prefer the steering to be a little more indirect. Active Steering, which changes the sensitivity according to driving speed, isn’t an option available in the M50d as it is in some other X6s.
I guess BMW decided this is an M-badged car and requires a sporty feel on twisty roads and the X6, in both its steering and chassis responses, does offer athletic handling for such a mammoth vehicle.
The car displays minimal wallowing in fast-paced cornering, but without the suspension being tightened to uncomfortable levels.
I have no complaints about the ride quality, even after one marathon ten-hour drive.
I doubt many X6 owners will ever go bundu bashing and put the traction-enhancing xDrive 4x4 system to the test, but it does really work and kept us pointed in the right direction when we headed into the snowy mountains of Slovakia on iced-up roads.
Providing additional grip at the rear axle is a system called Dynamic Performance Control, which applies more engine torque to the outer wheel on bends.
In previous European winter trips I spent many an hour digging notches in the ice to get a two-wheel drive car out of a parking space – otherwise the wheels just spun uselessly even if there was just a slight incline – but my experience with this X6 remained thankfully spade-free. All-wheel drive in these slippery conditions is a godsend.
Along with the introduction of the new triple-turbo diesel engine, the four year old X6 was also given a mild facelift in August last year with slight changes to the head, tail and fog lights, along with slightly redesigned front and rear bumpers. Some new trim options are available inside the cabin.
The passenger quarters are roomy although the rear seat takes just two passengers.
The X6’s coupe-like roof slope gives it a smaller boot than the X5, but it still offers a very useful 570 litres.
With a pricetag of R1 064 182, the X6 M50d comes suitably stuffed with all manner of standard luxuries and gadgets including navigation, Bluetooth/USB music connectivity, 8GB of music storage, electrically adjustable front seats, and alcantara/nappa upholstery, to name but a handful.
If your pockets are deep there’s a long list of optional extras, one of my favourite ones being the active cruise control (costing R18 000), which takes a lot of the stress out of long trips by automatically keeping a safe following distance to the car in front, even when crawling in slow traffic.
As standard the X6 comes with a reversing camera and parking sensors galore – and it needs them. It’s a biiiig vehicle and even with all the electronic aids, parking is always a rather stressful exercise.
With a 0-100km/h time just half a second slower than the petrol-powered BMW X6 M flagship but with just over half the fuel consumption, the X6 M50d is a big-daddy diesel that gives kickass performance without fuel bills that make you cry. At a price saving of 330 grand.