As a patron of the Rally to Read initiative, RamsayMedia, the company that publishes CAR, participated in the Western Cape leg of the literacy drive. A BMW X6 xDrive40d, a long-term test unit in the CAR fleet, tackled the gravel and mud of the rural roads in the Overberg district to transport team RamsayMedia to the schools.
Even though CAR took delivery of the X6 test unit only in February, it has completed almost half of its 20 000 km test mileage already. All of those kilometres have been clocked up on asphalt, of course, but the Rally to Read presented quite a different challenge for a product that even BMW will admit is a “road-biased SUV”.
Having removed the X6’s luggage cover and loaded its luggage bay with as many school books, educational aids, sports equipment and writing supplies as it could accommodate (packing the hold to the top virtually obliterates the view out of the low-sloping rear screen!), yours truly and three passengers joined the Rally at its start at the Grabouw Country Club on Saturday.
From there, our group (Group 6) drove in convoy to three schools in the Overberg District. First was Jongensklip Primary, which was easily accessible via a short, well-maintained dirt road not far from the N2 freeway. We unloaded the educational materials from the X6 and the children treated us to some singing, poem recitals (in English and Afrikaans) and a play. With our material delivered, my passengers and I could free up some cabin space by moving our overnight bags and oddments into the hold.
We then drove on to Mullersrus. Although we had concerns over the X6’s suitability for handling uneven and rutted dirt roads by virtue of its 20-inch low-profile road tyres, the BMW exhibited admirable stability and grip thanks to its dynamic xDrive four-wheel-drive system. I found that, especially on looser gravel, it was a boon to have such a meaty, direct feel to the steering.
Shortly after our third stop, St Johns – an old missionary school that educates the local farm labourers’ children – rain began to fall and from there to Malgas, where we crossed the river on a old-fashioned pontoon and the De Hoop Nature Reserve, the dirt roads became slicker and just a bit muddy. Still, it was easy to negotiate the slippier roads even though the X6 (not least the grooves in its tyres) was caked in mud and visibility less than ideal in fading light.
The next morning, we took a couple of hours to enjoy the reserve before heading back to Cape Town. I set the cruise control to about 30 km/h, but it was pointless because of the need to make frequent stops to admire the reserve’s palpably “tame” wildlife. Also, the quality of the dirt roads in the reserve was coarse and badly pockmarked in certain areas, which kept our speed low to avoid bashing the satin-effect enamel on the X6’s handsome alloys.
Time flies, as the adage goes, so when we left the reserve and made our way home, the X6 picked up speed on the dirt road section between De Hoop and Bredasdorp. However, the beautifully smooth and winding roads between Bredasdorp and Caledon felt tailor-made for the X6. Finally re-united with its beloved asphalt, the BMW exhibited the best of its balanced road-holding and ever-tractable twin-turbo diesel grunt to help us get home with time to spare. My passengers remarked that the X6 felt remarkably stable and serene at speed, although I think its side-mirrors contribute to the levels of wind noise at cruising speeds.
We read a fuel consumption of 10,3 litres/ 100 km for the trip; considering the loads that the X6 had to lug, the stop-start nature of some sections of the route and my heavy foot on the return journey, the xDrive40d was comparatively frugal.