At some point in the fairly distant past (ok, 2004…), a man at Mercedes-Benz had a bright idea. “I’ve got it, Hans,” he said – an idea for a new car, “ve vill take ze E-Class, lower ze roofline, und lift ze price. Das ist gut, ja?”. Ja, das ist gut. What resulted was the CLS, the E’s gorgeous yet expensive stablemate. Similar conversations have since been held in the offices of Audi, and most recently BMW – who’s 6-Series Gran Coupé is arguably the most successful example of the “four-door coupé-cum-saloon” breed.
In blessing the E-Class with a sexy new cocktail dress, Mercedes created a new niche. A niche for curvy, swooping four-doors with vastly inflated price tags. In 2008, BMW, who like Mercedes are well practised at mercilessly exploiting useless niches, clearly thought they could pull the same trick with their X5 SUV.
They failed. The X6 was universally slated for being uglier than the Boxing Day sales, and though it was dynamically in a different league to anything else its size (other than Porsche’s Cayenne), the X5′s already limited off-road capabilities had been severely compromised.
Four-door coupés have been so successful because they marry jaw-dropping looks with comfort, usability, and to some extent, practicality – as the Audi A7′s boot will testify. More broadly, saloons themselves have a limited remit – at least compared to SUVs. There’s not much you can’t do in, say, a CLS that you can in an E-Class.
However, in transforming the X5 into what BMW calls an SAV- or “sports activity vehicle” – the carmaker single-handedly eradicated any residual usefulness the X6 may have had. Without the boot, it’s useless for families. With a lower ride height and fatter, sportier tyres, it’s useless off-road. But above all, it’s uglier, more expensive, and still not as good to drive as a 5-Series. The Oxford English Dictionary may as well rewrite their definition of “pointless” to simply: “The BMW X6″.
And yet – despite everything, I like it.
Carmakers who think outside the box deserve at least some credit. Although their ultimate goal is to make as much moolah as possible, it takes Chuck Norris-sized balls to pull the wraps off something completely unprecedented, in which you’ve a significant financial stake, and which may well go down like the Titanic – Land Rover did it in 1970 with the Range Rover, VW did it with the Golf GTI in 1976, and Renault did it in the 1980s with the Espace MPV. Those concepts worked – the X6 hasn’t. So let’s move on.
As clichéd as it may sound, the X6 is ideal for people who want something a little bit different. People who don’t need acres of boot space, but like the size, the looks. Someone married Wayne Rooney, remember.
Car Throttlers – encourage creativity, buy an X6. And remember, you don’t have to develop a cocaine habit to do so…