The Big EV 6x6 Is Awful, But Awesome
Issuing time:2022-09-12 20:00
What is it?
This section of my articles is usually pretty easy to write, as I can just say, “It’s a three-row SUV” or “It’s a new sedan from Volkswagen.” This time, I don’t even know where to begin. Is it a Wuling Hongguang MINI EV? Nope, not any more. Is it a GWM Cannon pickup truck? Well, sort of…
Whatever it is, it’s called the Big EV 6x6, and we were invited to Beijing to take it for a spin.
How did we even get here?
It’s easier to understand the Big EV 6x6 if you break it down into layers. Up top is the front and rear fascia of the legendary MINI EV, and in between is a whole lot of new metal. Underneath that is the chassis of a GWM Cannon pickup truck, but with an extra axle attached for good measure. Despite having a drive shaft that connects to the rear axle and even spins, this thing is not a true 6x6. When asked why, we were told that a true 6x6 differential would cost around 20,000 USD. Ouch.
According to YiChe Garage, the wonderful lunatics behind the Big EV 6x6, this is actually the second iteration of this weird vehicle. Back in 2021, the Shanghai government issued a regulation requiring new energy vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) to be at least 4.7m in length and cost at least 100,000 RMB (about 15,000 USD) in order to qualify for a free Shanghai license plate. This was in direct response to vehicles like the MINI EV, which were available for as little as 30,000 RMB (about 4,500 USD) and were snapping up tons of green plates.
The internet responded how it always does, with memes. Photoshops of long wheelbase MINI EVs with price tags of 100,001 RMB (with a 70,000 RMB discount, of course) began popping up left and right. YiChe Garage saw those memes and decided, “We could build that.” The resulting vehicle lit the Chinese internet on fire, and featured what YiChe Garage claimed to be the longest door every produced.
Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, however, the Big MINI EV wasn’t meant to last. Turns out there are a lot reasons not to make a door that big, including the fact that it keeps breaking, so YiChe Garage began looking around for what to do next. Thankfully, it just so happened to have an extra monster truck chassis based on a GWM Cannon pickup lying around (a problem we have all had at one time or another), and the Big MINI EV 6x6 was born.
Then it got even weirder
Always up for a challenge, and clearly having learned nothing from the very long doors that kept breaking, YiChe Garage decided that normal doors weren’t going to be good enough for this iteration either. Their first instinct was to try and recreate the falcon doors of the Tesla Model X, a brave if ultimately unsuccessful endeavor. Turns out, those falcon doors are hard enough to make when you’ve got the brain power and funding of the Tesla R&D department, let alone a few people in a garage. Their backup plan was gull-wing doors, and those seems to work, if barely.
By the time we got to see the Big EV 6x6 in person, it had been sitting outside for months, and it was starting to show. The paint was peeling, and rust was popping up everywhere, but that just gave it more of a Mad Max vibe.
The only thing that remains from the MINI EV is the abovementioned front and rear fascia, along with the rear bench seats. That external roll cage was more than just cosmetic, as we’re told that the 6x6 felt, quote, “not that strong” when it was first built. We find that very easy to believe. Somewhat amazingly, it doesn’t keep you from opening the rear hatch, though the Big EV 6x6 offers the same mediocre levels of storage as the original MINI EV.
Third row space seems to take up a considerable amount of this vehicle’s 6m length (236 inches), so legroom is better than anything outside of a true limousine. The second row is less spacious, and actually quite hard to reach due to being positioned between the two sets of doors. Hard to believe that the ergonomics of a vehicle built in only 2 weeks could be so compromised, but there you have it.
The front row is where things start to get really interesting. Everything has been scavenged from the GMW Cannon, from the instrument cluster mounted inside a full metal housing, to the roof-mounted shift lever, to the infotainment screen. Even the air vents made it over, and they’re not just for show, the AC actually works! The seatbelts for the first and second row are four-point racing harnesses, which seemed like overkill, at least until we drove it.
Less power would be fine, thanks
That supercharger intake up front? It’s quite fake, and has no relationship to the 2.0L turbo four from the GWM Cannon that powers this thing. That engine is also the reason the hood of the MINI EV didn’t survive the transformation, but it provides considerably more power than the original rear-mounted electric motor (120 kW vs 20 kW). The transmission is an 8-speed automatic that, like the exterior paint, has clearly seen better days. It no longer shifts by itself, and requires a bit of manual intervention via that roof-mounted shift lever.
How does it drive? Well, this is probably the first time we’ve ever wished for less power in a car. 120 kW (160 hp) doesn’t sound like much, until you’re behind the wheel of something that feels about 2 meters off the ground. The Big EV 6x6 is distinctly not road legal here in China, so we were only able to drive it on a track and a large open strip that is used for straight line testing. We hardly exceeded 40 km/h on the race track, and that felt more than fast enough.
Thanks to the added mass of the tires and their sheer distance from the steering wheel, the steering was quite heavy, almost feeling unboosted. There was a decent amount of elevation change on the circuit we lapped, and we must admit that the throwing this massive vehicle into corners, even at low speeds, was a special kind of thrill. Part of that thrill was due to the fact that the huge metal instrument cluster and fake supercharger intake blocked a good 50% of your sightlines, adding an air of mystery to exactly where you were in the corner at any given.
The brakes seemed more than capable of bringing the car to stop, though how many times and from what speeds was a question we decided was best left unanswered. NVH was appropriately awful, especially when you got deep into the throttle. The gull-wing doors also had a nasty habit of bleeding rust water onto you while driving, but all of this just added to the ambiance.
Once we got it to the straight-line testing area, we got it up to a mighty 85 km/h. That’s one of those experiences you only need once in your life. The whole vehicle was shaking so badly at those speeds, we were fairly certain we weren’t going to make it back down to 40 km/h before it fell apart. Thankfully, we had plenty of runway and just enough bravery to make it back alive.
The Big EV 6x6 is a ridiculous vehicle that probably shouldn’t exist, but we are extremely glad that it does. It’s not often that a shop has the skills, and resources, to take the dreams of the internet masses and bring them to life. The fact that YiChe Garage has decided to use both of things to create this beast makes us very happy, even if we are fine never driving it again.
Article classification: Petrol Cars