(All photos: Zane Merva/Autoinsane.com)
This never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t wound up idling next to one in traffic over the weekend: The X6 is BMW’s replacement for the late Pontiac Aztek! Same humpbacked silhouette, same tiptoes stance, same identity crisis — what is it? Only, guess what, BMW got it right. Or at least BMW made a vehicle that, whatever its mission may be, offers up terrific entertainment en route to defining that mission.
In the city, the mission was clear: Intimidate other traffic, fire off neck-snapping hole shots, and then hand it off to valet parking.
GM might have done much better than the poor Aztek if it too had been free to select a 400 horsepower turbocharged V-8 and a crisp six-speed automatic transmission, track-ready suspension, 20-inch wheels, and all the other money-is-no-object bits that go into a $75,000 “Sports Activity Coupe”/autobahn cruiser. Check out the X6 from the rear, too: Ever seen such muscular haunches? And look at those steamroller tires framed between the enormous rectangular exhausts, from which emerge a bass rumble and bark nearly forgotten in the Hybrid Age.
The X6 is a high-effort machine. Steering, throttle, and brakes all require conscious muscle — “a bit more Wellie,” as our British cousins say. Then, like powerful German sedans of old, the faster the X6 is moving, the happier it is and the more all the dynamic bits sing in harmony. It turns out that blazing down the interstate in heavy rain and spray is another of the X6’s mission specialties. The wipers can handle anything and the throttle catapults the vehicle out of dicey spots at the merest prod of a toe, each fat tire managed by sensor-controlled AWD.
With startling performance comes rock-solid stability, and somehow BMW manages to make its large, heavy vehicles feel nimble. Not to say that the X6 is perfect. The onboard computer takes long seconds to boot and catch up with real time: You’ve fired up the motor, selected ‘R’ on the shifter (why is Reverse ahead and Drive backward?) and you’re out the driveway and in ‘D’ before the backup screen kicks in. OK, we can live with this on account of the rest of the vehicle.
Displacing two-plus tons while offering only adequate backseat room and slurping down a gallon of premium every 16.4 miles, the X6 is good, old-fashioned dirty fun. Makes you miss the old days.
Silvio Calabi is a Maine-based auto writer and was editor-in-chief of Fly Rod & Reel and Shooting Sportsman magazines and publisher of Speedway Illustrated.
The author is solely responsible for the content.