Friday, October 31, 2008

The bold and beautiful BMW X6


In today's automobile industry, more than ever, timid is out, bold is in.
Bold ideas, bold designs, bold marketing.
The BMW X6 is, if nothing else, assuredly bold.
The X6 has luxury status and a design that sets it apart, way apart, from most other vehicles on the road.
But BMW is smart enought to realize that drivers who want that sort of distinction don't want to see this vehicle in their neighbor's driveway or in the parking space next to them at work.
So it's a low-volume model.
With its unique appearance and keen driving capabilities, it is creating a limited but enthusiastic cadre of aficionados who are passionate about this Sports Activity Coupe (that's what BMW calls it).
The X6 debuted in model-year 2008 as a sport utility vehicle with a twist.
It is big, rides high and comes with all-wheel drive, like an SUV.
It has four doors and a comfortable, luxurious interior, like a sedan.
It has dramatically sloping exterior lines, especially in the rear, and dynamic driving prowess, like a coupe.
So the best description of it that we've heard is from the press fleet driver who delivered it and proclaimed it a sport coupe on steroids.
The fact that it drives with such force and great handling should actually be no surprise.
BMW hangs its hat on making vehicles that are in firm command of the road.
The great steering, suspension and braking systems allow the vehicles to back up the German brand's claim of producing the ultimate driving machines.
Our test drive model had a 3.0-liter twin turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine making 300 horsepower.
That model, designated the xDrive 35i, goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, BMW says.
Also available is a 50i with a twin turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 engine making 400 horsepower.
BMW lists its 0-60 time as 5.3 seconds.
Those numbers are pretty impressive considering how big and SUV-ish the X6 is.
Fuel economy on the six-cylinder test model was listed at 15 mpg city and 20 highway.
Driving the X6 is a pleasant experience that indulges different purposes.
If you want it to be smooth like a luxury sedan, it can do that.
It has a terrific cruise control system that is manipulated from a short stalk on the steering column.
It allows you to increase or decrease the speed setting in 1-mile-per-hour increments.
Also,the X6 rides quietly.
Not quite as quietly, perhaps, as the Buick Enclave, which has such a stunning lack of sound that it has been compared to a deserted library.
But the X6 is quiet nonetheless, even at highway speeds.
And speaking of speed, this thing can do that.
It you want it to be more like a sport coupe, go for it.
Give it some throttle and witness its noteworthy power.
You will, however, detect some turbo lag.
It's not quite bothersome enough to make your driving experience unpleasant, but it's noticeable.
If you want it to function like an SUV, you get that, too.
It is a two-and-a-half-ton wagon with all-wheel drive, four doors, a spacious interior and a large cargo area under the rear hatch.
The one thing that might be a little inconvenient is its four-passenger capacity.
Looking at it, you would naturally assume that the X6 seats five, but BMW, again being bold and seeking to give it some differentiation, chose to put a center console in the rear seats.
We had to once again reacquaint ourselves with the maligned iDrive system that controls interior features such as sound and navigation systems and temperature.
Yes, it's still a pain in the neck, but no, it didn't necessarily cause us to love the vehicle any less.
Well, OK, maybe just a tad less.
So who would by the X6?
Probably some folks who might be looking at the X5 or maybe even the smaller X3 crossovers that BMW makes, but who want something a little different, with a bit more of a stylish flair.
Also, people who might have their eyes on the Infiniti FX, a race-car like crossover that also has an unusual style.
The X6 starts at around $53,000. Our tester, including its sport and technology packages, stickered at $64,670.
That price may strike some as being a little bold, but this is, without a doubt, a bold vehicle.

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