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  • Comparison: 2008 BMW X6 xDrive35i vs. 2009 Infiniti FX35 AWD

Comparison: 2008 BMW X6 xDrive35i vs. 2009 Infiniti FX35 AWD

The X-Factor: Which fashion-forward sport/ute rules the runway?

Edward Loh
May 14, 2008
Photographers: Julia LaPalme
"Perfectly pointless." After taking the X6 xDrive 35i home for a night, that's how editor-in-chief MacKenzie summarizes the X6. It's a damning critique of BMW's latest as a flawless execution of a worst-of-both-worlds concept: sport-coupe practicality with SUV-like handling.
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Not only does his characterization misinterpret reams of BMW's finest marketing literature, it directly contradicts the opinion of resident snapper Vance. He took the same Bimmer to San Diego the next day and came back declaring the X6 the sexiest German import since Heidi Klum.
Who's right? Who's wrong? We decided to find out by pitting the X6 xDrive 35i against its clearest rival, the 2009 Infiniti FX35.
Polarizing Profiles
If standard American SUVs are basic-blue Wal-Mart Levis, these two are dual-ring-spun, left-hand-twill ultra-skinnies from Europe and Japan. They are the very definition of slaves to fashion, the practical made impractical, but oh-so-stylish.
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They're compromised designs, to be sure, both surgically enhanced for va-va-voom at the expense of utility. The Infiniti's 2009 FX35 is less overt about it. As always, it seats five in a comparatively tighter cabin than its more traditional SUV rivals.
The chop-top X6 is less subtle: The measuring tape reveals X5 roots and a subsequent size advantage. The BMW is 0.7 inch longer, 2.2 inches wider, 1.5 inches taller, with a wheelbase 1.9 inch longer than the FX's. At 4987 pounds, the X6 is 694 pounds heavier than the FX.
Admittedly, the X6 is the looker of the two. A quick office poll puts the Bimmer ahead by a margin of nearly three to one, but more telling is how emphatic the X6 supporters are, while FX fans seem almost apologetic. Compare response from photog Vance, "I guarantee that for the first six months they're on sale, the X6 will be the hottest ride in L.A.!" to that of associate editor Harwood, "Call me crazy, but I like how the FX looks."
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Senior editor Kiino sums up the FX this way, "Infiniti didn't change much with the styling, but then again, it didn't really have to-the current car still looks wild, aggressive, and fresh." Maybe, but technical editor Reynolds finds the FX to be "horrific looking." Granted, the Infiniti has its issues. It's weird looking from the front three-quarter angle, where many of its zaftig curves all seem to coincide. The grille is much wider than before and composed of dark-chrome plastic waves rather than slats. Fiercely restyled headlights are pushed far to the corners, wrapping around like eyes on a hammerhead shark. Add in the chrome side gills and the whole effect is a bit fishy. "Up close, the FX's front end resembles a catfish's mouth and the grille is rather gaudy, but from a distance it looks mean," says Kiino.
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On the inside, the BMW garners high marks for elegance, build quality, and cohesiveness. Fans of the brand will feel perfectly at home in the X6's richly appointed cabin, but first-timers coming from other luxury brands may have nits to pick with the details, particularly iDrive. While the X6 has a backup camera and the sonar Park Distance Control system, both systems pale in comparison with the FX's goodies-particularly the Around View Mode, a bird's-eye viewing system that has to be seen to be believed.
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"The X6 interior is businesslike, not trying to impress anyone with cool lighting or exotic wood. That said, it does come across as a bit cold and austere," notes Kiino. "I prefer the FX's interior-it's cleaner, more straightforward, and, despite being all-black, warmer. The design and the layout are inviting, with all the controls in easy-to-find places."
The X6's shifter looks like a fancy Bang & Olufsen remote, but has a hollow, almost cheap feel. Pushing forward to downshift, as nature intended, is quick but artificial-feeling. With the FX's more traditional beefy-triggered lever, backward tugs evoke downshifts from the all-new seven-speed auto. While it shifts slower than the BMW's, the action is nicer, with a bit of resistance that feels more like actual cog swapping.
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Same goes for the FX's steering-column-mounted paddles. These slim, rubber-trimmed alloy crescents have enough travel to serve up a satisfying gearshift "ka-thunk." Reynolds prefers them over the X6's dual-action, wheel-mounted buttons on the skidpad and figure eight. The FX's fixed-position paddles mean he doesn't have to chase them around during large steering inputs.
Legroom for driver and front passenger is tighter in the FX as the transmission hump protrudes in from the center line. The trade-off is a lower-riding, more carlike feel, one advantage of being based off Nissan's FM car platform versus a traditional SUV like the X6.
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Kneepads mounted ahead of the X6's shifter are the giveaway. At first, they seem like a thoughtful bit of kit, but after driving the FX, you realize why the Infiniti doesn't need them. While you don't exactly flop and flail about in the BMW, there's more of a feeling of sitting on top of the car, rather than in it, especially as it leans into corners.With the Infiniti's center armrest folded down, the rear seats are nearly identical-the main difference is that while the FX has a spot for a fifth passenger, the X6 has a console and pass-through for long items. Both split 60/40 for additional cargo room, though the volume advantage goes to the X6 when the seats are up.
Legroom is competitive as well; each has inches to spare between the kneecap to the back of the driver's seat for this six-foot editor with a 32-inch inseam (assuming an identically proportioned driver). Headroom is naturally compromised, slightly more so in the X6, where bouffant 'dos will brush up against the headliner. More disturbing is turning to look out the side window and finding the X6's sloping C-pillar so close.
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It's a Walk-Off
Function apparently doesn't follow the X6's sexy form. Though it runs two-tenths quicker to 60 mph and nearly a second faster around our figure eight, Reynolds was ultimately displeased by this driving machine: "The X6 wobbles, shudders, plows at the limit-and does so much damage to BMW's reputation for building fine driving automobiles, it's almost obscene.
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"They've missed the target with the X6," he continues. "It's ungainly and awkward to drive." Despite being a whopping 694-pounds heavier, the X6 is dynamically superior to the Infiniti by significant margins, a disparity due in no small part to the tires. Our X6 came equipped with optional 20-inch, super-wide summer tires, while the FX showed up with stock 18-inch 265 all-seasons.
Still the Infiniti manages to impress. "Braking into the corner, the FX is a lot more neutral," says Reynolds, "It'll rotate quite a lot, too-possibly too much. You have to stabilize it before applying the power, like a rear-drive car." Conclusion? "The FX is more rotatable, more fun to drive, more playful for the average enthusiast."
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On the street, Infiniti gains more ground. Says Kiino, "Both vehicles deliver a firm ride, but the FX's is much more supple. It rolls over undulations without upsetting passengers, whereas the X6 tends to toss people around."
The BMW scores high marks for quick steering and a responsive engine. "The FX V-6 engine is more thrashy near redline than BMW's twin-turbo inline-six and can't match the low-end torque," says Kiino. "It doesn't feel quite as snappy off the line."
Which X Marks the Spot?
Kiino sums it up: "Unless I really wanted one of the X6's new engines or was completely smitten by the styling, I can't figure out why would I buy the X6 over the X5. It's basically the same car-just less practical and more expensive." How much more expensive? Our fully loaded X6 rang the register at $64,420; $17,000 more than the less optioned FX.
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Bottom line? Fashionistas and BMW fans will flock to the X6's traffic-stopping style and familiar features without even glancing at an Infiniti dealership. Those who can look past the FX's exotic curves will find an equally pretentious but far more liveable ride. The FX35 has many of the X6's strengths, none of its weaknesses, and a few great advantages of its own-for a lot less money.
1ST PLACE Infiniti FX35
Less sexy, with more utility and a surprisingly smooth ride. Add in a far thriftier price tag, and the FX is clearly the more rational buy.
2ND PLACE BMW X6 xDrive35i
Slaves to fashion will look no further than this boulevard strutting beauty queen. Shame she doesn't drive as good as she looks.
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  2008 BMW X6 xDrive35i 2009 Infiniti FX35
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front engine, AWD Front engine, AWD
Engine type Twin-turbo I-6, alum block/head 60 V-6, alum block/heads
Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 181.8 cu in/2979 cc 213.5 cu in/3498 cc
Compression ratio 10.2:1 10.6:1
Power (SAE net) 300 hp @ 5800 rpm 303 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 300 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Weight to power 16.6 lb/hp 14.2 lb/hp
Transmission 6-speed automatic 7-speed automatic
Axle/final-drive ratios 3.91:1/2.70:1 3.69:1/2.85:1
Suspension, front; rear Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio 19.5:1 16.1:1
Turns lock-to-lock 3.2 3
Brakes, f;r 13.7-in vented disc; 13.6-in vented disc, ABS 12.6-in vented disc; 12.1-in vented disc, ABS
Wheels, f;r 10.0 x 20 in; 11.0 x 20 in, cast aluminum 8.0 x 18 in, cast aluminum
Tires, f;r 275/40R20 106W; 315/35R20 110W, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx P265/60R18 109V Bridgestone Potenza RE92A
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 115.5 in 113.6 in
Track, f/r 64.7/67.2 in 64.4/64.6 in
Length x width x height 192.0 x 78.1 x 66.5 in 191.3 x 75.9 x 65.0 in
Ground clearance 8.3 in 7.4 in
Approach/depart angle 25.1/25.5 deg 28.8/20.9 deg
Turning circle 42.0 ft 36.7 ft
Curb weight 4987 lb 4293 lb
Weight dist., f/r 50/50% 52/48%
Towing capacity 6000 lb 2000 lb
Seating capacity 4 5
Headroom, f/r 38.3/37.2 in 39.3/38.5 in
Legroom, f/r 40.4/35.9 in 44.7/34.6 in
Shoulder room, f/r 59.9/57.0 in 57.3/57.4 in
Cargo volume 59.7/25.6 cu ft 62.0/24.8 cu ft
TEST DATA
Acceleration to mph
0-30 1.8 sec 2.1 sec
0-40 3.1 3.2
0-50 4.4 4.4
0-60 5.9 6.1
0-70 8 7.9
0-80 10.2 9.8
0-90 12.9 12.8
0-100 16.3 15.7
Passing, 45-65 mph 3.2 3.2
Quarter mile 14.5 sec @ 95.2 mph 14.5 sec @ 96.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 116 ft 127 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.86 g (avg) 0.82 g (avg)
MT figure eight 26.2 sec @ 0.67 g (avg) 27.1 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1930 rpm 1960 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Base price $53,275 $42,500 (est)
Price as tested $64,420 $47,300 (est)
Stability/traction control Yes/yes Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, f/r curtain Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/60,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 4 yrs/50,000 miles 6 yrs/70,000 miles
Roadside assistance 4 yrs/unlimited 4 yrs/unlimited
Fuel capacity 22.5 gal 23.8 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 15/20 mpg 16/21 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.15 lb/mile 1.08 lb/mile
Recommended fuel Premium Premium

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