2008 BMW X6

There are two main results: The first is that the X6 doesn't rely so heavily on its DSC stability control when approaching the limit. Rather than cutting power and abruptly applying the brakes to try to turn the car when you are understeering out of a corner, for example, DPC lets the engine stay at full boil, but sends power to the outside rear wheel, which helps to turn the car. So instead of experiencing a head-bobbing, ABS-pump-buzzing, no-engine-power hack-job of a corner, the X6 just flies right through it. The second benefit is that DPC does its torque-vectoring thing in regular driving, helping to steer the car even at normal speeds. This makes the X6 feel a whole lot lighter - which is a good thing, because the V-8 model weighs 5269 pounds. I told you it was as heavy as two E30 M3s. We can't blame DPC for the weight, though. The entire DPC system (including the diff, its two computer-controlled four-disc clutch packs, two planetary gearsets, all the wiring, and the bigger axles it necessitates) weighs only 26 lb more than a standard, open differential.

The aggregate of all of this technology is that the X6 is a complete rocket around a racetrack. Both 35i and 50i models understeer slightly, but they generate truly astonishing grip, brake very well, and accelerate very quickly. It's doubtful that any SUV on the planet could keep up. Frankly, most sporty cars wouldn't stand a chance. (Until, of course, the X6's mass demons overheated the brakes.)

Which begs the question: How many SUV drivers want to beat up Porsches on the back roads?

The fact of the matter is that the X6 is a vehicle that's going to sell based on its looks. And that might be a problem. The X6 looks like an AMC Eagle SX4 with a lift kit. Executive editor Joe DeMatio described its behind as looking like a horny cat with its rear end up in the air. I won't disagree.

The X6 has sports hatch proportions, which works only on a much smaller scale. In fact, if you shrunk the X6 by about 40 percent and lowered it a few inches, its proportions might look like a four-door successor to the late, great, and gorgeous Volkswagen Corrado. But at this size, with what looks like five inches of gap between the wheels and the fenders, the X6 just looks bizarre.

On the bright side, even though it appears from the outside that the X6's back seats would be uninhabitable, it's actually very comfortable back there. Headroom in the back is only about an inch less than in the X5. Of course, the X6 only seats four - and is an inch longer than the X5, which seats seven, so there damn well should be lots of room. And behind the seats, the X6 has a little more cargo room than the X5. Mind you, the sloping roof line would prevent a dishwasher from fitting, but that's the price you pay for beauty. Or so they say.

From the driver's seat, the X6 is the same truck as the X5 - so you have a great stereo, comfortable seats, and iDrive. BMW is phasing out its force-feedback iDrive controllers, and the new crop of metal wheels feel chintzy, adding insult to ergonomic injury. The rest of the driving experience is typical BMW: brilliant. Great steering feels comes through the thick-rimmed steering wheel. That transmission is the best in the world, and despite my niggles about the V-8's power delivery, both engines really are masterpieces. The electronically controlled suspension rides smoothly, and the handling is divine.

The xDrive50i we drove had a sticker price well over $80,000, but it was loaded with every conceivable option, including a rear climate package, a leather-lined dashboard, and the sport pack's twenty-inch rims. At that price, we're not surprised that BMW thinks of the X6 as a low-volume niche product. The idea of a four-seat SUV that performs like a sports car seems like something that nobody ever asked for.

Or maybe it's just history repeating itself. More than twenty years ago, Lamborghini made a truck called the LM 002. It was an outrageously heavy, unbelievably expensive, hideously ugly four-door SUV/pickup-looking-thing with a screaming Countach V-12 engine, four bucket seats, a Nardi steering wheel, and a dog-leg five-speed transmission. I recently drove one in Italy and thought "wow, this is the coolest thing ever!"

But Lamborghini sold only 301 of them. I'm just sayin'.





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