At first glance, it might be a difficult to make out the exterior changes to the X6. The enhancements are so subtle that casual passers-by might not be able to distinguish the new car from the 150 000 already sold since 2008. But look closer, the differences are not entirely invisible.
The launch of the facelifted X6 started just outside King Shaka International Airport in Durban, as South African media descended on Kwa-Zulu Natal to sample the revised Sports Activity Vehicle from BMW.
The first giveaways of the new X6 are the optional adaptive LED headlamps, which look distinctly narrower than the standard bi-xenon lights. Also new are the foglamp surrounds, which add to the illusion of more width, and a slightly revised “kidney grille.” There’s not much noticeably different at the rear, apart from the LED light banks that make up the tail lamps – creating a signature profile at night.
Other key differences include the new alloy wheel designs and ten exterior colour schemes for the X6 – eight of them metallic. This particular model also came equipped with optional 20-inch M-Sport alloys to accentuate the X6’s athletic stance.
You’re not left wanting for much inside the X6’s cabin, besides it being reasonably spacious and comfortable (this is a four-seater after all, even though five could, at a squeeze, fit). There are five trim packages available, which basically amounts to the customer paying more as the niceties are ticked off. Heading north out of Durban, I immediately appreciated the adaptive cruise control, customizable heads-up display and 16-speaker sound system.
Strong performance on and off the beaten track
The launch route had the convoy wind its way around the N2 to take in as many surfaces and B-roads as possible as we aimed for the northernmost tip of the province. There’s no denying the X6’s on-road prowess. For what is basically a sleek SUV (don’t let the Sports Activity Coupe moniker fool you), the X6 is still dynamically one of the more capable vehicles on the road. A squat stance and wide rubber no doubt contribute to the experience but the real work comes from the xDrive all-wheel drive system, which distributes torque according to the driver’s zeal.
The engine line-up features the cream of BMW’s crop, including the multi-award winning turbocharged 3,0-litre inline six, and on this model the same 4,4-litre turbocharged V8 that does service in the M5. It’s been detuned to “just” 300 kW and 600 N.m – but those outputs still managed to lug the X6’s two-tonne mass around with ease, and then some. The eight-speed ‘box kept shifts precise and efficient, but my spirited style of driving when not confined to the N2 saw the average fuel consumption rise way above the claimed 12,5 litres/100 km.
An unexpected off-road excursion later on in the route also laid to rest any reservations I previously had about taking a luxury SUV off-road. The constantly changing track through Phinda Game Reserve is probably more suited to the chopped-off Landies that are used for game drives, but the X6 managed the rough stuff with minimal stress. Realistically, owners are probably always going to be concerned about scratches on the expensive paintwork or damaging the big alloy wheels, so every time I heard a thud or felt a rock under low profile rubber, I winced for the X6’s part.
When the X6 was launched in South Africa two years ago, it was met with skeptical glances because of its extroverted design and question mark over its practicality. But for what it is, a comfortable cross-country tourer for four (and more than enough room for luggage), there’s not much better out there in terms of style. As fantastic as this engine is though, it wouldn’t be my choice of powerplant if I had some bundu bashing planned for the middle of nowhere. Performance is available by the bucketloads, but there’s a hefty premium to be paid at the pumps. This is why I can’t wait to try the new M50d tri-turbocharged 3,0-litre diesel unit. All of 280 kW and 740 N.m and a claimed combined consumption figure of just 7,7-litres/100 km should make an X6 with the M50d engine the pick of the bunch.
Model: BMW X6 xDrive50i
Engine: 4,4-litre, eight cylinder, petrol, turbocharged
Power: 300 kW/5 500 r/min
Torque: 600 N.m/1 750 r/min
Fuel consumption: 12,5 L/100 km *
CO2: 292 g/km
Top speed: 250 km/h*
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 5,4 sec*
Price: from R978 500
* All manufacturer’s claims
CO2 tax: R14 706
All X6s come standard with BMW’s 5 year/100 000 km Motorplan and BMW on Call assistance.