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July 22, 2013

A Play Date with the 2013 BMW X1

Photos by Ulysses Ang
It began almost two weeks ago with the most “humble” of invites: a black box with the words “BMW X1: Let’s Play” printed on it. Receiving a three-dimensional, non-paper invite already made me feel special, but once I got to peek inside, it made it say, “Oh my god”. There it was, in all its glory, a brand-new BlackBerry Z10 (well, half of the participants received an Apple iPhone 5). It came with the strict instructions that it was to be returned after the drive, and yet, this made me feel like a million bucks. And this was just the appetizer.

Two days later, Asian Carmakers Corporation, BMW’s exclusive distributor in the Philippines called the BMW X1 Play Date participants over to lunch (or dinner) to explain the mechanics of this special drive. Together with the short briefing on how the phones worked (I personally figured that out by reading the manual), it was apparent that the new phones came with a caveat: there was a series of special tasks that involved Facebook, hash tags, and a lot of selfies (photos of yourself to the uninitiated). Without getting into the embarrassing details, the point of this exercise was simple: to highlight BMW ConnectedDrive which now comes as standard equipment on the X1.

With the typical BMW X1 owner always connected via social media, ConnectedDrive is a suite of apps and services that connect BMW owners to the world around them. It makes tasks easier and quicker to perform. And as BMW rightfully puts it, it’s so connected, you feel free.

ConnectedDrive starts with the iDrive controller, BMW’s highly intuitive controller that enables full controls of all the car’s functions from the infotainment to vehicle settings to the integrated user’s guide. From there, it brings an entire slew of multimedia options such as the typical CD/MP3 to iPod and Bluetooth streaming. Aside from the countless entertainment options, ConnectedDrive dives head on in the world of apps with BMW Apps, enabling users to conveniently operate certain apps such as Facebook and Twitter using the iDrive controller. From there, the possibilities are endless: from saving Driver Profiles (which include seat position, temperature settings, radio presets) that can be transferred from one BMW to another and in some cases, provide vehicle diagnostic information.

Fast-forward a week later and after flooding Facebook with “#BMWX1” and “#BlackBerryZ10” (and in my case, “#TunaynaLalake”), it was finally time to try out the refreshed X1—a vehicle that defies expectations, and one that as a result continues to be a great success for BMW. Being the first premium compact crossover in the market, the X1 has already sold more than 300,000 units to date. This year, it was undergone a comprehensive development with exterior and interior enhancements, new drivetrain technology, and of course, innovative equipment features such as the aforementioned ConnectedDrive.

In a nutshell, the new X1 features design elements and technology to make it an even more complete premium small crossover. Outside, there are new exterior detail changes including the redesigned front and rear bumpers with extended paint finishes, new headlamps with LED light rings, and side indicators that have migrated to the side mirrors. Inside, the X1 gets a redesigned center console which is more oriented towards the diver together with improved surfacing. Underneath the hood, there lies a new 2.0-liter diesel engine with TwinPower Turbo. The only engine available in the new X1 (it’s officially called the sDrive18d), it packs 143 horsepower and 320 Nm of torque. Mated to a new 8-speed automatic, the X1 sDrive18d accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 10.1 seconds with a top-speed of 195 km/h. The X1 also features a comprehensive integration of BMW’s EfficientDynamics technology which includes: Auto Start-Stop, ECO PRO mode, Brake Energy Regeneration, and Servotronic electric power steering.

 BMW has also taken this opportunity to align the X1 to the likes of the 1 Series and 3 Series and offer BMW Lines. Available on a BMW X model for the first time, the X1 is available in xLine which accentuates the robustness with satin silver accents to the grille, bumpers, doors, and xLine specific 18-inch alloys. Meanwhile, the Sport Line emphasizes agility and dynamics by going for high-gloss black accents in the grille, mirrors and Sport Line specific 18-inch alloys.

After a hearty breakfast at Maple in San Antonio Plaza on McKinley Road in Makati, the convoy of X1s made its way to the Manila Polo Club for a short lesson in archery. With machismo setting in, we went for the heaviest bow only to be hit by pasmado after just three rounds (archery requires arm and core strength, after all). Still, we got to channel our inner Hunger Games and score some pretty decent hits. After a quick photo op (and a selfie), it was time to stretch the X1’s legs and head down to Nishijin at the Palms Country Club in Alabang, dubbed the best Japanese restaurant in Southern Manila. A tummy full of steak teppan and ebi tempura later, it was time to head over to Rustan’s in Makati for a personalized shopping experience. Being the only full-retail destination in Manila with personal shoppers, we were given a makeover using some Facebook photos and a short profile such as age and hobbies. Of course, Rustan’s lived up to its reputation by providing only the highest levels of service. The festive drive was capped off with an exquisite four-course dinner (and one of the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen) at Stockton’s in Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati.

All throughout the drive, we had to complete certain tasks along the way including “checking in” and posting photos of the event proper. Good thing, the BlackBerry Z10 rose to the challenge, offering nice, crisp photos and timely information using the proprietary BlackBerry Messenger or BBM. Surprisingly, I wasn’t award with the most number of posts for the two-week contest, but I nonetheless kept the Z10 as a much-deserved consolation for having friends block or hide me on Facebook.

After the Play Date, I can assume that every BMW X1 is extreme well-off, well-dressed, and well-fed. Though the itinerary is perhaps a caricature of everyday life (hey, we all need to go into the office, right?), it at least shows that the X1 is highly adaptable to every situation, to every need. Indeed, it’s this virtue that has made it a great premium small crossover in the first place. Though the drive was short, Asian Carmakers Corporation announced that we’ll all get to experience the new X1 over an extended period of time. Though I won’t be taking some archery lessons then, I’ll certainly enjoy every minute behind the wheel of the X1. And that’s living the life.

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