Wednesday

2008 BMW X6 review

Many superlatives have been written about BMW’s and their driving feel. Adjectives you’ll frequently see used to describe them are balanced, poised, competent, powerful, flowing, exciting. BMW’s frequently rise to the top in many a comparison test. Other automakers buy BMW’s and strip them down to nothing trying to decipher the secret formula that makes them what they are. Their driving feel is among the best in the world, and frequently set as the benchmark for what a vehicle should feel like. One outstanding example of this is the 550i (review here).

Exactly none of this, however, applies to the X6.

This vehicle is so bad, in fact, that I won’t waste a lot of your time on it. Looking like an AMC Eagle on steroids, you can’t really tell if it’s supposed to be a raised up car or a lowered SUV.
That shape didn’t look so good in the 80’s, and it doesn’t look good now. Throw some wood paneling on the side and I defy you to tell the difference. Whichever it’s trying to be (car or SUV), it ends up being mediocre as either. It lacks both the room of a true SUV and the drivability of a true car. Speaking of which, the way that this thing drives you would think BMW contracted out the development to Kia. It lacks any and all of the confidence that BMW’s are usually known for. It never settles down, never feels composed, feels choppy, and completely loses the tossable nature that makes BMW’s feel ready for anything up to and including Armageddon. Seeing the hefty meat sitting at all four corners and a roundel badge sitting on the hood, it’s simply inconceivable that the X6 could handle as badly as it does. Other companies make confident-feeling SUV’s for FAR less. BMW says the X6 comes with intelligent all wheel drive. Someone in BMW’s marketing department has a sick sense of humor because there’s absolutely nothing intelligent about it.

The one I was in was powered by a jewel of an engine – the current twin turbo inline 6. You would never know it though because the X6 feels like it can’t even get out of its own way. A twin turbo V8 is available as an option, but more power in this thing is quite unnecessary given the sorry handling performance.

Disappointment in the driving dynamics forces you to look elsewhere in the X6 to find comfort in all the money you just wasted. Unfortunately, you start focusing on the interior. Never a BMW strong suit anyway, you really begin to notice how far back BMW is lagging to their competition. The dash and switchgear is a mismatch of odd shapes and textures. The sins of iDrive have been dissected enough that I need not repeat them here. There’s certainly no luxury feel; no value proposition is made at all. Fuel mileage is bad, which it’s supposed to be for a performance vehicle. But the X6 is bad by even bad standards. BMW says to expect 18mpg out of the V8 model – on the highway.



And then there’s the price. Oh my god – the price. BMW’s are a premium line, so high prices are expected. If you’ve ever shopped one, you know the base MSRP is exactly that – a suggestion. Toss an option package or two in there to get things you would expect to already come in a luxury vehicle, and it’s not hard to find yourself almost $10k past the starting bid. An X6 with the inline 6 motor starts at $53k. Put the V8 under the hood and your entry fee is upped by another $10k. The X6 seems more like a punch line to a bad joke rather than a serious attempt at a premium automobile, except that no one is laughing. Unfortunately it’s not a joke. It’s a very serious situation. You can actually walk into any BMW dealer, say with a straight face that you want to buy an X6, and they will take your order with the same seriousness that they would a real BMW. In fact go far enough into the sales process, and you’ll find yourself scribbling a check with a rather large number on it and they will actually exchange it for your very own X6. Use caution though - by then it will be too late.

Worst of all, BMW recently has announced that they are cancelling development of a lightweight M3 to focus on speedier versions of their X line. Attention BMW: ok, this was a fun side diversion. You’ve made your point that Germans have a sense of humor. Now PLEASE, get back to making product that you can be proud of.

Photos property of BMW

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