March 28, 2009

2008 BMW X6 xDrive 5.0i

2008 BMW X6 xDrive 5.0i
Modelers have a name for it: kit-bashing. It’s when parts from different model kits are combined to make something new. That’s exactly what BMW did to create the X6. Sorta.
BMW refers to the new 2008 BMW X6 as a Sport Activity Coupé (note the accent), much as it calls the X3 and X5, despite their being sport utes, Sport Activity Vehicles. Compared to the body-on-frame construction typical of SUV’s when the X5 arrived, giving the X5 its own classification just seemed like the right thing to do. Besides, BMW simply couldn’t produce anything so prosaic as an SUV. What would the world be coming to?
What the world came to is the new BMW X6.
The BMW X6 is based on the X5’s SAV platform, shares the same suspension but with a slightly wider track. BMW describes the front suspension as a “double track control arm configuration applying the double joint principle for dynamic lateral acceleration, superior tracking stability and minimization of those forces acting on the steering wheel.” That’s hard to argue with.

2008 BMW X6 xDrive 5.0iThe rear set up is a multilink arrangement designed to isolate suspension forces from the drivetrain while maintaining correct camber for optimum roadholding. If that’s a little too complex without a picture, it’s sufficient to say that BMW designed and built the suspension. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Mud slinging? The chassis is sufficiently similar that the X6’s. Ground clearance is identical to the X5’s at 212mm (8.3 inches). The 115 inch wheelbase of the X5 was also unchanged for the X6, so the SAC has similar off-road capabilities as the SAV. The X6 has a longer nose so therefore has a shallower approach angle but a shorter rump, thereby actually having a steeper departure angle than its more offroad-oriented sibling.
Not that many a BMW X6 will be venturing offroad, but they could if asked.
Anyway, it would look odd to see a coupe in the outback, and that brings us back to the kit-bashing. Although the flanks of the X6 resemble those of the X5, the coupe has been given bigger wheel flares and a stronger shoulder line. The hood is more sharply creased and has a steeper slope, the kidneys are wider and ventilation is increased by large openings under the headlamps and another opening under the center front bumper. Overall the X6 has an aggressive face.

The side windows have significant tumblehome—they lean inward a lot—and it wouldn’t be a BMW without the “Hoffmeister kick,” the forward angle at the bottom of the rear side (“C”) pillar. The profile shows what makes BMW call the X6 a coupe. The roofline is what used to be called a fastback, the rear window sharply tilted forward.

2008 BMW X6 xDrive 5.0iRear view  From behind, the BMW X6 looks like nothing else on the road. The rear deck, such that it is, is high and very short, and a spoiler is contoured into the trunk lid. The rear end was styled to emphasize horizontal lines which, with the X6’s wide stance, emphasize a theme of width. Good thing, too, because otherwise the rear end would be blunt and stubby-looking as a Pontiac Aztec’s.
The initial impression is a vehicle that’s not long enough for its height, like it parked in front of a funhouse mirror. It has an odd way of, if not looking pretty, having a bulldog kind of appearance that is somehow endearing nonetheless.
It’s typical BMW inside, with a typical BMW instrument panel and controls, typical BMW dash and BMW seats, though BMW added pads on the side of the center console for the driver and passenger to brace their shins. It’s one of those why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-that-before things.
There’s not a bench in the back but a pair of individual buckets with a mini-console between them. Headroom is surprisingly good but duck getting in. The rear door opening isn’t very tall and it curves down towards the back.
At 20 cubic feet, the trunk is surprisingly capacious and lowering the rear seatbacks increases cargo room to 51 cubic feet. The X6 is a hatchback so it’s easy to get stuff in and with sliding tracks, easy to tie it down. The roofline that slopes on the outside also slopes on the inside, however, so plan the shapes of your cargo accordingly.
Of course, if maximizing cargo is the goal, we recommend shopping elsewhere. On the other hand, the X6 is just fine if another kind hauling is on the menu. Worldwide, BMW offers four engines in the X6, two diesel and two gas. No diesel for the U.S., however, at least for now. The choices in the States are the BMW xDrive35i, powered by the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six as used in the 3-Series and 1-Series, and the xDrive50i, powered by a twin-turbo V-8.

Down in the valley  The 4.4-liter V-8 is new and, to our knowledge, something completely new to production engines. The two turbochargers lie side-by-side inside the vee, each one feeding the four cylinders on its side of the engine. And because there’s still more wasted space in there—and because it puts them closer to where the air is hotter—BMW puts the catalytic converters in the vee as well. The engine has piezo direct injection, the injectors placed right next to the spark plug, which BMW claims not only improves power and economy but “engine acoustics” as well.
So how much power? BMW says 400 horsepower, but with this engine that’s only part of the story. It’s not reached at a “power peak” but a plateau from 5500 to 6400 rpm. Torque is equally impressive, with 450 lb-ft over a spread from 1750 to 4500 rpm.
Curb weight of 4,700 lbs? How do you say “fuggitaboutit” in German? BMW claims the X6 xDrive50i thunders through the 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in 5.4 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

2008 BMW X6 xDrive 5.0iAll BMW X6 models are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission that has BMW’s electronic shifter controls that abandon the traditional shift pattern. The shifter can still be used to tip shift by moving the lever to the left, and the X6 also comes standard with paddle shifting.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is standard on all models as well. Standard because it’s an integral part of the X6’s handling. In normal driving conditions, xDrive splits torque 40:60 front to rear, but based on various sensors, the xDrive’s “Dynamic Performance Control” (DPC) varies torque transmitted to the rear wheels side-to-side. In an oversteer situation, power is reduced to the outside rear wheel and increased to the inner, reducing the yaw effect. In understeer the opposite is done.
DPC goes a step father, however, by working on the overrun (when the vehicle is decelerating against engine braking) with a “double planetary gear set and multiple plate clutch operated by an electric motor.” Again, this is able to push the vehicle side to side to help maintain stability while slowing.

By all rights… This whole package comes together much better than it has any right to. Yes, we know that the BMW X6 is heavy and sits high on its wheels, but one would not know that from behind the steering wheel. The power spread from the twin-turbo V-8 gives full acceleration across the board instead of a series of peaks, and ditto the torque. All-wheel drive and the huge 255/50R19 tires on light-weight alloy wheels means no slip on acceleration and the effect of the DPC is, well, we presume its fine-tuning our already deft touch at the wheel.
What we know is that on winding roads through the Appalachians on the North Carolina/South Carolina border, roads that on nav system screen look like a snake on a bender—literally—the big Bimmer clung to fog-dampened asphalt like moonshiner to a fully-loaded Mason jar.
The punch of the V-8 snapped our test BMW X6 xDrive50i out of one corner and towards to the next with no turbo lag. The only way any driver would know there are two turbos under the hood is by reading the fine print. And if the location of those piezo direct injection really do have anything to do with engine acoustics, it’s good stuff. All the right V-8 sounds are present and accounted for.
Our exploration of the BMW X6’s pavement prowess was not limited to the public road. BMW made a Michelin’s South Carolina test track facility available, including a high speed road course test track and a sprinkler (to gross understatement) loop of winding pavement to put the DPC to an extreme test.
On the high speed track the X6 handled like a sports sedan. That’s something written in many road tests, claiming car-like handling for an SUV that’s not really happening. The X6 had us driving fast enough to realize the speed only after later comparing engine speed to gear. The track had enough curves to keep a driver too busy to be looking at the speedometer or, for that matter, the little schematic between the speedo and the tach that shows which wheel is getting more of the torque. The X6 xDrive50i is darn fast on a race track.
2008 BMW X6 sDrive 5.0iOn the other hand, on a “wet track” flooded by monster sprinklers, enough so that the windshield wipers could hardly keep up with the water being hosed over the track, the X6 hung on beyond reasonable expectations. Mr. Isaac Newton eventually comes knocking and when he does, the X6’s tires judder and understeers until road speed is slow enough for grip and turn, thanks to the vehicle’s advanced stability program. Good, at least if there’s enough run-off room, but again, that’s faster than unreasonable and the X6 will leave the pavement nose first, which is the safest way to run into anything.
But certainly the X6 xDrive50i lives up to the BMW reputation for handling, hardly a kit of sport-utility—excuse us, sport-activity vehicle and car body. It may have a youthful attitude and be the product of adolescent imagination. But for those with the wherewithal—the X6 xDrive50i starts at $63,775 and goes up from there—the X6 is what can only be described as a hoot, a more mature and upscale version of the Japanese rally-inspired sedans. It may be an answer to a question that was never asked, but then Jeopardy has questions asked for answers given, which is something like the X6.


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. Please, share this article in your social networks. Thanks