The BMW X6 looks like a military weapon, with a front end that appears ready to take a chomp out of anything that gets in its way.
Yet rather than call a battlefield home, the X6 performs like a sports car in zipping into and out of each corner - be they on the track or roadway.
Thanks to twin turbos, the 2008 BMW X6 35i tested with its 3-liter, 230-horsepower in-line 6 launches from standing to full sprint. A rocket-like 4.4-liter, 400-h.p. powerplant arrives late this summer.
The X6 comes with X drive, or full-time all-wheel-drive to mere mortals, to direct power front to rear as needed to maintain straight-line traction.
As a bonus the system has dynamic performance control to direct torque side to side in back to keep the tail planted into and out of corners and turns.
Finally, stability control activates the brakes to slow the vehicle when traction's lost. To complement these systems, the X6 also offers optional adaptive drive with electronic suspension damping to smooth out the road surface. No jolts or jars. Wide-profile 20-inch radials are part of the sports package. Think racing slicks with enough steel-belted rubber to create eight regular street tires for lots of radial cling to the road.
It all means that whether big or little, coupe or sedan, if it carries the BMW badge, it's agile and stable to carry out its mission of performance.
But while it proudly carries the performance DNA, can't say the X6 is fun like the subcompact 1-Series.
BMW calls X6 an SAC for sport-activity coupe. It joins its SAVs, or sport-activity vehicles. Credit the low-slung roof for the SAC designation not the decidely sedan-like four doors.
The 2008 X6 performs a lot better than it looks, with its bloated rear quarter panels and a bulbous rear end in which the tailgate stands about chest level, so high that it nearly requires a step stool to reach it when it's open. Though the X6 tested comes with a power unlocking tailgate, it costs $500 more to open and close that tailgate at the push of a button.
A few other aggravations, such as the suede inserts on seat backs and bottoms. They help hold you in place in aggressive motoring yet the seats beneath and along the side bolsters are so stiff that the fidgets set in long before you drive too far. Driver and passenger seats come with a pull out thigh support extension that provides relief.
To account for the AWD the X6 stands high off the ground. Good for plowing through snow, bad for those less that 6 feet tall trying to enter/exit. Add to that narrow rear-door openings and wide rear wheelwells and good luck accessing the back seat. If you get there, duck; the sloping roof leaves precious little headroom.
The X6 holds four adults, with a spacious cargo hold for groceries or gear. Seat backs fold flat if you need more room. The cargo floor is flat and lifts to reveal the spare tire, some tools and a small compartment to store items.
Upfront you have iDrive to deal with, the knob in the console that's supposed to serve as the brain for any and all controls and settings. Your kid can explain it to you, providing your kid is Bill Gates.
And then there's the gearshift knob, a tiny handle that requires tugging, pulling, slapping, yanking, wiggling and jiggling to get into or out park, drive and reverse. A simple lever that slips from P to D to R would have been worked though it's not in keeping with the complex-is-better rule of BMW.
BMW also warns that the X6 AWD isn't meant to ford streams or climb mountains. Makes you wonder why the driver information center provides a reading on longitude, latitude and altitude, though not what each 'tude means. Maybe Gates knows that, too.
Oh, and there's the excessive wind noise with the sunroof open, whether a little or a lot.
Base price of the X6 xDrive 35i tested is $52,500 and includes all the power and audio goodies. Add $900 for a cold-weather package with heated seats and headlamp washers, $3,600 for a sport package with sports seats, 20-inch radials and adaptive drive; $2,000 for a technology package with backup camera and navi system; $750 for BMW assist like General Motors' OnStar, and $1,200 for a headup display that shows street names, distance to the streets and your speed low in the windshield in front of the driver.
All 10,000 X6s to be built for '08 have been sold to dealers. Now they have to find 10,000 customers. Good luck.
The new 1-Series 1 coupe or convertible is a kick, but the X6 fails to stir the same passion.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.