The days when SUVs and 4X4s were considered the domain of the macho are long gone. Thanks to mothers worldwide, the sensibility of car-like dynamics and MPV-like seating positions has made SUVs one of the most popular vehicle types in motoring history. For automakers, it has also become one of the most lucrative segments in which to compete; with just about everyone already on the SUV bandwagon.
BMW was one of the first luxury German manufacturers to get it right, way back when with the original X5. When the fugly X3 came along, BMW created the SAV moniker, dismissing the ‘utility’ for ‘activity’ in an attempt to make these vehicles more enticing for men trapped in a domesticated lifestyle. Then, earlier in 2008, BMW released the X6, an odd-shaped thing with a kidney grille. Goodbye sports utility and sports activity vehicles, and welcome the Sports Activity Coupe, or SAC in short.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the logic behind the X6. BMW simply took most manufacturers’ promise of car-like dynamics and MPV-like seating positions, put significant emphasis on the former and spread it out inside the body of the latter. Love it or hate it, I think the X6 is sheer brilliance. Luckily for BMW, it lives up to all its claims, most notably the company’s slogan of sheer driving pleasure.
Let’s not beat about the bush though, X6 remains an odd-looking vehicle, especially so in photographs. However, when you encounter one in traffic, or even parked somewhere nondescript, there is no denying that it has immense presence. It has the general size and shape of a traditional SUV, but the massive wheels and low-slung stance, particularly when viewed from the front, clearly conveys that the X6 was never meant to go off the beaten track.
This sporty-feel continues inside, with a traditional BMW sports-coupe cabin awaiting you. The rear seats, clearly meant only for two, further confirm X6’s coupe heritage and target market. No women and children in this baby, thanks very much. From behind the steering wheel everything is familiar BMW, and the auspicious exterior immediately melts away. If it weren’t for pedestrian upon pedestrian stopping to look, you’d be forgiven for not realising the immense presence of the X6.
Available in two models, I spent my time with the X6 xdrive35d, powered by BMW’s familiar 3.0-litre V6 engine that churns out 210 kW of power and 580 Nm of torque. Acceleration to 100km/h happens in a brisk 8.2 seconds, while BMW claims a fuel consumption figure of 10.8-litres/100km and a top speed of 220 km/h.
Whether you choose the X6 or the Q7, you’ll be in one of the quickest SUVs available in South Africa…
BMW achieved incredible dynamics in the X6, and it’s uncanny how much it drives like a car. On one outing I took it through some quick, sharp corners and the speeds I would normally only attempt with a car, and X6 felt exactly the same through every twist and every turn. It’s truly awe inducing. I am naturally skeptical about diesel-powered cars, but the X6 truly impressed with the immediate power delivery.
On the complete opposite side of the scale, Audi’s Q7 is equally awe-inducing, but mostly because of its gargantuan size! Make no mistake: compared to the X6, the Q7 feels like a battleship. A traditional SUV that shares its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, Audi waited quite a while before creating a new wagon for the band.
I’m naturally favourable to oversized vehicles, and the Q7 therefore already scored major points in my books. Combined with the delightful adaptive air suspension, I thoroughly enjoyed driving it for a week. Even though the Q7 is (also) more biased towards the beaten track, the adaptive air suspension allows for more ground clearance when venturing into the bush (or, getting onto the pavement).
This model came fitted with attention-grabbing 21-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres, which while pretty to look at, eliminates any attempts at serious – or even semi-serious – off-roading. So, if you intend going into the bush occasionally, the huge alloy wheels and low-profile tyres would have to go.
The cabin is traditional Audi, and if you’ve spent some time in any other model, the Q7 will immediately feel like home. Build quality and features are all checked, and, like the X6, there’s not much to fault inside.
Where the Q7 however excels is with its on-road performance. Fitted with a gigantic 4.2-litre V8 diesel-powered engine, the Q7 delivers 240 kW of power and a whopping 760 Nm of torque. Audi claims a fuel consumption figure of 13.3 -litres/ 100km and a top speed of 226 km/h.
Driving it inspires so much confidence that I often forgot just how big (and blisteringly fast) it actually is – I only truly realized this when overtaking a much smaller, traditionally faster car with the Q7’s speedometer at 220km/h… However, when you do drive those speeds and utilize all the available power, the diesel goes much quicker (and filling up a 100-litre tank isn’t cheap these days).
BMW’s X6 and Audi’s Q7 are not direct competitors, and as such I won’t attempt comparisons of any kind. What they do have in common though is style, presence and remarkably powerful diesel engines. However, it’s when you consider the size and weight of these beauties that the performance becomes even more impressive.
Whether you choose the X6 or the Q7, you’ll be in one of the quickest SUVs available in South Africa; a privilege that will unfortunately cost you quite a few pennies. At R724 000 and R738 500 respectively, without options, the X6 xdrive35d and the Q7 V8 TDI are not cheap. However, once you’ve experienced these phenomenal automotive masterpieces, you’ll realise that they are worth every penny.