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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How To Stop Paying for Gas and Run on Free Vegetable Oil in 8 Easy Steps

Written by Brad Whipple

Converting VW bus. Photo by Emerson. Cover photo of the author beside his veggie rig.

Converting your vehicle to run on veggie oil is a good move economically and environmentally. And here’s what BP and Exxon don’t want you to know: it’s not hard to do.

Wouldn’t it be great to pack-up the car or the SUV for a weekend excursion without fretting over the cost of fuel? Or take that road trip you and your friends keep talking about? All with no concern about pumping all of your hard-earned cash into the gas tank. Heck, it would be great just to drive around town without that concern. Here’s how you can do it.

1. Commitment

This will not happen overnight. Nor will it work if you just want something for nothing. There are some up-front costs, but more importantly, it’s the dedication of your time and energy that puts the money back in your pocket. You’re going to give up the quick convenience of the express station, so you have to truly believe in the value of what you’re doing. But once you make this determination, the hardest part is already done.

2. The technology

The technology has existed for almost 100 years. Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on corn oil that he had collected on his Iowa farm. He wanted a more efficient way to run his farm machinery because gasoline had reached a staggering $0.05 per gallon! Look it up yourself - the diesel engine was intentionally designed to operate on vegetable oil, not toxic petroleum byproducts. And that’s all you’re going to do.

3. Sourcing your vegetable oil.

Every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

In your local supermarket, vegetable oil retails for about $10/gallon, almost three times as expensive as regular unleaded gasoline these days. You want free vegetable oil. Well, every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

That’s your source. Develop a relationship with the manager or owner of local establishments. Tell him or her that you’re interested in collecting their waste vegetable oil. Offer to do it for free.

Make sure they use NON-HYDROGENATED oil. You do not want that creamy based oil. You may have to supply them with a collection barrel, and you want to make sure the manager can depend on you to collect at regular intervals so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

4. Processing the oil.

The oil that you collect is not ready to burn. It must be heated and filtered. You will need a couple of barrels’ worth of space in a garage or basement where you can set-up your little processing station. If you don’t have the space, consider getting a co-op going with friends or other people in your community who do.

In any case, the system is not complicated, it just requires a little bit of money to set-up and then a regular bit of attention to generate usable oil. There are many different methods for this process, but they all essentially involve heating the oil in one tank, then pumping it through some filtration device to a second tank.

The whole point is to remove any water and particles that have collected in the oil during use. Lots of people have posted their processing plants on YouTube or other veggie forums such as Fryer to Fuel. There is not ONE way to do it, and you will have to devise the best way for you to do it with regard to your space, time, and budget.

5. Lining up your vehicle.

Now you need the vehicle to utilize all of this wonderful, free oil. Hopefully you aren’t terribly attached to whatever it is that you’re driving now. The decision to run on veggie oil limits the type of vehicle you can drive because only certain models are produced with a diesel engine.

Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find.

The good news is that these models are quite nice. Volkswagen has offered diesel versions of the Golf and the Jetta for years, and the list now includes the Passat. And Mercedes has several sedan models and even a wagon with the available diesel. And fortunately for the checkbook, you don’t want a new one anyway. The older models make better conversion candidates because the engine is less complicated. A little bit of research (check greasecar)will turn-up a car you like that fits your budget.

Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find. The Big 3 American auto manufacturers produce diesel powered trucks and SUVs that also make excellent conversion candidates. Again, the slightly older models offer a little more ease of conversion. The bottom line is, you should be able to find a ride that makes you happy.

6. Conversion

Conversion kit. Photo by Cody Simms.

Now you have to tweak the fuel system to accommodate your veggie oil. The major issue is temperature. There are all kinds of conversion kits for sale from different companies on the internet. They can cost as much as $4000.00. And they all insist that if you can read instructions you can install the kit yourself.

Or you can go to one of their authorized installers and drop another G for them to do it for you. The money saves you the hassle of doing it yourself and buys you peace of mind and presumably customer service, should a problem arise.

The truth is that most of these kits are just a compilation of parts and pieces - hoses, gauges, valves - that you can buy cheaper from a direct source. And if you or someone you know has any degree of comfort around an engine, then yes, you can convert your car yourself. Just research. Again, there are lots of community forums about converting to veggie oil, and even a bunch of videos on uTube. It’s the commitment issue again. Understanding how the process works will give you the ability to address it.

7. Notes on cost

Nothing is truly free. Assuming that you trade your current vehicle for one of equal value, the start-up cost for your alternative fuel program, including your processing plant and the conversion, will likely top $3000.00 even if you do it all yourself.

Again, a co-op is a good idea: you can gather people you trust to help curb the initial cost of the plant and to share collection duties and split time actually processing the oil.

If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself.

If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself. And of course there’s your time to collect and process the oil, plus the bit of energy needed to operate the plant. Be sure to find out if your state has an alternative fuel road tax provision on the books too, so you can jump that hurdle.

And thereafter you’re driving for free! And in the meantime that’s 50 bucks each week to take your girl out to dinner or contribute to your IRA or whatever. Plus it’s better for the environment, recycling oil and no carbon emissions. And when you want to take that trip, the WVO Network, a nationwide community of veg-heads, will propel you around the country.

8. Drive!

This might all seem like too big a deal. Well, putting several thousand dollars a year back in your pocket is a big deal. Forgetting the major cost of road travel is a big deal. Conserving resources and protecting the environment is a big deal.

Converting to veg allows you to contribute to softening a global crisis and improves your personal bottom line significantly over the long term. The first time you flip that switch and you’re running on straight veg, the headaches and expense of converting blow right out the tailpipe!

Brad Whipple

Bradford Whipple is an avid grease collector. He recently drove across the country for free.

5 Games that MUST Come to the iPhone!

With WWDC 2008 underway and tons of information being released about the new 3G iPhone, it is necessary that the community out ideas for games that should be ported to the iPhone. Here are 5 games that I HAVE to see on the iPhone. Some of these may already be underway!

read more | digg story

First iPhone Hands-On

Hands-on report on the iPhone, live from WWDC: "In my hand, the 3G iPhone is lighter, fits better, and noticeably thinner. I made a call with it, side by side with my 1st generation iPhone, and the reception is noticeably better as well. I can't even believe this is frigging AT&T anymore." Updated constantly.

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Canadian Women Send Panties to Burma for Peace

May 29th 2008
By Tom Radle

In Burma, women are considered inferior by powerful men, and the military has a superstitious belief that contact with females, even their clothing, will make them weak.

Just as kryptonite has the power to shut down Superman's powers, the cooties from women's underwear can purportedly sap the strength of Burmese military leaders.

So, in protest against the repressive regime, activists around the world have been involved in a "Panties for Peace!" campaign to send panties to Burmese embassies. The Quebec Women's Federation and the activist group Rights and Democracy are currently coordinating this protest in Canada, and a Burmese activist, Thet Thet Tun, told Canadian television that "[underwear] that has already been worn will be most effective to put them to shame."

We're no experts on shaming military regimes, but we know Japanese men have been known to pay a lot of money for worn women's underwear. If ads start popping up on the Burmese version of Craigslist offering soiled panties, we'll know to blame it on Canada.

5 things Apple forgot to put into iPhone 3G


The new iPhone has some sweet new features. As an iPod owner, I can say that a 3G network connection, GPS, and a headphone jack that isn't completely ridiculous are great additions to an already impressive gadget, and will go a long way to swaying me toward getting one. But let's be honest — we all had a wish list of stuff we wanted to see in the iPhone the Sequel, and it's doubtful everyone was satisfied. Hit the Continue jump for a list of the Top 5 features Apple left out of its newest toy (and don't forget to check out the 5 things we like most about it).

1. Cut and Paste
Every iPhone owner has at some point wanted to snip part of an e-mail or text message and paste it into a browser or note. If it weren't for the iPhone's already impressive ability to recognize URLs, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, this would be crippling. More apps, however, means more ways to miss this crucial feature of all modern operating systems.

2. Haptic Feedback
Having the screen vibrate slightly when you touch it would do wonders for being able to operate the iPhone while it's in your pocket. I mean does Steve Jobs pull his iPhone out every time he wants to switch songs while riding the subway? Oh, wait a minute…

3. Flash Compatibility
This is the albatross that's holding back the mobile Safari browser from acting like a real browser. When you can't see websites like, well, SCIFI.COM, you start to feel like you're surfing the Net in 1998.

4. A Better Camera
It's always stunned me that the iPhone, one of the best portable video players I've ever seen, has a camera that can't capture video. A flash (for still pics) wouldn't hurt either, and certainly wouldn't drain the battery more than that 3G connection.

5. Wireless Modem Capabilities
The problem with wireless modems — special cards that you plug into your laptop for access to the Net via a cellphone network — is simple: They cost too damn much. That's why it's great that some phones can share their Internet access with laptops letting you piggyback on their networks (that you're already paying to access) via a wireless Bluetooth connection between the phone and laptop. With the new iPhone's 3G tech, it seems like a natural to double as a wireless modem, but Apple's kept the iPhone's Bluetooth technology firmly grounded in 2005, only allowing an audio connection with wireless headsets.

SYNLawn Synthetic Grass

Looking for artificial grass? Look no further ... you’ve found it.

SYNLawn is leading the synthetic grass industry in the areas of landscape, golf and playground applications. As the only vertically integrated manufacturer, SYNLawn designs, produces and distributes the most advanced synthetic grass products on the market. Because of this, we offer you the most variety of artificial grass products available at the highest quality and at a competitive price. As the manufacturer, we offer the only line of artificial grass products in the industry with a manufacturer backed warranty. Take a look around and browse our large selection of artificial turf products. We’re confident we have what you are looking for.

Artificial Turf is 100% Safe

Recently there have been several reports in the media regarding the safety of lead chromate in artificial turf products. As the manufacturer of many artificial grass products we believe it is our obligation to provide our customers with the facts required to make educated decisions, especially when it comes to safety. We take this responsibility very seriously. Therefore, partnering with our sister company AstroTurf, we have conducted a great deal of testing and have asked many top scientific experts for their opinions regarding the safety and potential risk of the lead chromate found in artificial turf.

On May 5, 2008, General Sports Venue (the exclusive licensee of the AstroTurf brand) held a press conference to address questions regarding the safety of artificial turf. A panel of highly respected toxicologists, epidemiologists and chemical fiber engineers presenting their findings all unanimously concluded that there are no health risks associated with lead chromate in artificial turf.

Excellent Free Business Intelligence reports on the economy from BEA and SAP

Information on Demand


MUNICH, Germany — The BMW GINA concept, a shape-shifting cloth car, begs a simple question: Is BMW's controversial designer Chris Bangle spending too much time at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts?

BMW's press release about the GINA contains the understatement of the year. The GINA is described as having "a flexible outer skin [that] breaks new ground in automotive engineering."

But not to worry. This isn't the type of cloth you'd find on the remnants table next to the needles and thread. BMW describes it as "industrially produced hybrid fabric made from a stabilizing mesh netting support and an outer layer that is both water-repellent and resistant to high and low temperatures." The textile cover stretches across a movable substructure, says the German automaker.

The GINA Light Visionary Model bypasses such automotive components as the airdam, hood, side panels, doors, wheel arches, roof, trunk lid and rear deck, says BMW Group Design. The shape of the outer skin shifts according to driving needs. For instance, when the headlights are not in use, they are hidden under a fabric cover. When the driver turns them on, "the contour of the front end changes," the company says.

GINA stands for "Geometry and functions in 'N' Adaptions." BMW is sketchy about the powertrain aspects of the concept, saying only that GINA has "the basic features of a roadster with its eight-cylinder combustion engine." Other details include 20-inch alloy wheels with a cross-spoke design, double tailpipes and an aluminum space frame.

The GINA apparently is not headed for production, since BMW calls it "an object of research."

What this means to you: Don't look for a cloth car from BMW in your driveway anytime soon.

Dinner In The Sky Restaurant

Dinner In The Sky located in Brussels, Belgium.

Would you eat here?

Yellow card on Blasster- Iphone vs GPS manufacturers a repost

How Many Beers Would It Take?

It's sorta like "Hot or Not", but instead.... you vote on how many beers it would take for you to hook up with the person in the picture.

read more | digg story

The Future in Dubai: New buildings in the UAR (+PICS)

The city has gained world-wide attention in the past few years because of its booming economy and ambitious architectural projects. The city is ramping up construction on an unprecedented level. Here is only a small portion of the buildings that are being proposed, constructed or developed in Dubai and its surrounding region.

read more | digg story

The 10 Most Expensive Movies Ever

by Stacy Conradt - June 9, 2008 - 4:07 PM

We’re getting into summer blockbuster season - Hancock, The Incredible Hulk, WALL-E, Get Smart (which I am so excited for), The Love Guru, The Dark Knight - there are definitely a lot of options. But none of them even come close to making the top 10 priciest movies list. This list does consider inflation.

The 10 Most Expensive Movies EverPublish Post

1. War and Peace - 1968 - $560,000,000
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End - 2007 - $300,000,000
3. Cleopatra - 1963 - $295,000,000
4. Spider-Man 3 - 2007 - $258,000,000
5. Titanic - 1997 - $247,000,000
6. Waterworld - 1995 - $238,089,566.93
7. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - 2003 - $216,400,000
8. X-Men: The Last Stand - 2006 - $210,000,000
9. Spider-Man 2 - 2004 - $210,000,000
10. Superman Returns - 2006 - $209,000,000

If you ignore inflation, though, you’d drop War and Peace, Cleopatra, Waterworld, T3 and X-Men 3. Then add in Quantum of Solace, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, King Kong (2005), Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Eight Things We Demand from Transformers 2

Posted by Neil Miller ( on June 9, 2008

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Logo

has said in the past that he demands things to be awesome. In a similar way, we have always demanded the same of his films. And with the exception of a few, he has always come through. Last summer, he came through in a big way with Transformers, a CG-filled romp through the childhoods of many 80s babies that not only entertained us, it made the hairs on the back of our collective neck stand on end with excitement. And in the wake of his success with the first, he has already moved on to begin production on round two, dubbed . And with this second round, we will be demanding that he take it up a notch and deliver a film that is even more “awesome” than the first. In order to do that, we think that there are a few must haves — therefore we are happy to present “Eight Things We Demand from ” (in order for it to be awesome)…

Mr. Bay, we hope that you are taking notes.

Transformers 21. More of Megan Fox looking hot, less of her talking…

For some reason, people were annoyed with the dialogue that would spew from the gorgeous lips of Megan Fox. And while I can’t agree with that, as she doesn’t bother me in any way, I will say that more of her looking extremely hot is a must. Then again, I have a feeling that Mr. Bay is aware of this, otherwise he wouldn’t have brought her back for the sequel.

2. No “Back Yard” Scenes

Sure, the thought behind it was that it would lighten things up, but for most fans this is where the first film may have jumped the shark. We don’t need robots peeing on dogs and Optimus Prime apologizing like a sleazy SoCal surfer — “My bad, duuude.” Shia LaBeouf does well to keep things light by himself.

3. Less Shooting at Robots, More Robot-on-robot violence

These big f–king robots were meant to engage in hand to hand (or wheel to wheel) combat, so lets see Transformers 2some of those CGI dollars get put to good use. Much of the first movie was spent with a small group of humans shooting at big robots — which is fun, but we need more. Also, please keep the robots in frame this time. The only annoying part of the big final fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron in the first film is that most of it happened off camera. I would have traded the “flying through a building” part for some one-on-one street fighting between these two titans any day.

4. Bring back the “this is way better than Armageddon” kid

This is more of a selfish request on my part, as I thought the self-degradation on the part of Bay was perfect for the tone of Transformers. If the man can make fun of his own movies within his own movies, then he has my respect. As well, this speaks to the tone that we all want from Transformers 2 — one that is not too serious. Keep it light (but not too light, see above) and fast-paced and you will have another winner.

Transformers 25. More Robots, Naturally

We have already been seeing reports from the set of new and different kinds of cars (that will eventually be new robots), so we are already moving in the right direction. As well though, the desire for more robots should not outweigh the desire to have robots that are cool and that fit into the story line. We don’t need the Jar Jar Binks of Autobots to show up in the middle of the film and ruin the damn thing just for the sake of having a robot that turns into a Chevy Cobalt.

6. Make those robots dance

No, not literally. When we say dance, we mean that we want to see them move faster, be more agile and we want them in frame, damnit. The first film had to have made enough money to cover the extra effects, right? Spielberg once said that his goal with Jurassic Park was to make the dinosaur’s dance. What he meant was really bring them to life and make them important characters. This is something that should be kept in mind during the production of Transformers 2… And again, please no actual dancing robots.

Transformers 27. Please, please, please do not decide to make the film for 3D half way through production

We know what you are thinking, Mr. Bay — and no, it would not be “awesome”.

8. Soundwave must be awesome, and please don’t make him an iPod

We have already seen the rumors that Wheels will be in the film, the remote controlled monster truck Autobot who is good for doing recon — he is basically the “Frenzy” of the Autobots, but cooler. With that in mind, fans would most like to see Soundwave in the second film, and even though he transformed into a tape deck in the animated series, making him an iPod is not cool. And for any fans whose hearts just jumped out of their chests at the mention of Soundwave the iPod, don’t worry — I don’t think it will happen, I’m just saying for the sake of saying at this point.

So there you have it, eight keys to success for the production of Transformers 2. As a fan of the first film, I have faith that will make another good one, but you just can’t ever be too sure. That said, I am curious to find out:

What do you demand from ?

Read more articles by Neil Miller

How iPhone 3G Can Put GPS Business Out of Business

What the iPhone 3G Needs to Put Garmin and TomTom Out of the GPS Business: Instant Analysis

iphone 3g wwdc 2008

So now we know for sure that the new iPhone 3G will come power-packed with real GPS functionality. Sure, your old iPhone can roughly tag your location on a map through the clever use of cell tower triangulation, but most people already know where they are at any given moment. The true power of a GPS device is finding where you’re going next. And if Steve Jobs’ demo today was any indication, stand-alone nav unit makers like Magellan and TomTom really do have every reason to be “scared [expletive-]less.

To be sure, the iPhone isn’t even close to the first cellphone with built-in GPS. But its large screen size, touchscreen capabilities and landscape display make it a natural stand-in for your car’s Garmin unit. There are just two missing pieces keeping the iPhone from rocking your dashboard. And we have every reason to believe that both are on the way.

First: a car dock. While Jobs made no hints to the existence of any such products from his company, there are likely a dozen Apple accessory makers (who surely were watching today’s keynote with as much anticipation as we were), who have already put in factory orders. After all, it’s not that difficult to mold a piece a plastic to a suction cup. And Apple still has time to unleash its own mount before the product’s July 11 release date.

Second: decent navigation software. After all, that overhead Google Maps view can only take you so far. Luckly for Apple (and us), their SDK is in the wild, along with all the tools needed for programs to latch onto the GPS for location-based tracking. Jobs made this very clear. And while he didn’t specifically say that this functionality could be used to create navigation software, the subtext was crystal clear.

Now, because of the nature of the Apple SDK and the iTunes App Store, it wouldn’t be a surprise if multiple companies put out their own takes on the drive-by iPhone. Some may cost money, but others will almost surely be free. This market-based approach will also likely keep you from paying one cent to use after an initial purchase—a chief killing point of many cellphone-based navigation programs. After all, just because you want to find your way around town doesn’t mean you want to pay $6.99 per month for the privilege. —Seth Porges

25 Unbelievable Pictures You Probably Haven't seen before

A collection of 25 photographs from various photographers that you might just like.

read more | digg story

Tuesday Tunes with the Pig Roaster

Rockabilly with a punk attitude - that's what Brian Setzer brings to the game. I've been getting into him a lot lately in all of his incarnations - with the Stray Cats, fronting his Orchestra, solo, and basically whatever he wants to do. He's one hell of a guitar player, the songs are tight, and the sound is timeless.

Album recommendation:

It's an import, so I don't know how much luck you'll have finding it in a store, but I could probably get you a copy of mine if you ask nicely. It is simply phenomenal. For 80% of the show, it is just Setzer doing his thing with nothing but a microphone and a guitar (and for one song, a banjo) before he is joined on stage by his brother on 2nd guitar and vocals. The song selection criss-crosses between Setzer originals, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, and others. Recorded live in Japan, the crowd goes absolutely nuts for the guy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Without further ado, some video goodness:

Stray Cats - Rumble in Brighton:

Stray Cats - Gene and Eddie (nice hair, Brian):

Brian Setzer - Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran tune - and another nice hairdo!):

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Americano:

Moving 5000lbs with grace and aplomb

"I don't even like cars, but that thing is cool-looking," says a middle-aged man eyeing our silver xDrive35i — the official trim designation of the base model of the X6 with its twin-turbo inline-6 engine. His use of the phrase "that thing" sums up just how hard it is to pin a name on this crossbred BMW.

But how would he know? He doesn't even like cars. What about someone who appreciates a purposeful and classic design?

We get our answer when a brand-new Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet pulls alongside and its driver motions for us to roll down our window. Would he call out something rude about the X6; suggest it's an overweight SUV pretending to be a sport sedan?

Not quite.

"Man, that thing is tough-looking," he shouts, once again confirming both the X6's butch stance and its unrecognizable configuration. "I've seen pictures, but it's so much better in person. Wanna trade?"

Yes, yes we do, but he takes off before we can make the deal of the century. The message is clear: The 2008 BMW X6 gets attention from those who might not otherwise give SUVs a second look. And that's pretty much the whole point.

Nothing New Under the Skin
This BMW's ability to get otherwise uninterested bystanders to offer up comments is impressive, especially given that it's nothing more than an X5 with some plastic surgery. Slightly longer and lower, the 2008 BMW X6 is intended to look like a coupe version of the X5. But while the steeply raked roof line looks dramatic, the four full-size doors make the whole coupe idea kind of a stretch.

Built on the same chassis as the more utilitarian-looking X5, the X6 is largely the same under the skin. It rides on an identical 115.5-inch wheelbase and uses a similar suspension setup. A 2-inch-wider track is the most drastic departure from the X5, a change that helps give the X6 its muscular stance.

Our X6 also gets some help from a set of optional 20-inch wheels that carry huge 275/40R20 tires in front and even bigger 315/30R20 tires in back. That's bigger rubber than you would find on a Ferrari 599 GTB.

The big wheels and tires are held in check by the optional sport suspension package, which adds Adaptive Drive dampers along with a few cosmetic upgrades and sport seats.

As sleek as it all looks, the 2008 BMW X6 is a dense piece of machinery. It tips our scales at 4,987 pounds, another reason why the whole "coupe" idea is a little hard to swallow. Bugatti's monstrous 16-cylinder Veyron coupe doesn't even top 4,200 pounds. At least the X6's weight is well proportioned, with a nearly perfect 50/50 split between the front and rear axles.

5,000 Pounds Never Felt So Nimble
A little extra around the middle doesn't mean the X6 can't back up its athletic looks. In fact, its track numbers indicate quite the opposite.

On the skid pad, the X6 generates a 0.87g performance, a better number than three out of the four V8 Sport Sedans we compared last month. Some of the credit goes to the big Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires, as they hold on better than expected, although our test-driver also notes how easy the X6 is to steer with the throttle.

The X6 is equally fast through the slalom, posting a best run of 65.3 mph. That's a shade quicker than a sport-package-equipped BMW 550i's performance of 65 mph. Again, plenty of grip combined with a well-sorted suspension and responsive steering allows the X6 to transition quickly and push right to the limit.

Stopping power is another area where the X6 manages its weight well. It takes just 111 feet to haul the X6 down from 60 mph to a stop. There are sports cars that take 10 feet longer to accomplish the same feat.

The brake pedal action is admittedly stiff and under normal circumstances the initial bite of brake engagement can be abrupt, but again, for an SUV of its size and weight the X6 handles itself better than expected. "The X6 forgets it weighs 5,000 pounds," says our test-driver.

Twin-Turbo Six Finally Meets Its Match
Unlike the V8-powered Xdrive50i we drove in South Carolina, our X6's twin turbos feed a 3.0-liter straight-6, the same engine used in the 3 and 5 Series sedans. It's flawless in those cars, but when forced to deal with nearly 2.5 tons, the 300-horsepower six doesn't feel quite as chipper.

This version of the X6 still manages a respectable 6.3-second 0-60-mph run (6.1 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and crosses the quarter-mile mark in 14.6 seconds at 93.5 mph. A V8-powered Jaguar XK coupe runs about the same numbers.

A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available in the 2008 BMW X6 and it sends power through BMW's latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system. The X6 features a new torque distribution system known as Dynamic Performance Control (DPC). It's capable of redirecting power to each of the four wheels in varying degrees to deliver directional control in addition to all-weather traction. Clearly the new system helps generate good performance on the skid pad and through the slalom cones, but getting the most of DPC requires either high speed or low levels of traction.

Shifts from the automatic are well-timed and smooth during normal driving. We get an abrupt gearchange now and again under full throttle, and it makes the transmission feel as if it's trying to make up for something, like the fact that even with 300 pound-feet of engine torque, the physics involved still don't stack up in the X6's favor. We recorded roughly 17 mpg in mixed driving.

Doesn't Ride Like It's on 20s
As capable as the X6 is at the track, it doesn't feel high-strung on the street. In fact, it rides even better than our own long-term BMW X5, which has no sport package at all.

Maybe it was the extra development time, but the X6 bounces less over big bumps and handles smaller imperfections with only minor twitches of the wheel. Tire noise from the massive Dunlops isn't bothersome either and the low, wide shape of the body keeps wind noise down, too.

BMW's Active Steering system is available, but our test vehicle didn't include it. On occasion the steering feels a little too heavy at lower speeds, most likely a misguided attempt to reinforce the X6's performance credentials. Same goes for the shift paddles on the steering wheel, which work fine but their flimsy feel doesn't add much to the experience.

Leave the Kids at Home
With no third-row option and only two seats in the second row, the X6 laughs in the face of young families. Think mom might want to see between two car seats to mind the kids? Forget it. There's a permanent center console that doesn't make for a very good seat.

Cargo space is compromised as well, although the X6 is still useful for occasional hauling duty thanks to nearly 60 cubic feet available with the rear seats folded down. Put the seats up and there are only 25 cubic feet left, so don't expect to squeeze more than one stroller in an X6.

If kids aren't an issue, the backseat isn't such a bad place to be. The head- and legroom are acceptable for average-size adults, while the shape of the seats themselves is actually quite comfortable. The overall space is slightly compromised, however, so it feels more cramped than the X5.

The fact that we can't see much through the back window doesn't help either. Big D-pillars and a nearly flat rear window just about eliminate rearward visibility.

A Big Price To Pay for Style
If there's one element of the 2008 BMW X6 that isn't trying to be daringly different, it's the design of the interior. It looks a little boring for such a style-conscious vehicle, but it's solidly constructed with high-quality materials.

Between the Cold Weather, Sport and Technology packages, this X6 has plenty of luxury features, like 10-way power seats, a navigation system and a heated steering wheel. Its base price is $53,225, but our nicely optioned tester is a hefty $63,675.

That's a tough pill to swallow given that a similarly equipped X5 3.0si would run us a mere $56,000. The X5 has a less powerful, normally aspirated 3.0-liter six and a slightly less sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. It also looks like a normal SUV.

So, checking the "look cool" option known as the X6 is an $8K decision over the X5. It's not very practical, but neither is buying a $56,000 SUV in the first place. And judging by the reactions to its unconventional design, this will be money well spent if you're looking for a little attention or a pat on the back for choosing a forward-looking design.

We aren't looking for either, so give us the X5 and the extra $8 grand and we'll leave the X6 to Porsche 911 owners and those who don't like cars at all.

Danica Patrick to test with Honda F1 at end of year

BRACKLEY, England — Danica Patrick, the first woman to win in IndyCar competition, is scheduled for a test drive in a Honda Formula 1 car in November, Internet sources reported Sunday.

"We will put her into our car after the season at the latest and see how quick she is," team chief executive Nick Fry was quoted as telling an Austrian newspaper.

IRL IndyCar Series machines used Honda V8 power, hence the relationship with the F1 work outfit. Patrick, 26, turned down a token exhibition ride already, but this session is reputed to be a full-scale test at one of two Spanish courses, Barcelona or Jerez.

Patrick achieved quick stardom when, in 2005, she became the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500. She finished 4th, stealing much of the attention from race winner Dan Wheldon.

Subsequent to that, American open-wheel fans anticipated watching the feisty brunette score her first victory, but they had to wait until April of this year, when Patrick won at the Twin Ring Motegi course in Japan.

What this means to you: Detractors believe Patrick has yet to prove herself as a legitimate contender for victory in IndyCar, but her star power makes her an obvious candidate for a chance in F1. — David Green, Correspondent

2009 CTS V gets 556hp officially

MILFORD, Michigan — The wait is over as GM today released official specifications for its 2009 Cadillac CTS-V performance sedan. Its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 will produce 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque.

The 2009 CTS-V was unveiled in January at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, and in May teased fans with its record-setting run on the famed Nürburgring test circuit, but until today, official specs including horsepower and torque ratings, had not been announced.

According to Cadillac, the CTS-V will charge from zero to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, crossing the quarter-mile mark in 12 seconds flat at 118 mph. Equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, the CTS-V is electronically limited to 175 mph, while the six-speed manual will allow drivers to reach 191 mph. If these numbers prove true, the CTS-V should handily beat the BMW M5, a car tagged by product chief Bob Lutz as the Cadillac's main target.

Stopping power is provided by Brembo brakes: 14.6 inches with six-piston calipers in the front and 14.3 inches with four piston calipers in the rear.

What this means to you: The baddest sedan in the land may finally wear an American badge. — Kelly Toepke, News Editor