It's BMW's bold, baffling X6 tall-coupe, defying both convention and confusion to survive a second generation -- owing to the 255,000 global citizens who, since 2008, have decided "Yes! This is the urban assault vehicle for me!"
Two hundred thousand customers over six years might be a drop in the bucket for BMW. But the X6 -- as a bold fashion statement, as a branding breakthrough, and as an alt-X5 from the Palmetto State -- was evidently worth a second chance. This new-for-2015 example expands on what they already love, starting with better mileage and culminating in grotesque displays of power. The X6 we get first is the xDrive50i: a clumsy and slightly inaccurate moniker that belies a 4.4-liter V8 with twin turbochargers and 445 hp -- more than the outgoing big V8. An xDrive35i, available next spring, gets 300 hp from its single-turbo, 3.0-liter, inline-six; it will start at $61,900. In Europe, BMW claims that the X6 xDrive50i uses 22 percent less fuel -- American EPA figures haven't yet been released.
For the first time, a BMW gets torque vectoring in the guise of Dynamic Performance Control, which distributes power between the rear wheels. It's part of a $4,500 dynamic handling package, which also adds Dynamic Drive active rollbars to the rear to quell body roll. An optional rear air suspension provides Dynamic Damper Control. Meanwhile, the unending fondness for dynamism rolls on (in the X6's 37-page press release, the word appears 95 times).
A new interior updates the dashboard to the X5's standards, and it can be optioned with a two-tone leather package that smells highflautin' and feels as soft as a fistful of butter. What's more, there's even more cargo room: 53.9 cu ft, nearly 3 more than before. (Meanwhile, the full-size X5 can haul 66 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats down.)
That fastback styling is new, inside and out: witness the bold, bodacious grille that matches the X5, that sharp crease over the quarter panel that blends seamlessly over the taillights. The styling is subjective -- something that reflects emotion, and something that belies rationality. If the X6 is a baffling concept, then it certainly deserves a second look.
The BMW X6 has a claimed 19.7 inches of fording depth, at 4mph. All of it is being used in this photo.PHOTO BY BMW
What's it like to drive?
It's a monster. Consider the following: the X6 weighs 5,170 pounds, as much as your average K-12 school district. With a bit of turbo lag and a faraway, menacing grumble, the X6 rockets to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. At any pull, at any speed, it feels like a brick is being pressed into your stomach. Stick it in sport-plus mode and the eight-speed automatic actively encourages these shenanigans, summoning power on tap while shifting quickly to seem unobtrusive. This is the whole raison d'etre of the X6: badass stoplight pulls, gut-stomping acceleration. Your neighbors will be annoyed. Your fellow traffic citizens will glare at you.
It's practically physics-defying that the X6 can overcome its mass so sufficiently. But physics gets its revenge around everything else.
Turn the X6 in a spirited manner and no amount of chassis dynamism can hide 5,170 pounds of engineering: the X6 puts up a valiant fight against physics and understeer, with a predicably smooth chassis that evinces very little body roll. The X6 handles far better than it's supposed to and launches out of corners with aplomb. And with the rear air suspension, the ride was smooth and comfortable, but those 20-inch wheels and tires serve up plenty of road noise on the freeway, howling and thrumming constantly.
Sport and sport-plus modes open up the exhaust -- a real exhaust, not any conspiratorial fakery -- to a nice, subtle burble and a rumble of backfire when one lifts off the throttle, like a bunch of rocks rolling around a Folger's tin. There's finally some weight in the steering, in these modes, but it's still a numbing experience. The brakes are slightly spongy, but very powerful if you ever need to get into them.
Later, in a demonstration of dubious practicality, we were invited to attempt to drift this all-wheeled wonder. Let it be known that yes! you can drift an X6 xDrive50i! All you need is a 300-foot-wide trowelled skidpad, an irrigation system spraying the concrete like the fountains at Bellagio, and a German chassis developer with balls who can turn in sharply, downshift two gears, and trick the car into inducing a slide that he holds for nearly an entire lap, before catching severe traction and whanging the head of your humble author into the rear-seat headliner. "You sure made us look like chumps," we later told him.
"What is that?" he stammered. "What is 'chumps'?"
"It's not good."
An arguably more stylish, marginally bigger, better performing and significantly more efficient second-generation BMW X6 will go on sale later this year following its planned public premier at the ...
Do I want one?
To them I say, good on you. Kids have to get to summer camp! Golden retrievers have to be terrified! Gardening supplies won't scramble themselves into the tailgate!
But those SUVs, and the Cayenne in particular, feel like bigger supercars -- more adept handlers, better composed in the corners, just as frantic from the lights. The X6 feels like the quintessential hot rod in this company, with all this straight-line bravado; if Darrell Waltrip drove one he might suggest that it's all "ate up with turbo."
And by comparison, the fastback, bustle-back X6 is delightfully irrational, immensely quick, a thorough testament to excess: that no-compromises, "have it all" mentality we as consumers fall for is on full display like Vegas neon. If you get it, you get it. And if the monstrous torque and, ahem, "extrovert design" (BMW's words) appeal to you, then here is your Ultimate Dynamic Machine.
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