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2012 BMW X1
The obstacles to bringing home a new BMW are shrinking by the day . . . and by the dollar
By Malcolm Gunn
If you've been loitering outside the local BMW dealership, palms and cheeks pressed to glass thinking that that was as close as you were ever going to get to owning a shiny new Bimmer, it's time to come inside.
Yes, the X1 has just arrived as a highly efficient, cargo-friendly and perhaps most importantly, wallet-friendly family transporter that also packs standard all-wheel-drive, which of course is perfect for Canadian winters.
The popularity of the X1 is so great around the world right now that there are shortages that will delay the model's arrival in the U.S. market until late this year. Somehow, Canadians lucked out.
While a close inspection and a test drive reveals a lot about the vehicle, the reason for its popularity actually requires nothing more than to understand that the X1 is now the least-expensive BMW wagon in the line at $40,500, slotted below the $43,900 X3.
It doesn't really look less expensive, though. In fact, the X1 looks a lot like the X3. A side-by-side inspection is really needed to reveal the X1's more car-like profile in addition to a slightly more elongated nose.
The tape measure also confirms that the X1 is shorter and narrower overall by about 20 centimetres and 7.5 centimetres, respectively. It's also five centimetres shorter between the front and rear wheels. According to BMW, the X1 actually shares its platform with the new Mini Countryman wagon, although that model is a further 15 centimetres shorter between the wheels than the Bimmer.
As for cargo capacity, the X3 offers nearly double the area of the X1 with the rear seats up and close to 20 per cent additional room when the second-row 40:20:20 split bench is folded flat.
The X1 doesn't come up short in interior accommodations, however. The front seats feel wonderfully supportive, as they do in nearly all of BMW's products, while rear-seat leg and knee room will only be a problem for taller passengers in the 1.8-metre-plus range.
Also exemplary is the dashboard and controls that exude more than a modicum of good taste. The up-level interior package with its wood and soft leather trim is absolutely top-notch in design and execution.
Where the X1 makes a really radical departure from the X3 is under the hood. The sole powerplant is an all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That's one horsepower more than the X3's base non-turbo 3.0-litre inline six, but crushes that engine's torque rating of 221 pound-feet.
The X1's turbo has been specifically engineered to reduce any delay in throttle reaction (called turbo lag), a problem that typical plagues turbocharged vehicles.
The X1 is also 180 kilograms lighter than the X3, which is good news for acceleration and fuel economy. BMW claims that a zero-to-100 km-h sprint takes 6.1 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission, or in the 6.5-seconds when equipped with the optional eight-speed automatic. Fuel-economy numbers for either transmission are an impressive 9.2 l/100 km in the city and 6.4 on the highway. By comparison, the X3 is rated at 10.8 city and 7.9 highway.
Regardless of transmission, all X1s come with BMW's patented xDrive permanent all-wheel-drive setup. The system splits the torque equally between the front and rear wheels under normal driving conditions, but when necessary can shift 100 per cent of the torque to whichever axle is driving the tires with grip. As well, xDrive will automatically direct added power to the outside rear wheel when turning to reduce understeer, which is a vehicle's tendency to continue in straight line when the front wheels are turned.
To keep the starting price in low-$40,000 territory, base X1s will be on the stark side, devoid of leather seats, fancy interior/exterior trim and a number mechanical/safety features. On the extra-cost sheet is a panoramic glass roof, bigger wheels, heated leather seats, up-level audio/navigation system and a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters for automatic-transmission models. Also offered is an aero body kit that's part of the M sports package.
Keep piling it on and you'll soon find yourself in X3 territory, but for buyers on a budget who are dead set on a BMW wagon, their wait is over. Now come inside.
What you should know: 2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i
Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive compact wagon
Engines (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4, turbocharged (241)
Transmission: Six-speed manual; eight-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: The new X1, along with the existing X3, gives BMW two compact wagons. However, the slightly smaller X1's claim to fame will be its superior fuel economy and, perhaps surprisingly, better performance.
Points: Turbo four-cylinder engine delivers impressive horsepower and torque; Optional eight-speed automatic transmission plays major fuel-conservation role; Manual-transmission model to feature engine shut-off (when stopped) technology; When the X1 does arrive, expect to get in line for one; Be cautious of extras driving the price into X3 territory.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 9.2/6.4
Base price (incl. destination): $40,500
Base price: $42,400
Similar to X1 in size and output, but trails in fuel economy.
Base price: $43,000
A4-based wagon offers standard turbo I4 plus optional 270-hp V6.
Base price: $44,200
G37-based wagon features 297-hp V6. Low profile reduces cargo room.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted June 14, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM