By on August 9, 2013


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.

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35 Comments on “Long Term Review – 2013 BMW X1 (aka My wife’s car is smarter than me)...”

  • avatar

    America, here is your 1 series 5 door hatch… sort of. The interior dimensions and cargo capacity is almost spot on with a GTI. Shame they didn’t see fit to give it ride height that was more in line with being “sports” rather than “activity”. RWD, 4cyl turbo, hatch is a great start. They are just missing a 6MT and car ride height. It is definitely more attractive than the actual 1 series 5 door.

    That is a great wheel design, too.

  • avatar

    Looks like it is more in the six second range where the bigger engined 3.0 goes into the 5’s.

    But it sounds like you are deep into Beemer/Bimmer love land.

  • avatar

    I like this car a lot. And the X3.

    However, Mazda has it figured out with the 6 infotainment. Note how it’s a standard Double DIN unit which can be swapped for something much better.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but on Alex Dykes’ review, it also appeared that you control certain convenience features on the 6 through the radio, and would lose that capability by swapping it out. The interface lacked a lot of polish compared to pretty much everyone else’s, as well.

  • avatar

    We bought a 2013 RDX (sans Tech package) a few months ago. I was pretty surprised by how hit and miss the iPhone integration is. I could really care less about integration w/ Pandora, but voice command is shaky at best. Voice tags for contacts? That was cutting edge in 2001. We really love the car, but kind of surprised by some of the rather primitive technology.

  • avatar

    At your next trip to the dealer, I highly recommend having them turn the auto start-stop system to remember your last setting that way you don’t have to hit the button each time you turn the car on. (first world problems)

  • avatar

    That is a striking looking small CUV. Wheels do in fact look killer.

  • avatar

    When I looked at X1 vs 3er at the dealer, the one thing that stood out most was rear seat comfort. X1 rear seat is much less comfortable than 3er rear seat. The bottom cushion is much shorter and lower, typical for an SUV.

  • avatar

    Performance aside, the car looks awkwardly proportioned and plain, as if designed by Honda. I could care less about the phone and InfoTech features of any car, but would not consider this on styling alone. Looks like they had a week to design it, and then just gave up. Kind of an insult to prospective purchasers.

  • avatar

    I don’t think decrying technology that doesn’t always work correctly makes you a luddite.

    If the shifter is like my X5’s, it has two detents. A firm pull to the rear will take you directly from Park to Drive. If you don’t pull hard enough, you will unexpectedly end up in Neutral. Works the same with Reverse. The shifter works really well; I use it frequently to downshift for engine braking. The pushbutton Park feature is convenient at the long stop lights common to this area.

  • avatar

    It sounds like the x1’s bluetooth and iPod compatibility are far worse than our 2011 3-series!

    We also have a BMW with the silly new shifter. It was annoying for a week and then it felt as natural as any other. I still don’t see any benefit to it, but there’s no harm, either.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed – in my ’11, I can just plug the iPod USB cable straight into the USB jack. The only reason you need the special iPhone adapter (which costs as much as a phone!) is to access the cars cellular antenna and to play video on the iDrive screen (which I don’t have anyway).

      Agreed about the voice control. Utterly stupid that it doesn’t integrate with the phone AT ALL. You have to setup a wholly separate voice dialing directory manually. I can’t be bothered.

      I’d actually be interested in the X1 if I could get one with a stick. Would be a nice replacement for my Grand Cherokee someday.

  • avatar

    This article could really use another round or two of editing.

    • 0 avatar

      Apparently the new TTAC is supposed to feel carefree, grungy, and homemade, like your mama’s cherry cobbler with some pits still in there…

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a legitimate complaint. Thank you. I have a terrible habit of my mind getting ahead of my eyes when proof reading. You deserve better and I will make a sincere effort on improving my submissions.

      It’s not the “new” TTAC, it’s an older contributor being lazy.

  • avatar

    Without a doubt, this is the best value on the BMW lot. $35k buys you a base model with a couple decent options and the 240hp four. The same amount will only net you the much slower 320i with the sport package.

  • avatar

    >>>the upgraded wheels really make it look great

    They look like metal spider webs to me. I half expected to see some hapless giant fly stuck in them.

    Having tried out Siri once, I don’t understand why anyone would want to access it.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know, i have a pretty good time with Siri in the car.

      I can tell her to text something to my wife, then saying change, say the same thing again but enunciating more clearly, then say change, then pausing awkwardly between words, then say change when it gave up halfway, then say the same thing but emphasizing different sounds and syllables, then say change… and 5 minutes later I’m out of the car and manually text her, or just get frustrated and text while driving if I’m still in the car.

      It works great!

  • avatar

    About 6 months ago, we bought a new X1 to replace a 2010 WRX hatch. The BMW has similar proportions, hauls our stacks of gritty camping gear and beach gear as easily as the Subie, and is a FAR more comfy companion on the highway. I generally hate 4-bangers, but the X1’s engine and 8-speed auto are mighty sweet! We also have a 2014 Sorento SX AWD in the garage now, so the X1’s “dirty hauling” duties have probably ended. Point is: Our X1 was selected as a WRX replacement. Powertrain refinement and a similar shape / size made for an easy sale.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No offense meant to Christian, not sure if the editing function worked.

  • avatar

    Hmmmm….. a turbo-charged 2-litre 4-cylinder engine that produces 240 hp? 120 hp per litre?

    Sounds impressive on paper but I wouldn´t bet a *lot* of money on that unit´s durability…….

  • avatar

    OK, here’s my 2 cents. You should’ve gone with an Audi Q5 2.0T. It maybe rated with 29 less hp, but I seriously doubt you’d know the difference. I’ve had mine for 18 mos., 18k miles, driven like I stole it at 23mpg with only a freebie oil change at 5k. It has the same tranny the X1, 3 & 5 has. I came to this out of necessity from a Cayman S so, I know a little about this stuff or at least have an experienced opinion from track days to 8 years of autox, but no “Lemons” as Dr.Ass in Qatar advised of your experience (I forwarded him your blog). As far as the Audi goes, I’ve little problem with the gadgets. The BT was hooked in seconds on the first try and works fine although the voice recog. has some issues with my “dialect” at times and my mapping is a little dated in some places. I’ve had a number of BMWs over the years, the last a Z4 3.0S, 6 spd and I might still be into them if not for the dealer and the advent of the Cayman. Frankly, I just think BMW has “lost its way” in recent years.

  • avatar

    While complaining about the electric gizmos in modern cars, the question should be asked: Why do cars have all these gizmos?

    I don’t mean car technology per se – cruise-control radar or auto-park etc. – those are relevant to the actual operation of a vehicle, gimmickry aside. But why re-invent the wheel with ‘maintaining your contacts?’ Who cares? The phone you plug into the car, in all but the rarest cases, is better at maintaining contacts or keeping your music or running your GPS or recognizing your voice etc. than any OEM-gizmo. Just have a radio with relevant connectivity and you’re mostly done. Don’t dink with the car trying to connect the phone via Bluetooth – browse the car using Bluetooth on the phone. Want to run the whole car via the phone on the plug? Make an app for that, not an inferior, outdated-six-months-later, black box.

    • 0 avatar

      I tend to agree with you re gizmos. My Cayman S had nothing save for a good radio, a/c without climate control, a 6 disc CD changer which I loaded and didn’t use. It didn’t even have BT but I could’ve gotten an aftermarket unit like the one my wife has and it works as well as the unit in the Audi except it has to be re-charged every now and then. I loved my Cayman and throughly enjoyed driving it sans gizmos. Today, though, with the advent of the smartphone, it seems folks want the car to do everything (still working on the auto TP (not tire pressure) dispenser/applicator). Pretty soon the gov or someone will finally decide that all this crap is just fueling accidents and it will come to an end except for the autonomous car. When that comes about (Mercedes is getting close), then we’ll have the auto TP dispenser/applicator

      • 0 avatar

        Just one more thing. Apple is now designing/engineering software/App where a car, any car will recognize you via the app and set the climate control, power seat, mirrors and radio to your individual preferences.

  • avatar

    I look forward to ownership updates on this. The X1 is at the top of my list for a used purchase, specifically this engine combo (since the 3.0 is totally overkill).

    • 0 avatar

      You are for sure gonna want to check out the new Mercedes GLA. It looks way better than this X1. When you see the price, you’ll want o look at the Audi Q5, too. The interior is so much better than any BMW.

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