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The BMW X6 is a thoroughly confusing car


Thomas Falkiner is baffled by the idea of a Sport Activity Coupé

At the age of 34 there are still many things that I do not understand. Like the amount of crap that I accumulate but never throw away. I've moved three times in three years and each time I was amazed at just how much nondescript stuff gets thrown into boxes I'll never unpack - cardboard tombs that clog up the garage or guestroom cupboards until the next migration.
Then there are pets. Compact, intelligent, there when you need them, absent when you don't, the cat is possibly the perfect pet. Why people shun them in favour of salivating, noisy and needy single-cell organisms (aka dogs) is beyond me.
House music. Trance music. People who enjoy Beyoncé's voice. Gyms. Tourists who feel the need to catalogue, photographically, everything from their economy-class airline meals to the desolate arrivals hall at OR Tambo International - the list continues ad infinitum.
And somewhere on it, between individuals who cannot laugh at themselves and the Windows operating system, lies the BMW X6.
I remember when the X6 first came out. It was 2008 and I'd just started writing this column. It made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now. Especially the ridiculous description tagged to the end of its name: Sport Activity Coupé. Huh? A coupé is, in the traditional sense, a car with a fixed roof and two-doors. The X6 fits only one of these criteria. Now I understand the concept of creative licence but this really is a case of marketing bollocks pushed too far.
This funny nomenclature is only part of my beef. A BMW X6 is a gargantuan slab of machinery. It looks capable of swallowing an adult giraffe with ease. Climb inside, however, and you will be disappointed - especially if you're tall and sitting in the back, because that aggressively raked roofline makes it claustrophobic. If you're rocking an Afro or a bouffant your follicles will be making sweet love to the roof liner above.
Aft legroom is also on the tight side while rearward visibility probably rivals that of my mate's Lamborghini Diablo. Sure, the boot is pretty large, but so is the boot in the more practical X5.
What about the driving experience? This is where things get interesting. I had the X6 M50d on test for a few days and it proved to be bloody impressive. You kind of expect it to handle like a big old German tank from the Cold War era but in fact it romps down the asphalt with all the accuracy of a hot hatchback.
The harder you push it the smaller it seems to feel. Probably because the M-division engineers have pumped it full of trick mechanical bits and pieces. Systems like the standard adaptive air suspension have been tweaked to deliver road-holding characteristics better than those of lesser models in the X6 range. Low-speed ride quality maybe suffers a bit as a result, but through the corners it really comes into its own.
The permanent all-wheel-drive system has been tuned to offer more rear-wheel bias. Indeed, turn off the traction control system and you'll be amazed at just how playful this thing can be. Then there's ridiculously quick straight-line performance - wow.
It may sound a bit clattery at idle but when the newly developed six-cylinder, tri-turbo diesel engine builds a few revs it morphs into a smooth and devastatingly effective reeler-inner of horizon lines. BMW says the M50d will hit 100km/h in just over five seconds and I believe them. Particularly since the eight-speed Steptronic gearbox dispatches shifts so well. I know, it may not be of the dual-clutch variety but, nevertheless, BMW has programmed this transmission to a point where it does come close.
As a driving tool this Beemer cuts an impression neat and deep: a medieval broadsword that slices with the accuracy of a surgery theatre blade. It's a damn commendable achievement.
Yet it still makes bugger-all sense to me in the harsh neon light of this open-plan office. I mean who wants a two-ton performance SUV (I refuse to call it a SAC)? Going on international sales data it would seem that many do. Cool, so then why not rather purchase the X5 M50d that's not only more practical and as good to pilot but also nearly R200k cheaper?
Sorry BMW: maybe it's because I was born with enough middle fingers on my hands but your X6 will always be a niche too far for me. Yep, even this one.

FAST FACTS: BMW X6 M50d

Engine: 2993cc six-cylinder tri-turbo diesel
Power: 280kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 740Nm from 2000 to 3000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic
0-100km/h: 5.2-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250km/h (limited)
Fuel: 11.2l/100km (achieved)
CO2: 174g/km
Price: From R1,559,600
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