2009 BMW X6

A poorly (very poorly) timed performance SUV

2009 BMW X6
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Could the BMW X6 possibly be the worst-timed vehicle launch in recent memory? First, customers ditched large, heavy SUVs by the boatloads when gas prices rose through the roof, then they abandoned spending altogether in this post-credit crunch financial disaster we call a recession.

FAST FACTS

1. The X6 is offered with two engines, a 300hp twin-turbo inline-six or a 400hp twin-turbo V8.

2. On the X6, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system gets Dynamic Performance control, which not only allows for power to be distributed front to back, but also between the left and right rear wheels.

3. At $66,650 the X6 xDrive 50i isn’t cheap, but it’s far less expensive than German competitors.

And to make it all worse, BMW proudly advertises that the X6 gets either 18 or 20-mpg highway – depending on model. Doesn’t that seem even mildly ridiculous?

Well, the X6 is a ridiculous vehicle, that’s for sure, especially when its calling card is a fastback body over X5 mechanicals. BMW dubs it the first ever ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ but that’s stretching the term Coupe to the extreme. The styling similarities to the X5 are obvious, but what you do get back of the B-pillar is a plunging roofline and a massive shoulder line running the length of the vehicle, leading to one of the worst blind spots in existence.

So why would BMW choose now to launch what’s obviously a “lifestyle” vehicle when every other car company is abandoning the segment very quietly? No idea, really.

300 OR 400 HORSEPOWER, YOU CHOOSE

The X6 can be had in two versions: the xDrive 35i and xDrive 50i. The former gets BMW’s familiar and fantastic twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, producing a healthy 300 hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque. The latter is the latest performance wonder, debuting on the X6: a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with direct injection and Double-VANOS variable valve timing. All that technology works out to 400 hp and 450 ft-lbs of torque, and can propel the 5,269 lb beast from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds.

The first time you rocket off into the sunset with the hammer down, the X6 certainly impresses, but it’s not until you try and turn that the vehicle’s true colors show.

As you may have guessed, ‘xDrive’ denotes the Bimmer’s full-time all-wheel drive system, which is normally rear-biased in its operation. What’s new on the X6 is what BMW calls Dynamic Performance Control, which allows power to be varied across the rear axle, enhancing handling and nimbleness. It’s the same sort of system that Acura, Mitsubishi and Saab use in their all-wheel-drive setups, and it allows the outside rear wheel to be sped up quicker than the inside, thus helping the X6 turn even faster and aiding stability in the process.

CHEATING PHYSICS

Other aids in the fight against physics include the optional Active Steering; the Sport Package, which includes Active Roll Stabilization active stabilizer bars and Electronic Damping Control variable rate electromagnetic shock absorbers; and the optional 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires.

On a dry track, the X6 is simply unreal in its ability to carve corners. Those super-wide tires are somehow able to contain the BMW’s mass and torque, and keep it pointed in exactly the right direction. The six-speed automatic transmission has paddle-shift controls on the steering-wheel arms, and you thank those amazing 20-way supportive sport seats with adjustable shoulder and back width for holding you in place.

When it comes to slowing down, you’ll appreciate some of the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system’s tricks, including Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Drying, and Brake Stand-by features, with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), and Dynamic Brake Control.

LUXURY EXTENDS INSIDE

Most of the interior bits up front are shared with the latest X5, which isn’t a problem as the design is still holding up well. In the rear, things take a slightly different turn. The X6, if you weren’t aware, is a four-seater. BMW decided to eschew the middle seat in favor of continuing a centre console through the cabin.

Unfortunately, because of the coupe-mimicking roofline, hitting your head getting in our out of the rear seats is a real possibility, and you’ll find that a good portion of the expected cargo area is missing in action as well.

This being a BMW, the possibilities to create a vehicle that’s unique and comfortable are vast. In addition to the aforementioned performance upgrades, you can get such niceties as air-conditioned seats, a rear DVD entertainment system, a heads-up display, soft-closing automatic doors, and any number of Alcantara and leather combinations.

THE VERDICT

At $66,650 for the xDrive50i, there isn’t much in the way of outright competition as the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG offers the same amount of performance, but runs $90,000, and the Porsche Cayenne GTS ($74,600) and Range Rover Sport Supercharged ($71,825) run high on panache but lag in ability.

The X6’s main problem is internal: the X5. Given that the two vehicles share so much, mechanically and aesthetically, there’s no reason why the X5 couldn’t get all the tasty dynamic toys and twin-turbo V8 as the X6, leaving a more attractive and functional vehicle that doesn’t require an additional model to fill a niche that doesn’t exist.

If you’re still sold on the X6’s dramatic lines and want to pick one up for yourself, consider starting with the $55,900 xDrive35i, which feels nearly as fast, but is significantly less expensive.

PLUS

Startling V8 performance
Dynamic control
Toys, toys, toys

MINUS

Plenty of options required to make the X6 handle well
Minimal interior and cargo space
Huge blindspots

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