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2009 BMW X6 xDrive50i

All I want to know is how BMW can take such a huge, heavy vehicle and make it so responsive. The twin-turbo V-8 doesn't feel this impressive in our Four Seasons 750Li, even though it's the exact same engine in both applications. I suppose partial credit goes to the superadvanced differential, which can seemingly make its own traction and alter other laws of physics. Whatever it is, this thing works very well. Even if it makes no sense.

I had several discussions about BMW over the weekend with a few friends. The X6 perfectly exemplifies the sentiment that it's impossible to really understand a BMW unless you've actually owned one. When you look at the spec sheet and the price for most BMWs, there are always detractors that point out a similar luxury vehicle from another manufacturer would be cheaper and functionally do the same things a BMW will do. However, the only cars that routinely handle better than BMWs are Porsches, another hugely expensive German brand, so it stands to reason all that extra money goes into the mysterious arts of suspension and steering tuning. If you drive a car hard, the extra money is instantly appreciated. Those who simply commute in their cars will probably never understand why a BMW costs more than an Infiniti. Much like those who do not own an X6 will never understand why the vehicle exists. I fall into the group that doesn't understand this vehicle, but I can certainly appreciate it.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

The X6 xDrive50i strikes me as one of the most self-indulgent vehicles on the market. It's definitely a guilty pleasure, with its fuel-sucking, 400-hp, twin-turbo V-8 engine providing only 12 city, 18 highway mpg while carrying only four people.

For such a tall, heavy (some 5300-pound) SUV crossover to handle and accelerate as well as the X6 does is pretty amazing, to be sure. You feel the weight with every turn of the steering wheel, every jab of the accelerator pedal, and every impact of the tires on the road. But the suspension does a pretty remarkable job of providing ride comfort and handling stability. The twin-turbo V-8 engine, as we know from previous experience in the X6 and also in our Four Seasons BMW 750Li sedan, is an absolute marvel, despite sucking fuel prodigiously here. Acceleration to 100 mph is really quite amazing: our official testing figures are 0 to 60 mph in only 5.1 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in only 12.6 seconds, and a 13.6-second quarter mile @ 104 mph. These are figures one would expect for a serious sport sedan, not a big-and-tall crossover!

You need only glance at the X6 to know that it sacrifices utility for style, when compared with its close sibling, the X5. All of my front-seat passengers complained about hitting their heads on the roof when they climbed aboard. I ignored their complaints until I was a passenger myself and the same thing happened to me.

The trunk is absolutely huge. I picked up three people at the airport who were returning from a vacation in Italy, and the X6 swallowed all of their bags with no problem. Naturally, the rear hatch is power operated. The lift-over height is very high, no surprise given this vehicle's height.

The stereo is only okay; disappointing, really, for a $2000 premium sound system.

BMW likes to call the X6 its "sports activity coupe." Ha ha ha. Those Germans have quite a sense of humor. This is a high-riding, high-powered, high-style crossover SUV. It's completely over-the-top, and I can't help but like it in a way, but it makes me wonder about the viability of the new M version, which is even sportier and, of course, more expensive.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

A friend of mine (who doesn't follow the latest in foreign-car news and new products) visited when I had the X6 parked in my driveway. "It looks like a NASCAR racer and an SUV had a baby," he said as he walked in my front door. "Those tires are huge, though!"

Indeed. The NASCAR-like swoopy roofline is quite distinctive. I didn't realize that the roof swoops so much at the front end of the X6, though, until I -- just like Joe D and his passengers -- hit my head on the roof while climbing into the front seat. Trust me, that doesn't happen often when you're only five-foot-six.

The superwide, twenty-inch tires that my buddy noted do their job quite well, helping this 5300-pound behemoth handle remarkably. Still, you can definitely feel the immense weight of the vehicle when you turn into a corner. I'm anxious to drive the M version, because at this point, I'm finding it hard to believe that the X6 can somehow be made to feel nimble.

I agree with Phil: somehow the 4.4-liter turbo V-8 seems especially raw in this application, and it has a very appealing, strong exhaust note. The engine doesn't really feel turbocharged necessarily, but it certainly has power to spare.

In other news, this old iDrive system brings to light the vast (and vastly necessary) improvements made in the newest 7-series. Also, cargo space in the back isn't as bad as I expected, and there's even a handy, spacious "basement" under the cargo-area floor (where the spare would be if this car didn't have run-flat tires).

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

At this point it may sound like a broken record, but after driving the X6, I'm convinced BMW could build a locomotive capable of a legitimate Nürburgring lap time. Just backing out of the parking space, it's clear that the X6 isn't your typical spongy crossover, as the steering effort is well above that of even a 335i. I imagine many buyers might find the weighty wheel a bit cumbersome in regular use (they should probably opt for the Active Steering), but once you hit a few smooth curves, you instantly realize its value.

But value, is a difficult word to use with the X6. The $67,000 base price is certainly attention-grabbing, though it is reasonable given this vehicle's capabilities. The $13,000 in options on our tester is absurd. The $2200 Premium Package, $3200 Sport Package, and $2000 Premium Sound Package are as honest as Nigerian inheritance email scams when you look at what you're actually getting.

The craziest thing about the X6 is that BMW actually found a way to eke out even more performance from this huge lump. As it is, the X6 surprises and delights in so many different aspects, far exceeding my expectations of what a crossover could ever be capable of. As much of an abomination as the X6 concept may be to the pure, lithe sport sedan, it is certainly still a BMW.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

The BMW X6 is a vehicle design I'm not quite sure of yet. It's big, heavy, and a style that nobody knows if they like, kind of that crossover/SUV/hatchback thing. One thing I do know for sure, I like the 50i version a lot more than the 35i version. Obviously with the twin-turbo V-8 you get a ton more power, and this helps to hide the obesity of this vehicle. The 35i six-cylinder struggles to get going, feels tired, and just wants to be parked; whereas the 50i puts you back in your seat, loves highway on ramps, and dare I say, is nimble? Unfortunately the V-8 is mighty thirsty. 12 miles per gallon city and 18 highway to be exact; making it lower than both the Infiniti FX50 and Mercedes-Benz GL550.

For such a unique design, I find myself liking the X6 more and more every time I see one, unfortunately that isn't very often.

Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator

I find that I am simply unable to overcome my aversion to the appearance of the X6. It may be eye-catching and it does stand out in a parking lot, but not in a good way. With its tall, awkward-looking stance and bulbous body, this BMW just doesn't appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities. All of this being said, I find myself reminded every time I drive an X6 that it is a true BMW. It may be big and heavy - in fact, the steering is so heavy at low speeds that it practically feels unassisted - but the X6 accelerates and handles with aplomb. I may not understand why BMW ever developed this vehicle, and I may never understand why someone might want to purchase one, but one thing I do understand is that it has been developed with typical BMW attention to detail, epitomized by the interior fit and finish, the well-tuned suspension, and the typically sublime BMW powertrain.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

2009 BMW X6 xDrive50i

Base price (with destination): $67,475
Price as tested: $80,620

Standard Equipment:
Xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling and Corona headlight rings
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
Dynamic Cruise control
Front- and rear-compartment head protection system with front side-impact airbags
Adaptive brake lights

Options on this vehicle:
Cold weather package - $1250
-Heated steering wheel
-Ski bag
-Heated front and rear seats
-Retractable headlight washers
Premium package - $2200
-Automatic tailgate operation
-Universal garage door opener
-Digital compass mirror
-Auto-dimming mirrors (rear and sideview)
-BMW assist
Sport Package - $3200
-Shadowline trim
-20 in. wheels with performance tires - $950
Rear view camera - $400
Comfort access system - $1000
Running boards - $300
Rear seat entertainment - $1700
Head-up display - $1200
HD radio - $350
Satellite radio with 1-year subscription - $595

Key options not on vehicle:
Rear climate package - $900
-Privacy glass
-Rear manual side window shades
-4-zone automatic climate control
Premium sound package - $2000
-6-disc DVD changer
-iPod and USB adapter
Active ventilated seat package - $1100
-Ventilated front seats
Active Steering - $1550
Comfort access keyless entry - $1000

Fuel economy:
12 / 18 / 15 mpg

Size: 4.4L twin-turbocharged DI V-8
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 1750-4500 rpm

6-speed automatic

Weight: 5269 lb

20 in. aluminum alloy wheels
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires: front 275/40R20, rear 315/35R20