• Dec 1st 2008 at 11:55AM
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BMW X6 XDrive 35i – Click above for high-res image gallery

You know things have gone awry when BMW now offers three different flavors of non-cars, all of them antithetical to the Bavarian brand's classical claim to fame. The X6 is the latest addition to the range, joining the X3 and X5, and BMW is calling it a Sports Activity Coupe, creating an acronym that's oddly prescient for a vehicle that's essentially a post-bris X5. Beyond the looks that are an acquired taste, we wanted to know if there's BMW goodness baked into the X6, so we swiped the keys to an X6 XDrive 35i for a week with the SAC to find out.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

Recent BMW styling has been a study in how much ugly consumers will accept if it's wearing a Roundel. The X6 looks like two different vehicles, each individually cool, yet when merged add up to a pile of automotive offal. The fastback roofline would befit a coupey looking sedan; married as it is to an extra chunky lower body, it recalls the unloved Pontiac Aztek, a comparison we heard more than once during the X6's visit.

Climbing aboard might reward one with a crack to the temple from the rakish A-pillar. Back seat passengers are also shorted slightly on headroom by the fast hatch angle. The sportish appearance also limits usefulness in the cargo area for taller items. Interior volume is only down about 5 cubic feet when compared to the squarer X5, though neither vehicle is an example of space efficiency. The X6's gigantic gluteus region appears useful, but a
grocery outing ended with the tragic loss of two eggs, a first for a garage visitor. Oh, and whomever dreamt up the two-position hatch, which defaults to the "bash your forehead" level and requires a tediously-executed bounce before it will raise all the way, deliver that person a beating.

Appointments inside are BMW fare – rich looking and quality feeling. If the seats are any indication, Germans like to have their rumps coddled. Multifunction switches set motors whirring away somewhere deep inside the seat, allowing front seat occupants to dial up lumbar relief and proper support. Muted accents of brushed metal and dark wood dress up what would otherwise be a deep, dark cavern; the main color inside is schwarz.

Having iDrive facilitates a relatively clean panel, and the center stack in the X6 has buttonry for the most commonly used controls. Smartly, radio volume and HVAC temperature controls are on rotary dials, though a rocker switch for fan speed mars the experience slightly. Many, many other functions are accessible with the iDrive's multifunction knob and a trip through more menus than a call to the cable company. While the endless layers of functions have been retuned for more user friendliness, it's still somewhat inscrutable. X6 buyers will be thrilled with a complex in-car-electronics setup sporting a navigation system that's bested by those in cars costing thousands less. Perfect. The misery makes it more desirable, you know. One thing we did appreciate is that the nav can be programmed while on the move, allowing our co-pilot to plug in destinations without us having to stop.

The 35i version of the X6 is powered by BMW's much lauded 300-horsepower twin-turbo inline-six, which copes admirably with 5,000 pounds of burden. Hooked up to a six-speed automatic, the powertrain is beyond reproach. There is a twin-turbo V8 version, the 50i, but that's just wheeled insanity. Driving the X6 is simple once you learn how BMW thinks it should be done. Grab the shifter, which feels exactly like the handle of a Conair
curling iron, and select your gear with toylike action. Other than an aloof shifter, the rest of the driving experience lives up to the badging.

It takes courage to fling this much mass around, but the X6 can take it. 5,000 pounds have never danced better. Torque vectoring pushes the engine's 300 pound-feet around across the rear axle, making the most of available traction to effectively lay the power down. Electronics in unlikely drivetrain components gets the swaybars and shock absorbers into the act, as both are active systems. Despite the Bolshoi moves when pushed, the X6 feels like it's tripping over its feet with the large wheel and tire upgrade package that ours wore. Wide cross-sections make the X6 a strong tramliner, giving the steering wheel a mind of its own, and narrower, taller tires would smooth out the ride, which is firm.

The X6 doesn't carry out everyday tasks any better than other stylish CUVs; the Infiniti FX and Ford Edge spring readily to mind. Buyers seeking more practicality will likely head for the X5, while the X6 doesn't compromise much from its sibling if form trumps function. All of the expected electronics are packed into the X6, which the hardcore fans will defend to the death, and the rest of us will let pass with a "not that bad." Not everyone will get the X6, but then again, it's not for everyone. Judging from the price, it's only for the legally blind or fiercely brand loyal willing to burn cash or available credit on a vehicle that's less filling than its Hungry-Man mass suggests.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I happen to be on a factory tour last week at the plant in South Carolina where they make these things. They mentioned that the X6 has sold beyond their expectations and production is sold out through the spring of next year. Someone likes them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Niche overpriced vehicle for brand whores. It's as simple as that.

      If you want the engine, get a 335(x)i, if you want the height get the X3 or X5, if you want SUV space get the X5 or 5 series station wagon, if you want a fast car with great looks and the same space for the same price with far more bragging rights and show off cred get an M3.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like the looks because it reminds me of my 97 Saab 900 hatchback but bigger. But, it is the most wasteful vehicle out there. Heavy, large and inefficient with no space for people or cargo. And since it's so heavy, it can't be that sporty since the laws of physics still apply for BMW's.
      Alex Balin
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think it's the most useless vehicle of all time. But I like it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      X6 = answer to a question nobody asked, needed asking for need further asking... ie., complete useless POS for those with identity crisis reinforced by their wasteful spending habits.

      BMW (Hypocritical Motorized Wrecks)

      • 6 Years Ago
      Half a second slower to sixty, 1300 more lbs to lug with only 50 more hp and 60ish more lb ft of torque to move it, worse fuel economy, Less front headroom, Less front legroom, Less rear headroom, a fraction of an inch more rear legroom, Double the cost with the same options? Thanks again BMW for building a bloated car which continues to make the case for smaller, more nimble, more fuel efficient hatches, like even the most grossly overpriced of the lot the VW R32, and it even has more room for it's passengers, brilliant.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Although its not spacious, pretty, light, practical or affordable, it will sell. Some drivers just want to own a unique vehicle with a badge, that's what BMW created.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well, if you think about it from that standpoint, all Lamborghini's are useless. First of all, not everybody thinks that Gallardo is a beautiful car, but it's the best selling supercar. Second of all, Gallardo's perfomance isn't that fantastic, but it's the best selling supercar. Third of all, even Murcielago is slower than most sport cars over $50K around the track, but it's a pretty popular car. Same with BMW X6, it has unique look (I think it's the best looking SUV especially lowered and with matching rims, while others think it's ugly), it's the best performing SUV (not only 0-60, 1/4 mile -hello ugly Cayenne) and it's a step away from the BMW's you see everyday.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Fail. It's the BMW Aztek. And having driven one, the non-beauty goes well beyond skin-deep. BMW makes some fine vehicles, but this isn't one of them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not sure why anyone wanting a practical "ultimate driving machine" would pick this over a 5 Series wagon.
      • 6 Years Ago
      [This is] An answer to a question no one asked.
      The interior looks nice and the powertrain is typical BMW, but I agree with an above poster who said that it handles like an SUV and is as practical as a sports car.
      Bad car, bad review.
      • 6 Years Ago
      i like motor trend's summary of this atrocity better.
      BMW took the handling of an SUV and the practicality of a sports car to make the ultimate worst of both worlds.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My uncle has one. He has a small penis, a receding hairline, and an ego that has trouble fitting through doorways.

      He fits this car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        i'm sorry you had an uncle who liked to show his penis to you. They have therapy available now for that sort of thing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hey hey hey. What happens at the family reunion STAYS at the family reunion, okay? :D
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