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      05-28-2009, 12:07 AM   #1
Year's_End
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Arrow 2012 BMW X1 Prototype First Drive

Cross Off Another Niche, Helmut!

By Matt Davis
05-27-2009
Quote:
First Impressions: Lower than an X3 and with much better dynamics; taller than a 3 Series Touring and almost as good dynamically — but where exactly will it fit in?
  • 231 hp; 199 lb-ft of torque
  • 2.8-liter inline-6
  • Rear-biased all-wheel-drive
  • Costs a chunk less than AWD 3 Series
We arrived with enthusiasm for a drive of a prototype of the BMW X1 sport activity wagon (or SAW — after the cult series of scare-your-date films??), but then we immediately had the stuffing knocked out of us. Because although the BMW X1 starts deliveries in most of the world in October of this year, it won't come to North America until the middle of 2011. So we're driving the 2012 BMW X1.

Of course there are reasons for that, of which more later.

After picking ourselves up, dusting off and starting all over again, we stopped our whining long enough to discover in the still-camouflaged BMW X1 a really solid, car-based people/stuff carrier. Over all kinds of milder terrain and on spectacular curvaceous roads on the mostly German- and British- colonized Spanish island of Mallorca, the 2012 BMW X1 actually rips it up pretty darn well for being a new BMW that we don't remember anyone anywhere asking for.


Raisons d'Κtre
The 2012 BMW X1 crossover has been planned for a long time, but perhaps we just didn't really notice much or get that excited whenever we did. In fact, when BMW showed the final full-scale design model at the Paris auto show in October 2008, the vehicle just sort of sat there, pushed off to the side, like the girl in the golden dress that nobody asks to dance. We finally walked over into the shadows to talk to her and console her, but by then she was a blubbering mess.

Now in May 2009 on this Spanish isle, a BMW spokesperson tells us, "It was actually not planned to be shown in Paris, but the designers insisted. So, it was a last-minute situation." The pity is that the X1 deserves some better treatment, because we do really like it, even though the exterior (so far as we can analyze it through the swirling camouflage decals) isn't exactly beautiful. It's functional, though, and it should be up for a face-lift pretty early in its life anyway, according to our sources.

We get the new and larger BMW X3 in 2011 and that is intended to be a much bigger deal. The X1 is here to slip beneath the future X3 and they'll both launch around the same time in North America to give the effect of a post-Crisis new-product onslaught from Munich. A BMW contact confided, "We've recently transferred a lot of North American X3 volume to other markets since X3 sales in the U.S. have significantly dropped off." So, there will be a bit of a lull in BMW small-SUV/crossover availability until the mid-2011 sale-a-thon.


Humble Objective
Regarding the X1's role in North America, it is multifold but not terribly paradigm-shifting. The dossier for the project has been satisfied successfully: It is a compact crossover based on the 3 Series with BMW's new rear-biased torque split for the all-wheel-drive system. Our test vehicles were all examples of the BMW X1 xDrive23d, a vehicle not expected to be brought to North America, but its 201-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbodiesel power plant with 295 pound-feet of torque is tremendous stuff, and it thoroughly shows off what the X1 can do.

North America gets only the 2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i with its 2.8-liter inline-6 as used in the 328i xDrive sport wagon, and this engine makes 231 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. In the balance, this naturally aspirated inline-6 will suit Americans and Canadians just fine, since X1 owners will not be racing other mommies or daddies. The six-speed automatic with shift paddles is standard, and it's fine work as ever.

The X1's chief global objective is to face off against the VW Tiguan in particular. (Tiguan sales are currently weak in North America, hence one more reason for BMW to not be in a hurry with X1 deliveries to our continent.) For one thing, with a fixed ride height of 7.6 inches, the X1 is more useful on milder dirt and rocks than the Tiguan with its 6.9 inches of clearance. On the other hand, the Tiguan trounces the X1 in useful cargo space with anywhere from 23.8-56.1 cubic feet (depending on the way you flip the rear seat) compared to the X1's 14.8-47.7 cubic feet. The standard 40/20/40-split rear seats of the X1 fold in an instant and the floor is flat.


Dashing Through the Ranch
Our driving included a just slightly technical off-road course with tight turns and splashy mud ruts, a spirited attack on the local twisting roads and a rodeo-style dirt parcours (obstacle course) through large hay bales where we could hammer the gas pedal for maximum dust.

Of real technical note in the 2012 BMW X1 story is the new Bosch-engineered rear-biased 40/60-split all-wheel-drive system that honestly alters this seemingly drab dynamic proposition into an animated individual. When you're driving around, the normal 40 percent front/60 percent rear distribution of engine juice varies to 30/70 to speed your way through curves. At the same time, the system will brake the inside rear wheel in certain situations in a way that distinctly minimizes understeer. In addition, the new torque split has rendered steering turn-in much more satisfying than on the X3.

Meanwhile the Sachs dampers and Mubea springs of the five-link rear axle scheme have been upgraded for off-road duty, yet the action in compression and rebound is much cleaner. So, a pretty effective combination of ride and handling turns this wallflower car into a serious dynamic sleeper.

The torque split can shift to as much as 50 percent toward the front axle if needed, even when the surface is dry. On sloppy surfaces, the system can jump easily to 100/0 or 0/100 if ever required by the physics of your panic scenario.

On the parcours, the dynamic all-wheel drive even indulged us with some sideways driving. With the stability control disengaged all the way, the X1 would drift controllably through the matted-down grass, powdery sand, and even the mud.


Pave Me
During a manly 45-minute chase over narrow lanes enclosed by low stone walls, we had a full load of press hacks and BMW technicians in the 3,350-pound (estimated) 2012 BMW X1. We must have been about 4,000 pounds all together and the road was twisting upon itself as we climbed a local holy hill. We felt all of the X1's onboard technology take its bows, and the rear-bias set of the AWD system and the improved steering response were very noticeable. The X1 came off as a very complete BMW-style package, where an X3 seems like a softer handful in comparison.

Standard wheels are 17 inches and there are bigger options that will be offered as well. The 225/50R17-94V Pirelli Cinturato all-season tires honestly felt great all day, providing surprising grip even on slippery downhill crawls on dirt cow paths. Just as you'd expect in a vehicle based on the 3 Series, the X1's wheelbase measures 108.7 inches, and its overall length of 178.8 inches is just a feather longer than the sport wagon.

Comfort in the backseats is as it should be and there's as much knee- and legroom as in an X3 and even more ample space for elbows. The interiors of our prototype X1s were totally drab and unexciting, but the production version will have a rainbow of tones; they won't all be gray, we are assured.


Where's BMW's X-Factor Headed?
Excellent question. In the past decade it could be argued that the German big three — Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — have rushed to offer as much of everything to everyone as King Volkswagen. It's an interesting sales proposition, but suffice it to say that BMW has before our eyes become the largest SUV builder among the German premium brands. Who'd have thunk it?

So we have now a BMW X1, X3, X5 and X6. The X7 seven-seater that we were screaming at BMW to never build has been happily canceled. Though some have pronounced the X4 idea dead, a source at this event assures us quite to the contrary that it is happening in the future. As for the wee X2 that is based on the X1 (it looks like an X6, only bite-size), it will not see the light of day until the second generation of the X1 is ready, so we're looking at perhaps 2014.

Based on our drive of the 2012 BMW X1 prototype, we're pretty pleased with it. Pricing of the 2012 BMW xDrive28i — built at the Leipzig plant in the former East Germany — should start at about $32,000 in today's money. But by mid-2011, who knows if the U.S. dollar will be worth less than the Zimbabwean dollar?






















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      05-28-2009, 12:09 AM   #2
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Ok, so once again we have a Bimmer that's doing the ol' grows-on-you-the-more-you-see-it sorta thing. At first I hated the upright front bumper and the weird lower front corners, but the unconventional and original design is a breath of fresh air in an automotive world full of ever-more predictable, conservative designs.

Apparently it's a handler, too.
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      05-28-2009, 12:27 AM   #3
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Why no N54 option??
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      05-28-2009, 02:13 AM   #4
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this article has a lot of bad info!! 2.3 lter td does not exist!
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      05-29-2009, 12:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keanu1 View Post
this article has a lot of bad info!! 2.3 lter td does not exist!

I noticed that too. Makes you wonder how interested they really are cos they can't get simple facts like that right.
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      05-29-2009, 02:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antinontoxic View Post
I noticed that too. Makes you wonder how interested they really are cos they can't get simple facts like that right.
Well, it is an easy mistake to make to call a 23d engine a 2.3 liter engine. (Instead of 2.0) Just shows that they are not quite up to date. Next time they'll call the 328i a 2,8 liter or what?
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      05-29-2009, 03:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW-NC View Post
Well, it is an easy mistake to make to call a 23d engine a 2.3 liter engine. (Instead of 2.0) Just shows that they are not quite up to date. Next time they'll call the 328i a 2,8 liter or what?
the cars this and the x3 compete with i was thinking were perfect for my mom.. bmw is really tryna get u to have no reason to look at another badge.. hmm..

i dunno how i feel about this.. def not for me, but until final look, i can't tell if it's a fail.. the idea of one does sound as such depending on the price tag this better fall well under 30k.
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