IT TURNED out to be rather fortuitous that BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer (see p.102) missed last year’s COTY testing by barely a week. And not just because opinions against Munich’s first-ever front-driver have simmered down a little.
As a result, it gets to debut alongside this newgeneration X1, which is so closely related that it shares the 2AT’s 2670mm wheelbase and UKL platform genealogy (see sidebar, right.) Yet these twins-under-the-skin were clearly born masculine and feminine, with the X1 being the hairier sibling, at least until its next chest wax.
While front-drive X1 variants are on their way (the $49,500 sDrive 18d and $51,600 sDrive 20i), they weren’t here at COTY testing time, meaning our X1s were xDrive models ($56,500 20d and $59,900 25i) with on-demand all-wheel drive and potentially more of a chance to prove that driving dynamics haven’t gone south with the X1’s engines turning east-west.
In fact, far from it. The test xDrive 20d (on 225/50R18 Bridgestone Turanza T001s) and xDrive 25i (wearing 225/45R19 Bridgestone Potenza S001s) were unexpectedly adept at carving up Lang Lang’s handling circuit. Lovely chassis balance and really chuckable handling fly in the face of the new X1’s rejection of BMW’s famed 50/50 weight distribution, and it proved beautifully alert and pointable on dirt.
The X1 even steers pretty well (on smooth surfaces).
The 25i in particular, with its low-profile performance rubber and fast-geared 2.6 turns lockto- lock, is almost hot-hatch-like in its urgent ability to cover ground, but there’s a huge caveat to all this: the X1’s ride quality is terrible. Only one car rode worse than the 19-inch-wheeled X1 25i at COTY, and it was Audi’s highly focused TTS.
Even the 20d on smaller wheels was lamentable, with an irritatingly unsettled demeanour, and loads of head toss and body movement. On Lang Lang’s challenging ride road, both X1s felt like automotive protein shakes. Based on previous experience in both the F56 Mini and F30 3 Series, we wouldn’t consider an X1 without highlighting adaptive dampers in a flouro marker.
Here’s hoping $690 worth of Dynamic Damper Control might save the X1 because it’s really a good thing in so many areas. The turbo-diesel is a sweetie, supported by a seamlessly proficient eight-speed auto, while the 170kW turbo-petrol is an absolute cracker, with Golf GTI-rivalling performance and efficiency.
The X1’s Calvin Luk-penned styling is a vast improvement in proportion and stance over its longnosed predecessor, while packaging is in another league. The new X1 combines a comfortable and roomy cabin with a sizeable 505-litre boot and a refreshingly different dashboard treatment for a BMW. And once you start playing with stuff like sports seats, perforated leather and different trim finishes, the X1 really begins to shine.
In fact, it could be argued that with the new X1’s rise to near-greatness in a bunch of areas, its underdone X3 stablemate is now totally redundant.
Yet it all comes to a grinding halt with that ride.
As Alex Inwood put it, “ride is harsh, run-flats loud, kicks back through the wheel. Is this chink in the X1’s armour enough to stop it progressing?”
Type 5-door wagon, 5 seats Boot capacity 505 litres Weight 1540 – 1550kg
Layout front engine (east-west), AWD Engines 1995cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (140kW/400Nm); 1998cc 4cyl turbo (170kW/350Nm) Transmissions 6-speed manual; 8-speed automatic
Tyres 225/50R18 – 225/45R19 ADR81 fuel consumption 4.9 – 6.6L/100km CO2 emissions 128 – 152g/km Collision mitigation .
Crash rating 5-star (Euro NCAP) Prices $56,500 – $59,900
Up to 12 models are expected to be spun off BMW’s front- and all-wheeldrive UKL platform. The first was the F56 Mini three-door (2014), followed by the Mini five-door, Clubman and new Cabriolet, as well as BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer, 2 Series Gran Tourer and X1. Mini’s nextgen Countryman and two-seat Roadster will be UKL-based, as will BMW’s 2 Series sedan and potentially the next-gen 1 Series hatch.