The Truth About Cars » X1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:01:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » X1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Long Term Review – 2013 BMW X1 (aka My wife’s car is smarter than me) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/long-term-review-2013-bmw-x1-aka-my-wifes-car-is-smarter-than-me/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/long-term-review-2013-bmw-x1-aka-my-wifes-car-is-smarter-than-me/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 12:33:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498310 Front

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.

Interior

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.

Rear

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.

Wheel

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.

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Review: 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-bmw-x1-xdrive28i-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-bmw-x1-xdrive28i-video/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490737 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I know a guy who used to own a BMW 318ti. Like most 318 shoppers, he paid way too much because it had a roundel on the front. At some point he realized that 25-grand (in 1997) was an awful lot to have paid for an asthmatic 138-horsepower rattletrap and sold it. Likewise, the fog lifted at BMW and they refocused on volume models. Then came the 1 series, a fantastic little car that hasn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. The Germans are a persistent people, so for 2013 they are fishing with fresh bait. Click through the jump as we look at the cheapest BMW in America, the 2013 BMW X1.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

OK, so BMW would prefer that I called the X1 “the most affordable” BMW in America, but I suffer from political incorrectness. So what is the X1? It’s a crossover of course. While that term has become synonymous with “ginormous FWD soft-roader” the X1 is more of a “true” crossover in that it looks like a cross between a pregnant 1-Series and a mini X5. The result is a handsome BMW version of the Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70. (The X1 is a cousin of the 1-Series (E87) and 3-Series (E90).) Since wagon’s don’t sell well either, BMW stretched the X1 vertically and called it good.

Unlike the X3 and X5, the one thing BMW didn’t do was shorten the hood. As a result, you might almost call the X1 BMW’s latest hatchback. Only that wouldn’t sell as many X1s either. Get it now? Speaking of the X3, the X1 is 6.5 inches shorter and 3.5 inches narrower than its larger cousin.

I should point out a few things before we move on. First up, BMW’s rear hatchback design makes the X1 look less like a Volvo wagon, but also reduces practical load space. My only other quibble outside is that the wheels look a bit small for the X1. What’s your opinion? Sound out below.

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

European car companies are accused of making the same sausage available in different lengths. That’s obvious outside as well as inside the X1 where you’ll find the same shapes and many of the same controls/screens found in other BMW products. This parts bin approach pays dividends for the X1 where you get the same shifter and iDrive controller found in six-figure BMWs. (How those six-figure shoppers feel about this is anyone’s guess.) Once you’re done playing with the high-rent knobs, your hands will discover where BMW saved money: plastics. Instead of the soft molded instrument panels used in other BMWs, the X1 gets a hard plastic unit. The black upper portion of the dash has then been coated with a thin layer of soft material to improve feel, while the rest of the dash remains hard. This is an interesting choice when even Buick and Chevrolet have ditched their hard plastic interiors for squishy bits.

Germans car engineers don’t understand America. Sure, they understand driving dynamics and styling, but the Burger King drive-thru is incomprehensible. It’s obvious they are making effort to understand ‘mericans, bless their little hearts, but I think a US field-trip is in order for the guy who designs center consoles in Bavaria. Go to the south, my friend, go to the south. When the X1 arrived, I was starving. Being a lover of convenience, I headed to Taco Bell. It was at that point I noticed I had only one cup holder. Behind my right elbow. After consulting the instruction manual, I found the other one. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see it: a funky little thing that inserts into a slot in the center console to the right of the shifter. When it’s not inserted, you have an odd hole with a springy-cover concealing its depths. When in place, you have a cup holder positioned to splash its contents on your snazzy iDrive knob. You will also have a passenger complain their knee hits it all the time. Want to jam a enormous southern-style Styrofoam drink in your X1? Good luck. BMW: you got the X5 and X6′s cupholders so right, what happened?

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i, Cupholder, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cupholder woes aside, there is little to complain about inside the X1. Front comfort is excellent, even in the base model with an 8-way manually adjustable seat. Our X1 was equipped with the $3,000 M-Sport package which brings aluminum trim, a black headliner, steering wheel mounted shift-paddles and BMW’s excellent sport seats. The optional thrones contort in more ways than I can describe and are one of the most comfortable seat designs in any $30,000-40,000 vehicle. If you can’t find a comfortable position, go see a back surgeon. Something that isn’t standard however is leather. If you want real cow, be prepared to pony up an extra $1,450. If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. Even Lexus is ditching real moo in their latest designs.

Most cars get less comfortable as you move rearwards, and that is certainly true of the X1. Back seats are firmly padded with little bolstering and very straight backs. Thankfully, the seat bottom cushion is not as close to the floor as many small crossovers, although the lack of padding made passenger’s legs just as tired on a one-hour car trip. On the flip side the rear seats recline to soften the blow. Rear legroom and headroom are excellent thanks to the X1′s upright profile and BMW and getting in and out of the X1 is made easy by large door openings. The ever-efficient Germans made the rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 manner allowing you to insert IKEA flat packs and four passengers at the same time. Behind the seats you’ll get 25 cubic feet of cargo room if you load the X1 to the ceiling, and 56 cubes if you fold the rear seats flat. That puts the X1 behind other small crossovers like a RAV4 or CRV but decidedly ahead of a 128i coupé.

2013 BMW X1 xDive28i iDrive, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The X1 gets the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive. The system builds upon the previous versions in small, but important ways. Keeping up with the times, BMW has swapped the CD button for a “Media” button which makes accessing your USB and iDevices easier than in the past. Unlike the 328i we recently tested, the X1 gets a single USB port. Likely because of cost cutting, BMW located the solitary USB port and Aux input at the bottom of the center stack instead of hiding it neatly away in the armrest of glovebox. If you want to know more about iDrive, click on that video at the top of the review.

Unfortunately not all the iDrive fun is standard. BMW is bundling the smartphone apps, navigation and voice command system for your music devices into a single $2,250 premium package, or a $6,150 “ultimate” package which also bundles power front seats, keyless entry, parking sensors, ambient lighting, satellite radio, auto dimming mirrors and a panoramic moonroof. Of course, adding this package increases the cost of your X1 by 20%, but “least expensive BMW” is a very relative term. Still, iDrive’s tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration make this the system one of the finest on the market, and I would buy the $2,250 package before I added things like leather or HID headlamps ($900) to my ride. Since this is the bargain Bimmer, you won’t find radar cruise control, collision warning, adaptive suspension systems, heads-up displays or fancy lane-keeping assistants. For the purists in the crowd this is welcome news, but it’s still easy to option your X1 from a base price of $30,800 to around $50,000. Be mindful of that options list.
2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine, 2.0L Twin-Power Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Part of what went wrong with the 318 was the drivetrain. Instead targeting a high fun/dollar ratio, BMW went for “low bottom line” and used an asthmatic 138HP four-banger. Learning from that lesson, BMW fit their new 2.0L N20 turbo engine and 8-speed automatic in the sDrive28i and xDrive28i. Producing 240HP from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 260 lb-ft of twist from 1,250 to 4,800RPM that’s more oomph than the 3.0L inline engine under the hood of the 128i.

More important than the power number is the weight. A base RWD X2 is 3,527lbs, only 240lbs heavier than the considerably less powerful 128i coupé. Even our heavier AWD X1 sports a HP to weight ratio better than the smaller and more expensive two-door 1. As a result, performance is more than adequate with a 6.5 second run to 60 (2/10ths faster than a 128i) but decidedly “un-BMW” in terms of power delivery. The torque “plateau” starts early but drops precipitously after 5,750 RPM is a stark contrast from BMW’s 3.0L that comes alive at high RPMs (and screams like a banshee). Proving that BMW loves America, we get an optional powertrain not available anywhere else. For $38,600, BMW will jam a 300HP 3.0L (N55) twin-scroll turbo six under the hood. Sadly the quick shifting 8-speed transmission is lost in the process (you get the old 6-speed) and BMW still won’t offer a manual X1 in the USA.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The N20 isn’t just 33% shorter than the N55, the whole drivetrain is 165lbs lighter. In addition, the 2.0L sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious on the track where the X1 is incredibly nimble. That nimble feeling is especially pronounced in the RWD X1 sDrive28i thanks to a somewhat unusual weight balance with less than 50% of the weight on the front wheels. In contrast, the AWD xDrive28i BMW lent us for a week has a near-perfect 50.6/49.4% (F/R) weight balance while the more powerful 3.0L turbo model is nose heavy at 52.1/47.9 %.

Since our X1 was an M-Sport model, our 18-inch wheels were shod with grippy 255-width rubber. To put that in perspective, 255s are rare enough in full/mid-sized crossovers and unheard of in the compact crossover segment. With the front wheels turned slightly, the X1 looks like a kid wearing his dad’s shoes but the extra rubber pays dividends when you encounter a corner. The unexpectedly high grip combined with a neutral chassis dynamics makes the X1 predictable and confident on the road. In many ways the manners of the X1 reminded me of the (much larger) X6M. Just a little. In an unusual move, BMW fits AWD X1s with hydraulic power steering while the base RWD sDrive28i uses BMW’s lifeless electric assist. The difference isn’t night and day, but the hydraulic unit does have more steering feel. Be warned however that neither power steering system provides as much assist as the competition, so your arms may get tired after a long trip on a winding road.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Wheel, M-Sport, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of the RWD model, BMW claims it will get 23/34/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and adding AWD to the 2.0L turbo drops those numbers to a still respectable 22/33/26 MPG. Over 544 miles, I averaged 22.9MPG, largely due the way the X1 devours mountain roads. That oddly brings me to the Mini Countryman, which is really the only competition for the X1 (since the VW Tiguan doesn’t play in the upper-crust playground). This is a perfect example of the right hand stabbing the left hand. The Mini Countryman is a nice enough vehicle, but driven back to back the X1 is a hoot-and-a-half while the Mini’s FWD manners, less powerful engine, similar MPGs and skinny tires register half a hoot. Now I know why the Mini doesn’t come up as a competitive vehicle on BMW’s website.

The 318 proved, there’s more to life than a low sticker price. The X1 proves that given time BMW can make a compelling entry-level vehicle. The X1 is more than just the least expensive BMW on the lot, it may well have the highest fun/dollar ratio of any modern BMW, especially in the $33,800 X1 sDrive28i M-Sport trim (damn that’s a long name). It’s also one of the few vehicles I would actually buy if my money was on the line.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Most fun I’ve had for $30-large. OK. 45-large.
  • Get a BMW with hydraulic power steering while it lasts.

Quit it

  • Too many hard-plastics on the inside for a car that costs this much.
  • The Germans still don’t know what cupholders are for. Maybe its time for a field trip?

 

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.42

0-60: 6.55

1/4 Mile: 15.08 Seconds @ 92.6 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 22.9 MPG over 544 Miles

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Cargo Area 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine, 2.0L Twin-Power Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-004 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Wheel, M-Sport, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-007 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-006 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-008 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-003 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-002 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-010 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-009 2013 BMW X1 xDive28i iDrive, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i, Cupholder, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-003 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-004 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-010 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-009 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-008 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-006 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-005 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-011 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-012 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-013 ]]>
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Brilliance’s Blatant BMW Copy Creates Chinese Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/brilliance%e2%80%99s-blatant-bmw-copy-creates-chinese-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/brilliance%e2%80%99s-blatant-bmw-copy-creates-chinese-crisis/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2011 14:31:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389461

Like most manufacturers, BMW is getting ready for the pilgrimage to Shanghai, where the Shanghai Motor Show will open its doors to the press on April 19, and to the public on April 21. Some at BMW go with mixed feelings. There will be some delicate discussions between BMW brass and their Chinese joint venture partner Brilliance. The reason: At Asia’s and possibly the world’s most important auto show, Brilliance will show their A3 SUV. Germany’s Auto Bild calls it “a brazen BMW X1 rip-off, with inspirations from Audi.”

The matter becomes even more touchy as BMW plans to produce the X1 in China with a launch date in 2012. It will be built by BMW’s Chinese joint venture with Brilliance.

Asked what BMW will do about the matter, BMW spokesman Frank Strebe confirms that his company is “familiar with the matter.” His employer already is in talks with Brilliance and is “exploring the next steps.” The heads of BMW and Brilliance are expected to have a serious sit-down in Shanghai. From the sounds of it, BMW is not taking this lightly. The copy is a bit too brazen. Strebe, usually BMW’s point man for the Siebener, has been made the go to person for the Chinese copypaste.

“In the side view, the tracing was especially successful,” writes Auto Bild. “Roof lines, windows and wheel housings look like fresh off the BMW assembly lines.” The dashboard appears to be inspired by Audi. “And we won’t even mention the name,” says the German paper with reference to the Audi A3. This is also being built in China, by Audi’s joint venture with FAW.

BMW had sued Chinese maker Shuanghuan for copying their X5. A court in BMW’s hometown Munich blocked the importation of the copy. In Italy, a court in Milan decided that there was no likelihood of confusion. Hauling a  Shuanghuan in front of a judge is one thing. With your own joint venture partner, the matter is a bit different. China already is BMW’s third largest market, after Germany and the U.S.

The talks in Shanghai won’t be easy.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Alfa’s SUV Plans Parody Themselves Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-alfas-suv-plans-parody-themselves-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-alfas-suv-plans-parody-themselves-edition/#comments Wed, 30 Jun 2010 16:22:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=359869

Alfa’s been talking about selling an SUV for years now, as the brand has thrashed around looking for a rescue line. Now, a long-rumored ute named Kamal (after an Alfa SUV concept) has finally materialized at Alfa’s 100-year anniversary, looking an awful lot like a BMW X1. In fact, it is a BMW X1 with tacked-on Alfa cues. If this is a sign that Alfa fans are desperate for an SUV, their dreams will come true. Automotive News [sub] reports that SUVs are a crucial component of Alfa’s plan to sell half a million cars per year by 2014, up from just over 100k last year. A small SUV, to be built by Chrysler and imported to Europe, will start sales in 2012, with another, larger ute (based on the next Jeep Libery) planned for 2014. In other words, look for rebadged Chryslers to rescue Alfa’s SUV dreams rather than a taped-off BMW. No wonder analysts are so skeptical of Alfa’s turnaround plans, telling AN [sub]

The potential of the (Alfa) brand is huge, but to multiply sales fivefold in five years they probably also will need to sell cars on the Moon and on Mars

A bit of a stretch, nicht wahr? alfabmw1 alfabmw2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: BMW X1 xDrive20d http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/review-bmw-x1-xdrive20d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/review-bmw-x1-xdrive20d/#comments Mon, 05 Apr 2010 14:06:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351586 Diesel clatter in a BMW is like watching Bullit to the tunes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In other words, distasteful and illegal in 48 states. And yet, driving BMW’s new X1 is a surprisingly John Deere-like experience. Is this a BMW or the ultimate agricultural machine? Maybe this sort of confusion is the X1’s worst problem.

In this day and age, BMW’s identity crisis justifies a psychological hotline. Ever since Mercedes beat BMW in defining the midsize-luxury-SUV segment with its successful ML, the Bavarian automaker is having a separation anxiety of sorts, racing to create new and increasingly eyebrow-raising niches. The X3 may have invented the premium-compact SUV, but the X6 and the recent 5 GT have been trying to answer questions no one really asked.

You’d expect the X1’s nomenclature to indicate its roots lie in the compact 1 series, but the X1 is actually a chopped 3 series Touring (same wheelbase, different overall length), which makes the X3 the ugly duckling of the BMW family. Expensive and outdated, the X3 is less than 5 inches longer than the new X1, meaning the next generation of the sandwich child of the X series will have to get a serious bump in size and kit to justify the price increase over its baby brother. When it does – likely in 2011 – the X1 will also arrive stateside.

The exterior of the X1 is almost as confused as its identity. Up front, the X-junior bears BMW’s new upright kidney grill. Coupled with the bulbous bumper from the 1 series, the result isn’t completely unattractive – but definitely polarizing. The back is influenced by the 5 GT, with an uncanny resemblance to the E32 7 series, but the way the X1’s design elements connect is what makes it a bit of an odd bird. The proportions are strange, and they aren’t helped by the profile line sweeping from the front to the back – which is handsome on the new 5 series, but feels busy on the compact hatchback that the X1 fundamentally is.

Thankfully, the X1 still provides at least some core BMW experience. The seats are comfortable and grippy, and the thick, neatly stitched steering wheel falls comfortably into the driver’s hands. The driving position is also much closer to a conventional car than a true crossover – so that fans of the genre may be a little disappointed.

The rest of the cabin gets the basics right: everything in eye-level is fairly pleasing to the eye and touch, but as you go down you will discover flimsy plastics not worthy of a car of this caliber. There’s nothing here to make you feel particularly luxurious, and the general design of the cabin is a little dull – even BMW’s signature gearlever is replaced by a run of the mill stick. Annoyingly, there isn’t even a proper armrest.

The newest member of the X series does, however, get the practicalities right. Four passengers will be comfortable and so will their luggage – a huge improvement over the cramped 1 series. At almost 15 cubic feet, the X1’s trunk is smaller than the standard 3 series’. It is, however, significantly more comfortable to load, thanks to the practical benefits of the rear hatch and the slightly raised ride height.

Call me mad, but I’ve actually taken the baby-X to some mild offroading, and imminently proven that the X1 – and its expensive looking bumpers in particular – is allergic to as much as moderate potholes. And unless you don’t live in a country as sunny as mine, you really don’t need xDrive – BMW speak for 4 wheel drive – the car’s minimal clearance will probably limit it much quicker than treacherous mud will.

The X1’s natural habitat is the road, where it offers a good (but mixed) experience. The ride is bad. Blame BMW’s beloved low profile runflat tires for that. In moderately slow driving the X1 feels bumpy and crashes on minor asphalt imperfections, while in higher speeds and flatter roads the experience improves significantly – wind and tire noises are kept at bay, too.

Other than that, the X1 drives like a BMW should, with weighty hydraulically-assisted steering that’s not to anyone’s liking – especially not in town and during parking maneuvers. Thankfully, it’s also accurate and communicative, greatly contributing to a driving experience that’s very close to its road focused sibling. Body roll is minimal and the brakes are excellent, both in pedal feel and bite retention. The well-praised six speed ZF gearbox is well-praised here too, with a smooth and decisive action, but tap-shifters are sorely missed for spirited driving.

The engine is a mixed bag too. With 177 brake horsepower on tap, it won’t set this BMW’s tires alight (or puncture them, for that matter), but 258 lb-ft of torque have their way of getting this crossover to 60 in about 8.5 seconds on paper. Off paper, it feels quicker once the turbocharger kicks in at about 1,500 RPM. But then there’s that John Deere identity issue. The diesel clatter, which is well silenced in the rest of BMW’s diesel-sipping offerings, is present not only while the engine is cold, but also during moderate accelerations, almost never letting you forget it’s down there, and it won’t take regular unleaded without a fight.

Casting a verdict on the BMW X1 isn’t a “good car, bad car” affair as with most cars, because you have to put it in context, and right now you can’t. BMW want us to believe that their newest crossover is the opening shot in a new and busy segment which will be populated by the upcoming Audi Q3 and Land Rover LRX, but as of the present, the X1 can’t be readily compared to any vehicle on the market.

Even more confusingly, the X1 isn’t a bad car – it handles well and has some practical edges. The downsides – a mediocre cabin, iffy ride comfort with the stock runflat tires, and noisy engine – place it closer to the 1 series in the BMW quality hierarchy. In the end, it all boils down to pricing. UK pricing of the X1 place it close in price to an equally equipped 3 series sedan, but significantly cheaper than the more spacious 3 series touring.

In this price range the X1 can make sense for people looking for added practicality and raised ride height, who are willing to sacrifice some refinement and cabin quality. But it also comes mighty close in price to the larger Audi Q5, which makes me wonder: is there really a place for another sub-niche in the niche of the century?

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: That’s Riich Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-thats-riich-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-thats-riich-edition/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2009 19:32:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336273 Hell of wealthy, yo. (courtesy: automotorundsport.de)

We got a good giggle (and several excellent limericks) out of Chery’s Bentley-aping Riich brand logo back in March, so we thought we’d show off a peek at what qualifies as upmarket for Chery. Priced at about $8,165, the Riich X1 makes do with an 84 hp, 1.3 liter engine which motivates the tiny crossover to 60 mph in a very un-upmarket 16 seconds. Which is no big deal, considering top speed is rated at about 93 mph. The X1 does offer alloy wheels, climate control, parking sensors and mp3 connectivity though. As tempting as it is to simply laugh off at the Chinese version of upmarket branding, a look at this advertisement for the X1′s sibling, the Riich M1, shows a young professional-oriented vibrancy that’s become rare in US-market auto advertising. What the Chinese market clearly lacks in technology and expectation, it makes up for with an enthusiasm born of seemingly limitless potential. [via Automotorundsport.de]

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