BMW X1 xDrive 20d Review

Written by  Sameer Kumar
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Launched in India last year, the all-new, second-generation BMW X1 compact luxury SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) is quite different from its predecessor. As some readers might remember, the first generation X1 was built on a rear-wheel-drive platform, while the new X1 is based on BMW’s UKL2 front-wheel-drive platform, which it shares with the BMW 2 Series, as well as the Mini Clubman and Mini Countryman. And while the new X1 is based on an FWD platform, off-road driving enthusiasts needn’t despair – the vehicle is available with BMW’s ‘xDrive’ intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which constantly monitors traction and sends power to the front and rear wheels, varying power delivery between the two ends continuously to maximise grip and traction at all times.
With the X1’s 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and electronics like dynamic stability control (DSC) helping the xDrive system, the new X1 really does drive like a ‘proper’ BMW. We recently spent a few days with the X1 xDrive 20d xLine (whew!) to take a closer look at just how good it really is, and here’s what we found.
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The new X1 is a handsome beast, and definitely better looking than its predecessor. Riding on Y-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels (shod with 225/50 R18 rubber) that properly fill out its wheel arches, the X1 is very well proportioned and gives off an elegant, understated vibe that whispers – not screams – things about it being luxurious and expensive. Which is probably just as well, since it does cost all of Rs 36.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. But, yes, it’s the little touches that come together to make the new X1 look good – the blacked-out window sills, LED headlamps and tail lamps, matt aluminium kidney grille at the front, matt silver side sill trim, carefully sculpted front and rear bumpers and bodywork that features straightforward Germanic lines. If you signed up for a German SAV, that’s exactly what you get with the X1.
The other thing is, apart from looking good, the new X1 is also very aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.29. With its underbody panelling for smooth airflow, air deflectors on the front wheel arches and prominent roof spoiler at the back, BMW engineers have made sure that the X1 slices through the air as cleanly as possible.
The subtle luxury theme continues with the X1’s beige-and-black interiors, which are lavishly appointed with all the high-grade leather and wood that you might expect. Full electric adjustment for the front seats, 40:20:40 split rear seats, fancy ambient lighting (plus foot well lights front and rear, as well as exterior door handle lights that look pretty cool…), sporty leather steering wheel with integrated controls for various functions, paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic transmission, Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones, 7-speaker hi-fi, and BMW’s iDrive system with a 16.5 cm colour display – it’s all there, it’s all very well put together and it all just flat out works. Brilliant. We’ll also note here that the seats are broad, plus and very comfortable indeed – probably more so than what you get with some of the X1’s other German competition. It’s a big, airy, spacious cabin and most people should be able to get quite comfortable in the X1.
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The X1 xDrive 20d is powered by a 1,995 cc, four-cylinder, common-rail turbo-diesel that produces 190 hp at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 1,750-2,500 rpm. This 2.0 l diesel features turbocharging with variable turbine geometry, and a common-rail direct injection system that generates maximum pressure of up to 2,000 bar. BMW’s claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration time for this X1 is 7.6 seconds, while claimed top speed is 219 km/h. ATR does not perform instrumented testing, but both numbers seem entirely credible. In fact, the X1’s 2.0 l turbo-diesel engine feels refined, boasts low levels of NVH and, when you stamp on the go-pedal, delivers acceleration that’s thoroughly entertaining, with especially strong mid-range power delivery.
BMW claims a fuel efficiency figure of 20.68 km/l for the X1 xDrive 20d, which is pretty impressive. With some help from the vehicle’s automatic start-stop system (which was working overtime with the car being driven on Delhi’s traffic-clogged roads!), we’re sure the X1 can actually achieve that figure, or at least something that’s very close. That’s BMW’s ‘EfficientDynamics’ technology for you.
The X1’s 8-speed ‘Steptronic’ automatic transmission (which BMW sources from Japanese supplier, Aisin) works quite well, with swift, seamless shifts. There’s the option to shift gears manually via shifter paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, but honestly, I never felt the need to use those paddles since the X1’s performance – whether it’s getting along smoothly on traffic-jammed roads at crawling speeds, or pulling overtaking manoeuvres on the highway at triple-digit speeds – is beyond reproach.
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The X1’s relatively soft-ish suspension set-up works very well, especially in the context of our general road conditions. Potholes, broken and rippled tarmac, speed breakers of all shapes and sizes – the X1 takes it all in its stride, though its low-profile (225/50 R18) ‘runflat’ tyres, with reinforced sidewalls, can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed by bad roads. Sure, those tyres offer excellent high-speed grip and stability, but 18-inch wheels with low-profile runflats, on potholed Indian roads, can sometimes be a challenging combination.
Coming to the suspension itself, the X1 features a single-joint strut set-up at the front, and a multi-link rear axle. Aluminium swivel bearings and axle carriers, with control arms made of steel, help reduce weight, improve agility and increase rigidity. Anti-roll bars at the front and rear axle further help improve ride and handling. Also notable is the X1’s ‘Servotronic’ speed-sensitive steering, which feels sharp and responsive, delivering the much-vaunted ‘feel’ that BMW enthusiasts hanker after. The driving experience can also be further fine-tuned via driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Eco – which alter steering response and throttle response, but not suspension behaviour. We actually quite liked Comfort mode, though more aggressive, hard-core drivers might prefer Sport.
Out on the highway, at higher speeds, the X1 feels quite planted and confident – sudden steering inputs and hard cornering manoeuvres don’t upset its composure (as long as  you stay within limits of reason, of course). We suppose the X1’s xDrive ‘intelligent’ 4WD system also contributes here, juggling power between the front and rear wheels in a way so as to minimise understeer and oversteer, and keep the vehicle tracking true at all times. And yes, the X1’s braking performance is exceptional, with a beautifully-calibrated ABS working efficiently, yet unobtrusively.
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As you would expect, the X1 gets a host of safety kit, including six airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), stability control (DSC) and traction control. The X1’s DSC system can be deactivated by the driver, though if you do that, an electronic locking function for the front axle differential is automatically activated. This system, the Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), kicks in during tricky conditions and on slippery road surfaces, where it can prevent wheelspin by braking a wheel that has lost grip, and diverting power to the other. It’s advanced electronics like this that make the X1 safer than most other SUVs/SAVs in its segment.
Of course, the X1’s xDrive 4WD system is also optimised for enhancing safety. Working closely with the DSC system, xDrive monitors grip levels constantly, and directs power to the wheels with maximum grip, thereby maximising traction at all times. The xDrive system consists of two parts – a single-speed bevel gear in the front-axle drive unit, and a rear-axle drive unit with an electro-hydraulically controlled multi-plate hang-on clutch. The two units are connected by a drive shaft.
While power is sent only to the front wheels in normal driving conditions, when the xDrive system detects loss of traction at the front, it can send up to 100 % of the power to the rear wheels in a fraction of a second, via the hang-on clutch. The X1’s DSC system supplies critical information (road speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, steering lock, wheel speed, pitch, accelerator position, DSC setting and chosen driving mode etc.) to the electro-hydraulic hang-on clutch’s control unit, which then instantly and seamlessly splits power between the front and rear wheels for maximum forward motion. It’s a high-tech system and given the X1’s intended usage patterns, xDrive is probably a suitable substitute for a full-time mechanical AWD set-up.
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The X1 range starts at Rs 30.99 lakh, though the X1 xDrive 20d xLine that we drove for the purpose of this review is priced at Rs 36.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. This is within 5-7 % of the competition’s (mainly, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Audi Q3) prices, and represents fair value for money. The X1 is an extremely well put together vehicle, with high levels of refinement, fit and finish, exemplary performance and very good ride and handling. It looks good, scores high on safety and delivers the ‘proper’ BMW driving experience that potential buyers would expect. If you’re in the market for a compact luxury SUV/SAV, you owe it to yourself to test drive the BMW X1 before taking a buying decision.
TEXT & PHOTO: Sameer Kumar
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