2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2008 BMW X6

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2008 BMW X6, courtesy BMW Canada

Spartanburg, South Carolina – BMW’s promotional literature for the new X6 model characterizes its appearance as individual and extravagant. In a nutshell, they’ve got that right.

Built at BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, and billed as a “Sports Activity Coupe,” this four-door derivative of the X5 SUV (Sports Activity Vehicle) is a flamboyant take on the recently revised X5. But where the X5 somewhat casually implies your success, the X6, especially the V8 version, makes sure everyone knows it. It’s for the bold personality; the over-achiever; the conspicuous claim to fame. Drive up in one of these, and you won’t get ignored…

Priced slightly higher than the X5, and with available 21-inch wheels and a new twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V8 engine, the X6 50i suggests some fancy footwork is available, and backs it up with a performance suspension, 400 horsepower and 450 pounds-feet of torque. With this much under foot, the 2,265-kilogram X6 50i leaps off the line (0-100 km/h in 5.6 seconds), handles like a sports car, and emits a stereophonic roar through its twin rectangular exhaust pipes.

2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6. Click image to enlarge

The drivetrain features BMW’s Intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive, and Dynamic Performance Control. The latter, offered as standard equipment by BMW for the first time, is designed to distribute drive forces between the two rear wheels to enhance steering precision, increase agility and safely manage sudden steering inputs at speed. Transmission is a six-speed automatic with sport mode and paddle shifters,

If the V8 is a bit too much (figuratively and financially), you can choose the six-cylinder X6 35i, with its truly superb 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine. It makes 306 hp and 296 lb.ft torque, and is quite capable of moving the X6 along at an exhilarating clip. But with its daintier exhaust tips and less raucous sounds from the engine, the X6 35i is a lithe welterweight to the heavyweight bluster of the V8-powered model.

Next year, look for a hybrid version, and further in the future, maybe a diesel. For the time being, the gasoline powered X6 35i returns 10.9 L/100km and the X6 50i returns 12.5 L/100km combined city/highway.

2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6. Click image to enlarge

Inside, both versions surprise with their four seat configuration, which, like the low, sloping roofline, evokes the coupe style. I’m tempted to say that BMW has the interior shapes, surfaces and colours down to a science, but in this vehicle, “down to an art,” would be more appropriate. The design team led by Bianca Mokosch has created a rich, flowing interior environment that combines its diverse materials into an almost sculptural form. Everything looks exquisite to the eye and feels perfect to the touch.

It’s the kind of interior that will cause you to stop for a few seconds, before sliding in the key fob and pressing the “start” button, just to appreciate the precision of its instruments, and the texture of its fine leather and trim.

As a driving machine, the X6 50i is uncannily controlled; its optional active steering supplying just the right amount of feedback and response.

2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6. Click image to enlarge

I drove it on some twisting roads through the hills of North Carolina, and on wet and dry tracks at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds. The X6 surprised me (because it’s no lightweight) with its tenacious grip and prodigious power on the dry track, and sophisticated stability control on the wet surface. It’s not infallible, though. In the wet, those super-wide tires may just be a bit too large to provide optimum traction, as speed and mass cause it to understeer on slippery corners.

The X6, as I say, is a flamboyant piece, beautifully executed and seriously eye-catching. As an everyday vehicle, though, there are some quibbles. Rear seat headroom and cargo room behind the rear seat is reduced due to the low, sloping roof. The height of the cargo floor (liftover is hip-height for me) will make it difficult for some owners to load and remove their gear.

Also, the limited opening angle of the rear door will be a problem when fitting a child in a child seat, or simply getting in and out. Likewise, the low roofline caused both me and my co-driver to bang our heads getting in (amusing, I suppose, as we did this simultaneously).

There is a rear-camera system available to help when reversing, which is good, as rear visibility is just about non-existent through the tiny rear window. Fortunately, the side view mirrors are big and very effective.

2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6
2008 BMW X6. Click image to enlarge

Concerning its appearance, although the X6 is eye-catching for sure, it sits way high in relation to the wheels, with big gaps between wheels and fenders. Some might say it borders on ungainly.

And a small niggle, the round exhaust tips of the X6 35i simply don’t look right in the rectangular orifices that house the big exhaust tips of the X6 50i.

Finally, is it really a coupe? Most would say no. A coupe has two doors and the X6 has four (Mercedes-Benz goes through this with its four-door CLS “coupe”).

“It’s called a coupe because it looks like one,” explained one BMW executive, somewhat unconvincingly.

Well, whatever it is, it goes like stink, and combines the sports performance and luxury appointments that you expect from the BMW brand in a package that will have you either applauding the company’s creative vision or scratching your head.

Starting at $63,900, the X6 35i will arrive at BMW dealers on April 26th. The X6 50i, starting at $78,100, will arrive later in the summer.

Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

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