BYD e6 Second Generation
Test Driving the Family Size EV
Published on 03 Jul 2023
Sri Lanka is starved of new cars, thanks to an import ban since 2020. We see random vehicles trickle in, primarily purchased for embassies, but the rest of the country’s automotive scene is in a veritable time-freeze from 2020. One of those rare gems that managed to come into the country after that is this second-generation BYD e6, a late 2021 model that’s been imported by the BEV Division of Prestige Group. Initially targeted at the tourism sector, it’s being used as a study to gauge customer reactions to what is in essence, a large family station wagon.
Who are BYD? BYD, known as Build Your Dreams is a large, publicly listed Chinese conglomerate who make everything from cars and rechargeable batteries to buses and monorails. They are a major player in the global electric bus market, and a significant producer of batteries for EVs manufactured by a variety of renowned automakers. The e6 is just one of a formidable portfolio of vehicles, and there are a few first-generation e6 vehicles running around in the Kangaroo Cabs fleet. So, without further ado, let’s get into the 2nd gen e6 that we are testing here.
While the first gen e6’s styling was rather anonymous when it debuted in 2009, the second generation looks more handsome. No surprise, as design at BYD is headed by Wolfgang Egger, an ex-Audi Group Head Designer with stints at Alfa Romeo as well. Believe it or not, he penned the lines of the 8C Competizione. Of course, Egger didn’t try to bring Alfa Romeo styling principles to the E6, opting for more conventional yet sharp styling.
The frontal design is known as the ‘Dragon Face’, and it’s not hard to see why, with two sharp-eyed headlamps flanking a thin grille with central BYD logo and a dotted gaping maw right beneath. The side profile has a hint of tall-boy design to it, with a subtly rising beltline and the word ‘SPACE’ beneath the rearmost side glasses. The roof and pillars are blacked out. At the rear, the lamp clusters are reminiscent of some other Chinese and European brands. Overall, it doesn’t try to emulate an SUV, because it’s not an SUV. There’s no bloated bumpers or fake cladding. It’s a cross between an MPV and station wagon, if you will.
Mech & Tech
There’s a trick all-wheel-drive dual-motor variant available in China, but our test e6 is a front-wheel-drive variant with a single electric motor. Power is rated at 70kWh, which works out to 94 horsepower. There’s also 180Nm of torque at an unspecified RPM. Being an EV, you don’t have a traditional transmission either. What you do have is regenerative braking with two levels of regen, as well as an Eco mode.
A gander through the spec sheet reveals Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) Vehicle Dynamic Control System (VDC), Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) and even hill-start assist. There’s a lot of acronyms there which I deliberately spelt out to help you refresh your memory... It’s been a while since we published a new test drive, after all!
There’s the aforementioned regeneration which I shall talk about later on that helps with slowing the e6 down, but when you use the brake pedal, the four discs do their thing, and use a traditional hydraulic system with brake booster. Steering is boosted via an electric power steering system, and digging deep into the menus, I discovered that you can select between normal or sport steering modes.
The 2nd generation BYD e6 is based on a turbo petrol MPV called the BYD Song Max, and hence, it feels like a regular vehicle. There’s no trick EV frippery or quirky design. You simply step inside, find your comfortable seating position, start it up, select D on the rotary gear selector and give the accelerator a stroke. However, rather than a typical engine sound, you hear a sort of whiny warble at low speeds, which rapidly diminishes as speed increases. You’ll be surprised at how far 94hp and 180Nm can go when it’s provided by an electric motor; quick starts from traffic lights and darting about in traffic was effortless. The e6 works very well in the city, aided by a minimum of 145mm of ground clearance when fully loaded, and unlike the first generation, the battery pack no longer hangs lower to the ground so you needn’t worry about whacking it on a speed hump or the like.
When you reach around 80km/h, you can feel the initial urge tailing off, and the quoted top speed for this vehicle is 130km/h. The e6 isn’t a speed demon after all. No worries, as the fastest you can go on our highways (legally) is 100km/h, and the e6 comfortably sits at that speed. There’s no cruise control, but you can easily hold the speed, and even set an audible speed alert in case you creep over it.
I did mention regenerative braking, and there are two levels, called Normal or Larger. In normal, you get a modest amount of regeneration, akin to backing off the accelerator in a manual transmission car whilst in second or third gear. Selecting Larger, you’ll find the regen to be noticeably stronger. You can’t bring the e6 to a complete stop on regen alone like you can do with, say, a BMW i3, but in moderately moving traffic, you can go a long way without touching the brake pedal.
I also mentioned two steering settings, but in truth, found very little difference between the two, save for a mild firming up in sport mode. The average driver should keep it in normal and not worry about it. However, the 17-foot turning circle is impressive for a vehicle of this size, and I was able to pull off U-turns in it that some smaller vehicles I’ve tested in the past just couldn’t do. The e6 feels smaller than its 4.7-meter length.
Living With The e6
The 2nd gen e6 is a five-seater, unlike the seven-seat option on the Song Max. However, this means that you get a proper 580-liter boot, with a full-size spare wheel and tyre changing kit. Sitting in the rear seat of this e6, I found it to be amply spacious, even with the front seats pushed all the way back. Rear seat passengers receive two USB charging ports and a single air vent, but there’s no centre armrest. Interior quality is suitable for the price point too, and we didn’t detect any issues.
Moving back to the front, you’ve got a rather conventional dashboard, which is a breath of fresh air since some manufacturers go nuts on interior design when building an EV, and the results aren’t always pretty, or ergonomic. That’s not the case here. Infotainment needs are met with a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system that runs Android, and interestingly, you can rotate the screen between portrait and landscape orientations. I haven’t come across this feature in any other car, and rotating it a few times, it felt sturdy. When you rotate it, the display interface adjusts accordingly.
Being Android based, you have Google Maps and YouTube, but there’s no inbuilt internet connectivity, so you’ve got to use your phone as a hotspot, or maybe consider purchasing a WiFi dongle if you spend a lot of time in the car. Sound is reproduced through four speakers, and quality was suitably adequate, with some equalization possible. There’s radio, as well as the ability to play off YouTube, Bluetooth, or a USB drive. I did notice the Play Store icon, so maybe you can download Spotify – I didn’t try.
The climate control system is a single-zone affair that’s controlled via the vehicle’s central touchscreen, but some experimentation with the steering wheel buttons revealed that temperature and fan speed could also be controlled from there and displayed in the 4.2-inch multi information display within the instrument cluster. Digging deeper into the vehicle’s menus, I also found an option to remotely turn on the air conditioning for pre-cooling the cabin before you enter the vehicle and start driving. There’s quite an array of features, I felt, and the prospective e6 owner should spend at least 30 minutes exploring the menus and learning what’s possible.
Our test e6 came with just four airbags, but looking around the cabin, higher spec ones would come with eight. You’ve got three-point seatbelts for all five occupants, and you must buckle up even if in the rear seat, or the voice of a Chinese lady starts persistently reminding you do so. There are ISOFIX mountings for up to three child seats in the rear, a tire pressure monitoring system, radar sensors for reversing, and a reverse camera with distance scale lines. The camera’s quality is quite good, and I appreciated the wide angle it offered as well. There’s also speed-sensitive auto locking and an anti-theft system.
Range And Price
With a 70kWh battery made up of BYD’s latest Blade Battery technology, I was a little skeptical when reading about the 500 kilometre claimed range. However, Prestige assured me that having run the vehicle for several months, it is achievable. During our test drive which took around 30 kilometres in total, the amount by which the range indicator dropped also seemed to confirm this. Even if it provides 400 kilometres of range, that’s more than most Sri Lankans need.
Charging the e6’s 70kWh battery can be accomplished via a 6.6kW wallbox which can be installed in nearly every home, and a full charge will take 12 hours. If you choose to install a beefier 40kW or 60kW DC charger, a full charge can take as little as under two hours.
It’s easy to knock Chinese products, given that we in Sri Lanka are like frogs in wells. Truth be told, Chinese vehicles are popular in demanding markets such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Western Europe. That’s why, if you’re eligible for one of those electric vehicle import permits and are looking for a solid family car, the second-generation BYD e6 is a compelling option. It may not offer tire-burning torque or the ability to hit hundred in five seconds, but a 500-kilometre range is ample for the average Sri Lankan, coupled with its large boot, full-size spare wheel and decent array of tech toys.