This past June, my wife took possession of her 2013 BMW X1. Last month I drove it for the first time.
Its official, I am a now a luddite.
This troubles me, because I have always been comfortable with technology, but the gadgets on this car are maddening.
My annoyance is not with the power plant. The 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 delivers its 240 horses much smoother than I would have expected. BMW claims it can get from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, and had I not driven this one, I would never believe it. But, yeah, it is quick. Nor I am upset with the 8 speed automatic transmission. The shifts are smooth, decisive and faster than prom night intercourse.
I like the interior, standard BMW fare. If you’re a fan, nothing has changed. Ms. Mental ordered the Xline package and got actual leather. As she despises wood on car interiors (Sandy got a pass based on character), the dealer offered her the only non-wood option on the lot, “high-gloss dark copper.” It’s neat, it looks like sparkly root beer. Our past Bimmers had brushed aluminum bits. I enjoy BMWs interiors and have since my stepbrother loaned me his (then) new 1989 325IS.
Years later he would loan me his new Bangle-era 645, with the much maligned iDrive. I mastered it a few minutes and spent the week rather enjoying the experience.
But this one has me feeling like a troglodyte.
First is the iPhone interface; to do more than recharge requires a BMW iPod interface adapter. I discovered this after being forced to consult the owner’s manual. Yes, this is the baseline stereo, but that is no excuse. The Toyota Fortuner I tool about Abu Dhabi plugs right in and is controlled via the steering wheel. My father-in-law’s 2013 Chevy Cruz works the same, and my brother-in-law’s Hybrid Escape will play songs via voice command.
Which segues to the blue tooth. Aside from being so complicated it took my wife and me 20 minutes with the owners manual to get out phones to work, it won’t recognize contacts, or any other verbal functions. For my DD last year I bought a Bluetooth capable speaker that clips to my sun visor from Best Buy. For $25, this will relay any command directly to my phone, hands free. A vehicle that starts at $30K cannot mimic this? I can access Siri but pressing the phone button, but the point of the steering wheel mounted control is to allow me true hands free operation.
Then there is the shifter. I have been away from the new car game quite a while and missed the boat on BMW transmission gear selectors. How is this not the first thing reviews complain about? I have yet to drive this car with out it “dinging” at me, and I operate the most powerful airborne radar ever manufactured.
Finally there is the auto stop/start. BMW claims it produces a MPG improvement of 3%. My wife’s pre-start checklist involves turning it off. Normal usage is OK, if not a bit disconcerting the first time it happens. But in summertime, the car will only do this if the difference between the outside air temp and interior isn’t to far off. But last month in Omaha, the temps varied between 75-85, and the car cannot wouldn’t up its mind. When auto-starting for the AC, rather than brake release, the whole car jolts annoyingly.
This should not be construed into a dislike of the car. Truly, it is really good. It’s great on the freeway, comfortable and quiet. The mileage is great and 5 folks can actually ride in it for up to 30 minutes. My spite for the shifter should not be translated into spite for the transmission. It’s is excellent in normal mode, capable in “manual.” But the sport mode felt like it was programed for me personally. It behaves exactly how I want it to behave in manual mode, but shifts faster, downshifts exactly when you want and never picks the wrong gear. For the first time in my life, I am probably happier with an auto than a manual.
Despite having to special order the very rare gunmetal gray (a joke I stole from Justin Crenshaw) the upgraded wheels really make it look great. For the duration of the lease, we will evaluate how it ages, how dog proof it is, and its ability to withstand my abuse.
I am certain any unexpected ownership expenses will be immediately texted to me until I return home. But part of our reason for getting this was my past experience with BMWs. I have owned an E30, E36, E46 and still ride my 99 R1100S. I’m not expecting any hiccups.
My current issues are with the technology, and that’s not the fault of the car. I’m annoyed that my wife, with one well researched purchase, has managed to turn me from a techo-capable gearhead into my Dad.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some kids on the lawn, and I have to go shake my fist at them.