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May 2, 2017

First Drive: 2017 BMW X1 xDrive20d xLINE

There’s a big shift going on at BMW. After its first front-wheel drive offering, the 2 Series Active Tourer, here comes a compact crossover built atop the same platform: the second-generation X1. In as much as the 2 Series Active Tourer left enthusiasts scratching their heads discomfortingly, it’s more of a niche vehicle. That’s not the case with the X1. Moving some 730,000 examples in the past 7 years, it’s become an important part of BMW’s X family. They, therefore, cannot afford to get this one wrong.

As a bit of a background, the previous X1 was BMW’s first compact X family member. Based on the E90 3 Series, it was basically a 3 Series Wagon on short stilts. It drove well, but was awkward looking, cumbersomely packaged, and simply rough around the edges. That’s not any more the case with the all-new 2017 X1. For starters, it is, quite literally, a 90-degree turn in the engine department. It has its engine mounted transversely and not longitudinally like the rest of BMW’s product range. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have lost any power in the process as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo still cranks out 190 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque.

While some will counter that a transversely-mounted engine is less expensive to produce, BMW has done this to prioritize the X1’s packaging. By turning the engine to its side, the X1 opens up to a whole world of interior possibilities. Despite the somewhat narrow interior, it’s been freed up by the absence of a transmission tunnel that would normally eat space between the front occupants. The center console is set low, with a tall shifter rising from the floor up to meet your hand. It also opens up more storage spaces like the one in front of the shifter and another that doubles as a folding center arm rest. Towards the back, BMW’s packaging efforts pay more dividends. The rear knee room grows 37 millimeters and cargo room balloons by 85 liters. And since the rear seats slide fore and aft, the rear knee room can grow up to 66 millimeters. The rear seat backs also offer reclinable adjustments. All in all, this makes the X1 better equipped to battle the likes of the Audi Q3, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Of course, what sets BMW apart from other premium brands is its driving character. While shifting to a platform that underpins the new-generation MINIs and the 2 Series Active Tourer may take some time to sink in, it’s still every bit a BMW.

No matter how it’s situated, BMW always builds a nice engine and this diesel motor is no different. It’s impressive to say the least. BMW quotes a 7.6 second 0-100 km/h, which is good on its own, but more than that, it’s got a free-revving nature than traditional oil burners. It’s willing to spin beyond 5,000 rpm without complaint. The engine’s highly flexible nature is also a great match to the 8-speed automatic transmission. It chooses its ratios well and shifts smoothly. Spirited drivers would welcome paddle shifters, but as it is, it delivers great and sensible performance 95 percent of the time.

The X1’s flexibility extends to its ride and handling which is nicely balanced for everyday motoring. It turns smartly while remaining directionally responsive at any speed. It corners almost flatly, resisting understeer well. The standard xDrive system drives the front wheels by default and only sends power to the rear wheels when needed. Regardless, it’s all a transparent process. Brakes are also nicely modulated and bite well. Single-handedly though, the biggest improvement here is the ride. Aside from the somewhat excessive tire noise, it’s easily leaps and bounds better than the previous X1. It’s comfortable in all the right places. It rides nicely without any feeling of brittleness despite running on low-profile run-flat tires.

Majority of premium compact crossovers buyers generally don’t know the difference between having the engine mounted one way or the other, or having front or all-wheel drive; and even if they do, they probably won’t care. Instead, what they’re looking for is something that has space, comfort, parkability, and of course, a commanding view of the road. In that regard, the all-new BMW X1 delivers on point.

You can read a lot into BMW’s decision to break with company tradition and build a crossover on a front-wheel drive platform. Some of that is valid, as rear wheel drive has been a core brand value. But those who don’t like the way things are won’t be going for any of the BMW X models anyway; the can always have 3 Series. Those who are willing to expand their way of thinking, though, will see the 2017 BMW X1 for what it is. It is part of a new generation of BMWs, one that balances sheer driving pleasure with increased adaptability. It’s a BMW for all seasons.


  1. Hi Uly! How much is this if I may ask?

  2. Does this variant come with the adaptive dampers? Or is it an optional extra? Thanks.

    1. Adaptive Dampers aren't available on the X1. I'm sure it can be ordered as an option though.


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