BMW X1 Second Generation Joins Front Drive Momentum

By Lee Pang Seng

THE front-wheel drive momentum is picking up speed at BMW; at least for the smaller range of cars. Hot on the heels of the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer, BMW has added the second generation X1 SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) to its new front-wheel drive family.

With more than 730,000 units of the first generation X1 being sold globally, it would seem rather adventurous of BMW to change what is already a proven winning rear-wheel drive formula in the premium compact segment. Then again, to continue on that success without incurring the penalty of growing bigger and heavier would be logical too.

It’s obvious that taking the front-wheel drive route for the smaller range is a win-win situation as such a system provides the expected level of engine and dynamic performance that complements the brand’s strengths while spacious passenger accommodation can be achieved without making the body larger and adding more weight. With a compact and lighter body, good fuel economy adds another feather to the hat.

The best part is that BMW can apply the all-wheel drive mechanicals to this new platform readily with new developments. As that is what the X1 is largely accepted for, most of the new six-model range are made available as all-wheel drives with only two front-wheel versions to pander the world market demand.

BMW has developed the new X1 on the Active Tourer platform, using the same wheelbase of 2670mm. When compared to the previous X1 rear-wheel drive model, the wheelbase for the successor is shorter by 90mm. The new X1 also runs on wider tracks of 1561mm front and 1562mm rear, against 1500mm and 1529mm respectively. This should give the latest X1 better stability on autobahns as well as the winding road sections.

Further dimensional comparisons between new and old showed that the new X1 is slightly shorter in overall body length at 4439mm (-15mm) but wider by 23mm at 1821mm and taller by 53mm at 1590mm. The taller body is to accommodate the higher ride height over the previous model by 36mm in front and 64mm at the rear. The spacious interior quality is reflected in the improved kneeroom for rear passengers of 37mm and up to 66mm for the models with the optional adjustable rear seat that can slide 13mm fore and aft.

With the 40:20:40 split folding rear seatrest design that BMW has selected for all its current range of vehicles, the luggage capacity is now 505 litres, or 85 litres more than the predecessor. This can be progressively increased by more than threefold to 1550 litres. Another option is the full-folding front passenger seatrest that could come in useful in accommodating long items.

There is no weight gain with the wider and taller SAV but instead, a slight weight reduction. As the new X1 has more fittings and equipment, it has not come about by becoming a heavier vehicle. BMW has also used more high and ultra-high strength steel and aluminium in the body and chassis components to keep weight low.

The new body dimensions have given the latest X1 a more balanced look unlike the long nose predecessor, making it more appealing to the eye. BMW continues with the square contours of the front wheel arches and polished the body profile to be more wind-cheating for a tall vehicle without losing its dynamic character. There are also smooth underbody panelling, air deflectors on the front wheel arches, and vertical aeroblades at the rear that combine with the roof spoiler to channel air flow for the best effect. Depending on models, the Cd (dynamic co-efficient) value can be as low as 0.29 (sDrive18d) to as high as 0.31 (xDrive25i).

The latest X1 reflects the new face of BMW with the large upright kidney grille that is flanked by piercing and hawkish twin-circular headlamps with LED (light emitting diode) daytime running light as standard fixture. Full LED low and high beams comes as options, while the rear lamps are fully LEDs.

This is supported by two front foglamps that are surprisingly not part of the lower three-section apron, which is dedicated fully to channel air flow to the respective areas. We find the location of the foglamps to be the only discordant note in the front body design as they look a little lost being neither here nor there.

There are air flaps in the kidney grille and lower intake apron that can be actively shut off when the cooling requirement is low. This is said to reduce drag at the front of the car. There are also air curtains integrated in the outer air intakes of the apron that channel air ‘precisely’ behind the front side panels, causing it to hang over the wheels like a curtain and reduce turbulence.

The latest X1 comes with new generation four-cylinder engines that deliver more output efficiently and are cleaner with lower emissions while returning better fuel mileages. The six models are the X1 sDrive20i, xDrive20i, xDrive25i, sDrive18d, xDrive20d and xDrive25d, which are equally split between petrol and diesel power.

BMW says the intelligent all-wheel drive system is also new and was developed as an efficiency-optimising form for the X1. It is described as a weight-saving, compact and efficient system that uses an electro-hydraulically controlled multi-plate clutch at the rear. Drive between front and rear axles is distributed via a two-piece driveshaft according to the road situation at hand; in short, in real time. BMW says drive goes to the front wheels under normal conditions and this could be diverted by up to 100 per cent to the rear if the road conditions demand it.

BMW Malaysia has picked the sDrive20i for the market as it believes the front-wheel drive X1 model will appeal to more people looking for premium compact lifestyle vehicles. Another factor is more likely the price; at RM279,800 without insurance but includes the latest five years unlimited mileage warranty and free scheduled service programme, the imported X1 sDrive20i should come across as an appealing alternative. We understand that the xDrive20i all-wheel drive would be introduced at a later date.

This model is powered by a new TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine displacing 1998cc and is undersquare in configuration with a long 94.6mm stroke against an 82.0mm bore. It delivers 141kW (192hp) at 5000-6000rpm and 280Nm of torque that develops early at 1250rpm and holds till 4600rpm. It comes with the newly developed eight-speed Steptronic transmission with Sport mode, and accelerates to 100km/h in 7.7 seconds. The top speed is 225km/h, while the combined fuel consumption is given as 5.9 l/100km or almost 17km/l.

Our vehicle impression at the global media drive in July that covered Germany and Austria was only in the top models, xDrive25i and xDrive25d. We chose to drive only the petrol model as the diesel variant would only be relevant in the Malaysian market with wider availability of the higher grade fuel.

The xDrive25i is also powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine but with higher turbo pressure boost to offer more output; 170kW (231hp) at the same rpm range as the lower boost engine and 350Nm that prevails from 1250rpm to 4500rpm. With better power-to-weight ratio, the xDrive25i is a faster SAV, accelerating to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds and a higher top speed of 235km/h. Combined fuel consumption is higher at 6.4 l/100km or 15.6km/l.

Although the xDrive25i has a higher level of trim and equipment, the drive impression should be similar as the sDrive20i as the basic mechanicals are not much different, except for the higher engine output. The drive was mostly on secondary roads on the border of the two countries, including a lunch stop on a farm spread where we experienced the new X1 off-road capability on specially prepared courses.

The extra power came in handy when we had the few spots of clear stretches to pass other vehicles, picking up the speed quickly with all that strong torque fully available when we needed it. The new X1 was equally at home taking to the corners as we wound through the hilly countryside, staying planted to the road as a BMW should.

BMW has developed the suspension to suit the front-wheel drive platform, this being the single joint spring strut front and multi-link rear. Body roll was nicely checked with the tubed anti-roll bars, given that the fact the X1 is fairly tall and we had the tyres squealing some when pushing the SAV through tight turns. The 50:50 body weight distribution helped as well. The Electric Power Steering gave us good road feel and wheel direction to encourage some gung-ho driving.

Of course, the X1 also comes with the full gamut of electronic dynamic assistance; the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system includes ABS, DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), DBC (Dynamic Brake Control), among the many. If you switch DSC off, an electronic locking function for the front axle differential, known as EDLC (Electronic Differential Lock Control), comes into play. It functions by braking a spinning wheel in tight corners and diverting engine power to the non-spinning wheel so that reasonable traction is maintained.

We like the firm but good ride too; there was that solid feel over ruts and bumps but the harshness of the impacts was adequately absorbed to provide a less jolting and comfortable ride. And on the highways where we barrelled up to 180km/h and beyond, the X1 felt as stable as we had come to expect of this German brand. Wind noise was reasonably well muted to allow for normal conversation or to grab 40 winks.

At the off-road course at the farm, the new X1 was clearly in its element when taken through the respective courses; this included driving on a 60-degree bank, going up and down a stepped stairway course, and driving over a balance ladder frame.

On the road, the X1 could also be driven efficiently; the eight-speed Steptronic transmission comes with ECO PRO mode with which, when selected, the engine will coast when you lift off the accelerator pedal to conserve fuel. There are also the Auto Start Stop function, Optimum Shift Indicator; Brake Energy Regeneration; to name some.

BMW also brushed up on its ConnectedDrive system to raise it to a new ‘benchmark’; it allows the use of a BMW Online internet portal via a SIM car embedded in the vehicle as well as the integration of smart phone apps, such as Intelligent Emergency Call, Concierge Services and Remote Services (by transforming the smart phone to be a remote control for the vehicle).

And if you are not confident with parallel parking the new X1 in a tight spot, you can use the Intelligent Parking system; it is always measuring potential parking spots when the SAV is driving along at low speeds below 35km/h and at a maximum distance of 1.5 metres to the parked cars. Once a spot is located, you merely tap the indicator to the side the parking lot is and the system does the steering while you work the accelerator and brakes.

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