2012 BMW X6 M50D REVIEW
Vehicle Style: High performance SUV
Price: $157,000 (plus on-roads), $165,900 as-tested
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.7 l/100km | tested: 11.5 l/100km
How much is too much? Is there even such a thing?
BMW would surely say no. Take the new X6 M50d, for example.
Is 740Nm of torque excessive? Is having three turbochargers on a six-cylinder diesel engine slightly ridiculous? BMW’s answer: a resounding "nein".
The X6 M50d is just one rung below the big-daddy X6 M, so it’s perhaps fitting that its spec sheet is filled with outrageous stats.
However, the term “diesel SUV” doesn’t typically get the pulse racing, so is the X6 M50d worth lusting after?
Quality: Built in the United States, the X6’s cabin quality is a little below the standard of other models in the marque’s stable.
But, that aside, there’s loads of soft surfacing in the cabin, and supple leather upholstery throughout.
Comfort: The front seats have ample proportions and good bolstering, particularly in the squab. Given the kind of cornering loads the X6 can generate, supportive seats like these are definitely appreciated.
Most controls fall readily to hand, and the adjustable steering column and power seats make it easy to get settled in behind the wheel.
Rearward visibility is poor though, thanks to the X6’s sloping, fastback shape. To help get around this, a trio of cameras give the driver a bird’s-eye view of what’s around the car while parking.
The backseat is also claustrophobic because of the rake of the X6’s roofline, although headroom isn’t quite as bad as we were expecting.
New for model year 2012 is a three-position rear bench, which replaces the two-position rear seat setup of the original X6.
The centre seat isn’t the most accommodating thanks to a lack of width (and that roofline), but it does offer more flexibility when it comes to carrying passengers.
Rear passengers will appreciate the rear air-outlets and quad-zone climate control, as well as the generously-sized centre armrest.
Equipment: The M50d is very well equipped straight out of the box, with plenty of modern technology as standard.
Features include a head-up display, quad-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, bi-xenon headlamps, a powered tailgate, satellite navigation, a six-disc CD stacker, USB audio input and Bluetooth phone integration.
There’s also the usual luxury car staples of auto-on headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, powered front seats (and steering column), trip computer and foglamps.
Our tester was also equipped with a glass sunroof ($3500), LED headlamps ($3400) and metallic paint ($2000).
Storage: Owners can stuff up to 570 litres of luggage into the X6’s boot without dropping the 60/40 split rear backrests.
Fold those backrests down, and the load area grows to 1450 litres. That’s not too bad for a car that - from the outside - looks to be quite compromised as a load-lugger.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While the average turbodiesel can pump out impressive torque, that torque is usually only available over a very narrow rev range.
The M50d’s mill is different. By strapping two small turbos and one large turbo to a 3.0 litre six-cylinder diesel, BMW has managed to engineer an oil-burner that produces massive amounts of torque across a wider range of engine speeds.
The result is 740Nm of torque and 280kW. You read that right; those are big numbers in any language.
And, while maximum torque is spread between 2000rpm and 3000rpm, the X6 M50d provides thumping power either side of that window.
Those outputs are good enough for a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds. That’s quick for a sportscar, let alone a two-tonne SUV that’s about as petite as an apartment block.
Chalk the X6 M50d’s sprinting ability down to its Hurculean midrange. Just off idle, there’s a bit of lag to contend with, and the turbos run out of steam about 500rpm short of the 5500rpm redline.
But everywhere in-between there’s gobs of pulling power.
Stomp the accelerator pedal and the M50d hauls like a locomotive. If you’re not prepared for it, the sheer thrust will surprise you.
Backing up that muscular diesel six is BMW’s by-now-familiar eight-speed automatic. We’ve raved about BMW’s eight-speeders before, and the M50d’s ‘box is no different to those we’ve sampled in the past.
Gearshifts are swift and smooth, there’s the right ratio for every occasion and it’ll blip the throttle on manual downshifts with rev-perfect accuracy.
It’ll also hold the engine against redline in manual mode, which gives the driver better control when driving at ten-tenths.
Refinement: The M50d’s performance-oriented tyres have slim sidewalls and are mounted on 20-inch alloy wheels, so there’s an elevated level of road roar that makes its way into the cabin.
Pleasingly though, there’s few other unwelcome sounds - bar a slight rattling from the rear of the cabin, which we suspect is caused by the rigid cargo cover.
The engine is quite muted for a diesel, and actually has a smoothness that’s rare in turbodiesels of this size. It sounds pretty good when worked hard too - another very un-diesel like trait.
Suspension: The X6 M50d is an affront to Newtonian physics. It weighs around 2.2 tonnes empty, and its tall, chunky body implies that there’s a high centre of gravity - and thus, plenty of body roll.
But while the X6 M50d looks like a heavyweight, it moves like a Thai kickboxer. The steering is wonderfully direct (but not especially feelsome), and the M50d’s M-tuned pneumatic suspension is completely unflustered by hard cornering.
In fact, the M50d’s ability to suppress body roll is remarkable, as is its threshold of grip.
Break that threshold, and you get progressive and predictable understeer. You’ll need to be pushing pretty hard though, for the X6’s AWD system can funnel up to 100 percent of torque to either axle to maintain traction.
Downsides? It’s a firm, jittery ride on suburban streets, and there’s some steering kickback over corners that are less than smooth.
Braking: The M50d’s mammoth 385mm front and 345mm rear brake discs are clamped by equally sizable sliding-calipers, and the stopping force they generate is formidable.
However, the M50d’s 2.2-tonne mass works against it here; while initial braking force is plentiful, prolonged hard driving will see the brakes start to overheat and fade.
ANCAP rating: Not rated
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, hill descent control, cornering brake control, a head-up display, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard.
Passengers are protected by three-point seatbelts on every seat, as well as dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres, additionally paintwork is warranted for three years, and body panels for up to 12 years against corrosion.
Service costs: Servicing costs can vary according to vehicle usage, and BMW does not set servicing intervals for the X6 range.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid ($164,400) - Porsche’s hybrid Cayenne is perhaps the closest competitor to the X6 M50d in terms of price, performance and fuel consumption, if not shape.
It’s 245kW/440Nm supercharged V6 engine is no match for the M50d’s turbodiesel powerhouse though, and the Porsche is well over a second slower in a 0-100km/h sprint. (see Cayenne reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The X6 M50d doesn’t have the most practically-proportioned interior (just ask the rear passengers), but it crams so much engine and drivetrain tech into its frame that it’s hard not to be impressed.
To feel it pin you back in your seat with just 2000rpm showing on the tach is a unique experience, and the way it handles a twisty road is something else altogether.
But, it’s perhaps no small coincidence that “X6” is just a slip of the tongue away from “excess”. It is massively expensive for a diesel SUV, and the X6’s love-it-or-hate-it styling is strictly for extroverts.
Yes, it is significantly more affordable than the $190,900 X6 M (and will no doubt cost less to run in fuel costs). But, for all its power and performance, the X6 M50d just doesn’t make sense: a high-riding SUV masquerading as a sports car has the pragmatic part of our psyche rebelling against the notion.
But fret not, for the X5 M50d is also on sale in Australia. It’s bigger inside, costs ten grand less than the X6 M50d, has the same tri-turbo diesel powertrain and is just one tenth of a second slower to 100km/h.
With far less-polarising styling, we’d also gamble that the X5 will enjoy better resale value than the X6.
We know which one we’d choose.
- X5 xDrive M50d - $147,000
- X6 xDrive 30d - $110,900
- X6 xDrive 35i - $121,000
- X6 xDrive 40d - $127,400
- X6 xDrive 50i - $150,400
- X6 xDrive M50d - $157,000
- X6 M - $190,900
Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
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