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      09-26-2009, 08:08 PM   #1
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Edmunds X1 review: Little Big X


Having, just prior to this drive of the 2011 BMW X1, spent so much time in the very challenging (on so many levels) BMW 5 Series GT, we're grateful to have been brought back to our preferred BMW comfort zone with another example of the Ultimate Driving Machine.

After we had our initial privileged go at a BMW X1 prototype in May, we were really pleased with the vehicle's dynamics but there were few deeper facts to relate. BMW experts kept mentioning the Volkswagen Tiguan as a competitor for the forthcoming X1, but that is certainly mostly a European market concern. To forget the Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35 or Lexus RX 350 in the U.S. market would be foolish. Not to mention the Audi Q5, Land Rover LR2 or even the Cadillac SRX. Maybe a Nissan Rogue could fit on that shopping list if something less than $28K was preferred.

But every one of those other crossovers is noticeably bigger than the 2011 BMW X1, particularly in overall height. The X1 turns out to be truly a unique piece. There's plenty of space inside for four humans (or five if you must) — their heads, their shoulders and their cargo. Yet the X1 is configured to ride lower than other crossovers and thus shows off some crisp Bavarian dynamics, while the exterior look is nicely faithful to what we expect to see when staring down a BMW.

Small Only on the Outside

We now better understand why so many of our BMW contacts have been telling us that the X1 should be a global hit when it finally enters production, much in the vein of the original X3. This little sport crossover shares the architecture of the 3 Series sedan, and in fact the 3 Series sedan, 1 Series hatchback, 1 Series coupe and 1 Series convertible, plus the X1 are all built at the spectacularly automated Leipzig factory in the former East Germany (we visited there during our test-drive nearby).

Whether buyers get the BMW X1 in rear-wheel-drive sDrive trim (not coming to North America) or the xDrive four-wheel-drive model, the crossover's overall height is just 60.8 inches. Compare this number to all of the competitors listed above and the difference is at least 5 inches, and up to 8 inches when talking about the LR2. And even so, the X1 has 7.6 inches of ground clearance.

Yet inside, thanks primarily to significant lowering of the seat squabs, there is more headroom front and rear than in the current X3, notwithstanding the X3's greater exterior height of 66 inches (a whopping 2.2 inches more in front and 3.2 inches in back). There's also more than 1 inch more shoulder room front and rear versus the current X3. And all while the X1 uses seats directly from the 3 Series. (Of course, when you opt for the panoramic glass roof, you lose 1.5 inches of cranium space.)

The number of functional storage areas for all passenger zones is impressive as well, while cargo room is modest yet still damned good, with 14.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 47.7 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded flat.

Fun in the Backseat

Beyond the good room for head, shoulders, knees and toes, the outboard seatbacks of the 40/20/40 standard split bench can recline manually to a 31-degree angle — not with an awkward wheel crank and not with expensive electrics, but by using a good, old-fashioned pull strap from between the seatbacks. Thus a little cost-effective luxury goes a long way for the compact crossover segment.

If the rear seats aren't loaded with humans, you can also adjust to perpendicular either part or the entire seatback ensemble to increase practical loading space by a few cubic feet. Naturally the seatbacks also flop fully forward and rest flat with the cargo floor. All of this flexibility is simple to learn and operate even for the wimpiest dummy or dumbest wimp.

Not Bad Up Front Either

This time around, we were driving a fully tricked-out BMW X1 xDrive20d, complete with its turbocharged 2.0-liter common-rail diesel with six-speed sequential automatic transmission plus the full, new X-line accessory package, so we naturally had the electronically adjustable front sport seats we've enjoyed in both the 3 Series and 1 Series. This is some of the best premium Euro-style comfort and support around, end of tale.

The driver-oriented spiel pertains here as well, as the X1 interior design accentuates this aspect of the little BMW crossover. We also had the optional 8.8-inch iDrive screen to play with and we can't emphasize enough just how far iDrive has leapt in our affections with this latest-generation system.

For everyone aboard, visibility is sensational and adding the panoramic roof increases the sensationalness. In fact, such is the experience that we are constantly reminding ourselves just how small the X1 is on the outside. We're missing nothing over an X3 here and we're gaining a better dynamic drive.

One Chipper Handler

What we lose a little in driving fun with either the X3 or 3 Series sport wagon, we gain back here in the X1. In some instances, this 3,660-pound X1 even improves upon the handling of the 1 Series coupe.

If you're ordering an xDrive X1, you can opt for Performance Control, the trick rear-axle dynamic control introduced by the X6. While the really nimble xDrive system is optimizing things between the fore and aft axles, Performance Control negates most understeer tendencies by lightly applying the inner rear brake in corners while increasing torque throughput a bit to the outer wheel. The effect is a very pleasant go-kartiness felt right in your arms through the steering wheel. It makes all the difference that the help is coming from behind you rather than from the front axle.

While 17-inch wheels and tires are the norm for the X1 (just like the X3), our test vehicle had a better set of 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels and a very pleasing set of 225/45R18 91W Pirelli Cinturato all-season tires. Currently the X1 is not destined to make available the adaptive suspension of Dynamic Drive Control seen on costlier Bimmers. All the same, the X1's default Sachs dampers and Mubea coil springs still please us almost completely. BMW experts tell us that over the course of prototype testing since our drive last spring, the suspension has been made just a touch more stiff-legged, though it is still more compliant than the X3 suspension.

Switching gears with the console sequential lever for the six-speed automatic is good stuff and the shifts in Sport are not lazy.

No Denying Diesel

We were initially a little bummed by the available powertrain choice for our drive, since the 20d turbo was the only trim available to us. But then the BMW people reassured us that this four-cylinder diesel will be coming over to North America in the X1 and other BMWs by 2012. Well then...

Switching off the stability control and the traction control, we were seriously getting a little wheelspin and some attractive sideways action from our X1 xDrive20d. Couple that with the improved steering and handling feel already addressed and this is a hot little surprise.

There's plenty of power from this low-revving turbodiesel, some 174 horsepower at 4,000 rpm. But it's the torque that matters, of course. Here we have 258 pound-feet between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm with a little overboost help from the Garrett turbocharger's maximum 24.7 psi.


So, the BMW X1 xDrive28i comes over first, but it won't arrive until the first quarter of 2011 at a price around $33,000. Why so late? Well, the North American BMW distributor needed to place its order back when the U.S. economy was bloated and happy, still laughing at "little foreign cars" like this X1, so a small crossover didn't seem to make sense. The U.S. execs are not laughing anymore, of course, but the production schedule has been set and we have to wait.

But, as stated, we'll also get the terrific and clean four-banger diesels to make up for our desperate change of heart. Good for us, since this X1 is one of those real deals that can open even crusty old eyes.
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      10-01-2009, 10:50 PM   #2
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nice write up, thanks

I can't wait to test drive one.
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      10-03-2009, 04:19 PM   #3

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Any word on when they will start arriving? Q1 of 2012 seems like an awfully long time to wait.

We will want to replace our 325 by then and this might be the hot ticket if we can get it in diesel. Start running 24 hour shifts at the plant!
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      10-13-2009, 09:55 PM   #4
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does not sound too bad. I might keep one in mind down the road.
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      10-15-2009, 06:52 AM   #5
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      10-16-2009, 09:33 AM   #6
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Awesome! I'm gonna go test drive it on October 24th! Can't wait!
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      10-16-2009, 09:45 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Zirenz2006 View Post
nice write up, thanks

I can't wait to test drive one.

+1..Looking forward to seeing this in the flesh..
Originally Posted by zltm089 View Post
YOU GUYS ARE TWISTED!!!...lol...a midget!!!....
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      10-16-2009, 12:12 PM   #8
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im really glad that the X1 has turned out to be so great. I was really bummy when i first heard of the idea but they pulled this one off! nice job to the fellas up in germany for this one.

I actually want to test drive this so bad. the only problem i have with the car is the placement of the fog lights, its just not pleasing me. I dont know about the rest of you, but thats my biggest problem with this bmw.
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      10-16-2009, 01:20 PM   #9
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it looks pretty decent i like it more then the x3
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      10-18-2009, 06:48 PM   #10
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