My wife hates wagons. Loathes them with the kind of passion and fervor normally reserved for sexual predators and real estate agents. But despite this, she drives the prototypical wagon-on-stilts, a Honda CR-V.
That unbridled disgust for any low-riding hatchback is something I've been trying to figure out for the last seven years, but it's a problem nearly every European automaker peddling its wares in the States has been dealing with for decades. The solution, it seems, is to downsize the standard CUV into a more compact package, while still providing the elevated ride-height and commanding view that consumers in a post-SUV world crave.
For BMW, the answer is the X1, the Euro-only-for-now crossover that slots in where the X3 used to reside before it blew up to near-X5 proportions. And fitted with BMW's new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which U.S. customers will sample for the first time in the Z4 sDrive28i roadster, it makes a compelling case for itself. So much so that BMW's Leipzig, Germany plant is tapped out, meaning importation into the U.S. isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Continue reading Quick Spin: 2011 BMW X1 xDrive28i...
Photos copyright ©2011 Damon Lavrinc / AOL
Based on bits of the beloved 3 Series and packing a range of fuel-efficient powerplants in Europe, the X1 embodies everything a would-be wagon-buyer could want: ample storage, acceptable ground clearance, upright seating and... it's not a wagon. Stylistically, it's more of the same from the Germans – a one-design-fits-all approach that seems to be making a comeback after BMW's aesthetic fall from grace in the early Aughts.
The front fascia and kidney grille stand at attention, a subtle swage line runs the length of the profile, with the crease terminating in a pair of attractive, post-Bangle taillamps that integrate cleanly into the sizable hatch. The silver trim on our tester gives the X1 a slightly less ponderous stance and matches the 17-inch brushed aluminum wheels fitted with 225/50 R17 M+S Michelins at all four corners.
Those faux-metal accents find their way inside, framing everything from the push-button start to the iDrive controller, all of which is mounted inside a tasteful blend of high-gloss wood trim coating the dash and center tunnel. The plastics and textures are exactly what you'd expect inside an entry-level Bimmer – mostly good, with a few less-than-appealing pieces mounted near your knees and feet. The leather-clad seats up front provide more than adequate bolstering for a high-riding hatch, and while there's room for two in the rear, if you're carting anyone over six-feet-tall up front, leg room is on the uncomfortable side of minimal. For the occasional big-box shopping spree, those rear thrones can be folded (40:20:40), expanding cargo capacity from 14.8 to 47.6 cu-ft.
Our tester was fitted with BMW's standard six-speed manual transmission, a gearbox we'll likely never see available in the States if the X1 ever makes the trek. Instead, an eight-speed automatic pulled from the 5 Series GT should suit American tastes, as will BMW's sports-oriented xDrive all-wheel drive and a host of safety-related acronyms ranging from Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), the latter of which allows for a minute amount of wheelspin and slip, primarily for rain and snow... or deserted off-ramps entering the Autobahn.
Although the X1 has been on sale in Europe since 2009, the big news for 2011 is the replacement of the 3.0-liter inline-six with BMW's new 2.0-liter turbocharged four. Developing 245 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque beginning at 1,250 rpm, this all-new TwinPower mill (BMW parlance for a single, twin-scroll turbo partnered with Valvetronic, double Vanos and direct injection) is more about blending efficiency and fuel economy with six-cylinder smoothness. But it's no slouch in the motivation department.
BMW claims the 3,300-pound CUV can run to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds (6.5 with the automatic), yet we found 3,000-rpm launches would get the X1 hurtling up to German highway speeds in the high eight-second realm. Laying into the throttle in fourth gear at around 45 mph was the only time we experienced any form of turbo lag, although it was quickly dispatched with a wave of boosted torque that easily eclipses its six-cylinder predecessor. All this while returning a claimed average of 30 miles per gallon on the U.S. cycle. Steering, throttle response, clutch uptake and braking performance are all up to BMW standards, although the feel from the middle pedal was more wooden and artificially linear than we would've liked.
The BMW X1 might not be the Ultimate High-Riding Driving Machine (the X5 still holds that title), but the genes are there, and for the world's wagon-averse, it offers a compelling blend of sport, fuel economy and cargo capacity. Too bad the Europeans are keeping them all for themselves.
Photos copyright ©2011 Damon Lavrinc / AOL