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WE HEAD TO AUSTRIA FOR AN EXCLUSIVE FIRST DRIVE OF THE BMW X1
When it was first launched worldwide in 2009, BMW’s X1 joined an elite group of small SUVs that were more for urban driving than rural off-roading.
But since then, that segment has exploded with nearly every manufacturer adding a compact crossover, as they’re now commonly called, to their fleets.
Now BMW has introduced an all-new X1, with its international launch last week in Austria, which Driven exclusively attended.
The company likes to call it a Sports Activity Vehicle with more than 730,000 models sold worldwide since its launch.
“Every 10th BMW vehicle registered [worldwide] is an X1.”
The premium vehicle went on sale in New Zealand in March 2010, and since then around 150 new X1s were sold here annually.
BMW New Zealand’s communications manager, Edward Finn, expected that interest to continue when the all-new X1 arrives here later in the year after its Europe sale date in October. The company has decided it will bring in only the higher spec versions of the X1 25i petrol and diesel models.
“The new model will offer enhanced performance for little, if any, change to the current driveaway price,” Finn told Driven.
The current X1 starts at $70,400 for the sDrive20i.
Set at the base of the Austrian alps, the international press conference revealed that the all-new X1 had moved from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive with the option of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
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The X1 joins BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer and Mini line-up as being front-wheel-drive.
The all-new X1 not only gains new engines, but a newly developed chassis technology to add ride comfort and give the SUV “enhanced sporting ability”, said BMW at the launch.
The company is aimed at “young and modern customers” and the design focused on the “customers’ wants and needs”.
The BMW design team have focused on the new kidney grille and the “third eye” fog lights.
Heading the design of the all-new X1 was Australian Calvin Luk, with the 29-year-old spending the past four years on redefining the product.
He told the press conference that he wanted to give the premium crossover “some x-ness”.
He focused on the new kidney grille plus the fog light that he called “the third eye” — referring to the two main headlights and rounded fog light cluster on either side of the grille.
The new model is 4439mm long (15mm less than before), 1821mm wide and 1598mm high — an increase of 53mm and thus creating more interior space.
The vehicle sits on 17in alloys, and gains parking assist, a rear view camera and optional head-up display.
Inside the vehicle, there is now a driver-focused cockpit with the centre console controls angled towards the steering wheel.
The driver’s seat is higher than the previous model, giving a commanding sitting position, said Luk. The interior also gets accent strips across the instrument and around the door panels, giving it a sophisticated look and helps break up large expanses of dash.
The X1 also gains the ConnectedDrive that allows concierge and SOS help, and will join the rest of BMW NZ’s fleet with having the system.
In the European models, the satnav system gains real time traffic that updates road conditions every two minutes.
The SUV also has an automatic opening boot that is activated if you have the car key close to your body, but if you add a tow bar to the vehicle, that system is deactivated as the wiring can’t be accommodated near the tow bar.
The X1 will keep its three specification lineups: xLine has matt aluminium bars on the front grille and air intakes; the Sport Line has special black BMW kidney grille bars; while the M Sport package gives you 18in or 19in alloys plus sportier seats.
Driven tested the 25i petrol and diesel at the Austria launch and was impressed with not only the performance from both the engines, but all the quietness in the cabin from the powertrains.
The petrol xDrive25i is paired with the new eight-speed Steptronic transmission with improved internal efficiency, increased smoothness and more dynamic gear changes.
The 2-litre, four-cylinder in-line petrol twin turbo engine produces 170kW of power and 350Nm of torque with a top speed of 235km/h with 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds. It also has claimed fuel consumption of 6.6litres/100km.
Driven’s first test vehicle was the petrol Xdrive model, with the X1 facing open country roads with a top speed of 110km/h, and small village roads.
Once on the open straight roads, I moved the X1 from comfort to sport drive and the shorter overhang and the lower centre of gravity made it hold the hold the road and corner without too much body roll.
The company said the X1 had “virtually perfect 50:50 weight distribution” but the front felt slightly heavier than the rear, especially when heading into a corner at speed.
At the lunch time stop, I tried the X1 on BMW’s parcor course: with the vehicle having to drive up two ramps at a near 90-degree angle; drive across a log bridge, then up a log ramp to show hill descent control, which I engaged at the peak, and set up 6km/h maximum speed as the X1 “climbed” down the ramp.
Heading away from the lunch venue to BMW’s Munich office, I moved to the diesel 25i with the main route taking on the autobahn where the vehicle easily held its own on the open speed limit lanes.
When the X1 arrives in New Zealand, it will be taking on such premium compact SUVs as VW Tiguan, Audi’s Q3, the Range Rover Evoque, and the newly launched the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.