by Brad Leach - 24/12/12
We’re just back from three weeks in Italy and Monaco. There, like neighboring Germany and France, most cars are diesel and you’re never far from an autobahn or autostrada where if your vehicle can’t muster well north of 120km/h for hours on-end, fellow road users kindly ask you to drive on the B-Road instead.
Not far from Modena, Italy, we were doing 140km/h and a Ferrari 358 Italia rocketed past, doing oh, probably twice our speed, it’s driver casually changing up a gear alongside as he continued to accelerate. Of course the roads are very safe, well sign-posted and it all works brilliantly.
Perfect for BMW’s glorious triple-turbocharged X6 M50d full-size SUV. In fact we lost count of the numbers of X6s which passed us in Europe – most of them black with massive black wheels.
Trust BMW to build this car. Combine the fuel-savings of diesel with the phenomenal performance of triple turbocharging and – voila! – the X6 50d was crying out for the team from BMW’s ‘M Sport’ division to do their thing.
Addition of the ‘M’-developed X6 M50d rounds-out the X6 lineup with an unprecedented performance leader. While entry to the X6 lineup starts at $110,900 (30d), you’ll need $157,000 for the X6 M50d.
Boosted by that triple turbocharged diesel and the usual armada of BMW ‘M’ goodies, the X6 M50d actually represents great value.
We’re trying to think of a stronger term to label BMW’s triple-turbocharged six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel – stronger than something along the lines of: ‘staggering’, ‘remarkable’, ‘astonishing’. BMW simply says it’s the world’s most powerful volume-produced six-cylinder diesel.
Well, you’ve got the idea…
With maximum power of 280kW between 4000rpm and 4400rpm and peak torque of 740Nm from 2000rpm to 3000rpm, the triple-boosted six-cylinder provides – get this – 93.6kW/l of specific output. That’s Formula One type efficiency.
Nail the accelerator and the BMW X6 M50d pushes you backwards into your seat with some force, accompanied by a mercurial roar as the 3.0-litre, triple-turbocharged six-cylinder delivers its awesome performance. Although – just as you’d expect from BMW - that exhaust note is pleasing to the ears and of course the X6 M50d ramps-up the refinement at all speeds – more so than some non-European diesels with less than half the performance but twice the noise.
The second turbocharger cuts-in above 1500 rpm while the third operates from 2600rpm to the 5400rpm redline. Not only does this virtuoso forced induction performance provide breath-taking performance, of course fuel economy gets a boost as well – down to 7.7l/100kms.
BMW timed the launch of the X6 M50d perfectly as it arrived loaded with the most recent mid-life updates such as adaptive LED headlights, internet connectivity and the standard three-seat rear (previously this was an option).
Immediate impressions inside the BMW X6 are dominated by the front seat space. There’s massive shoulder room and of course the driver has multiple adjustments of the steering wheel and seat to secure a perfect position.
The beautiful ‘M’ ‘leather-wrapped steering wheel is a highlight as is the usual high-standard BMW instrumentation. The BMW X6 M50d also scores the range-topping Navigation Professional system and a head-up display.
And the standard M inclusions are all there, including alcantara/leather sports seats with contrast stitching and the anthracite headliner.
Rear seat passengers sit high with ample leg-room but tall folk might be snug in the headroom department.
The BMW X6 remains one of the most dominating SUVs on the road. In Europe, where there are large numbers on the road, the favoured colour combo seemed to be black paint and black wheels – ramping-up the ‘Muscle Car’ look.
As a member of the BMW ‘M’ family, the X6 M50d scores numerous unique external features, starting with the ‘power bulge’ bonnet. As well, the front-end gets the aero treatment on the front apron, large air intakes and horizontal trim bars.
From the side, the X6 M50d is identified by ‘Ferric Grey’ mirror caps and brilliantly-style 20-inch double spoke alloy wheels.
From the rear, V8-style tailpipes distinguish the BMW X6 performance king.
In an ideal world we would have tackled our high-speed mountain roads test loop in the BMW X6 M50d, Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and Range Rover Sport back-to-back.
We didn’t do that, but we’re painting a picture here…these SUVs ain’t for huntin’ & fishin’ and are definitely more suited to the Nurburgring than the Nartbethong off-road track (although all come with considerable off-road ability).
Our BMW X6 M50d simply snarled at the twisty stuff, the rear-wheel-biased Dynamic Performance Control system flexing its muscles and delivering a driving dynamic akin to an M5 sedan. In fact – get this – the X6 M50d’s chassis was so good that for a couple of split seconds here and there we were looking for even more response than we were getting from the triple-turbo six-cylinder’s 280kW/740Nm…astonishingly good.
Accelerating out of slow corners was where the BMW X6 M50d really proved its point. The balance, poise and eyeball-popping acceleration – in a full-size SUV weighing over two tonnes - while still returning fuel consumption below 8.0l/100kms…it’s just BMW, what more can you say?
BMW’s Dynamic Performance Control system deserves special mention. All computer/yaw-sensor/g-sensor controlled, it counteracts oversteer and understeer by re-routing drive from the inside rear wheel to the outside rear wheel and visa-versa.
Those dinosaurs in their string-back driving gloves and felt caps will say the BMW X6 M50d would be more compelling to drive and faster with all those electronic ‘gimmicks’ turned off. It isn’t and BMW wouldn’t spend hundreds of millions of Deutschemarks developing Dynamic Performance Control and other systems if they don’t contribute to the driving dynamics demanded by its customers.
As well, the X6 M50d runs unique M suspension tune – so it’s firmer and more precise than regular X6 models and features electronically controlled dampers and an active anti-roll function.
A bit polarizing when it first appeared (not helped by the standard two individual seats in the rear), time has softened the BMW X6 - even so, the styling remains edgy-contemporary. But, as the ladies in high heels at the Spring Racing Carnival will attest, fashion comes at a price - for the BMW X6 that payback is tight-ish rear-seat headroom.
We live in interesting times…
As the world’s population increasingly embraces environmental-everything, Europe’s automakers are slugging it out to connect that ‘green’ revolution with unrelenting customer demand for high performance vehicles. Cue Porsche’s hybrid development.
In that context, BMW (and Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen Group and Jaguar-Land Rover) have developed some astonishing diesel engines – we’ve just tested the BMW X6 M50d tri-turbo diesel but let’s not overlook Audi’s 368kW/1,000Nm V12 TDI.
So, by any measure the BMW X6 M50d is the cutting edge, top of the totem pole, world’s-best. And it’s worth every cent of that $157,000 price tag.
And that’s why the BMW X6 M50d has joined the handful of vehicles to earn our top 4.5 star rating.
Currently BMW rules the roost in sporty high-performance diesel SUVs and in fact at $147,000 ($10,000 less than the X6 M50d) you can score the same drivetrain in the slightly smaller X5 M50d. Not as ‘mucho’ in the styling department as the X6, the BMW X5 is also a stunner. An M version X5 or X6 with a 280kW/740Nm triple-turbocharged six-cylinder diesel? What a dilemma!
Mercedes-Benz ML doesn’t have a directly comparable diesel-powered variant but of course the petrol-engined ML63 AMG ($177,400) is as good as it gets in this league – a Car Showroom favourite. Mercedes’ 386kW/700Nm twin-turbocharged V8 is a screamer and when you throw all of AMG’s technology and styling additions into the good-looking new M-Class, the result was always going to be spectacular and it is.
Against that lot we have the relative bargain of the Range Rover Sport. You’ll need $128,900 for the 180kW/680Nm V6 twin-turbo diesel SDV6 or $175,900 for the 375kW/625Nm for the supercharged V8 petrol (both in range-topping ‘Autobiography’ grade). Without doubt the world’s best luxury SUV, the Range Rover is outmuscled by the BMW X6 M50d in this specialized sub-segment and of course the all-new Range Rover arrives next year.
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