BMW X1 sdrive 20d Exclusive
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Every once in a while, a car comes by that shatters perception. The baby of the BMW’s X range, the X1, an Urban Crossover does just that. It is not only the cheapest BMW amongst the company’s range in India, but also one of its variants, the petrol fuelled sDrive18i is actually cheaper than the other urban crossover in the Indian market, the Honda CR-V. Wow! A BMW that is actually cheaper than a Honda! Having said that, we were keen to drive the dearer diesel variant as the engine looked good on paper and being a diesel, would be the preferred option for a crossover.


We were pleased when we were handed over the most powerful and most loaded X1 of the range, the sdrive 20d Exclusive. Also, the diesel, we feel will be the engine majority of the buyers might opt for. At the cost of sounding cliched, we hope we are able to convey the amount of fun that we had with this beamer throughout the review. Read on to find out how the drive unfolded.


First impression and the concept:

A crossover is a car that provides a more roomy and airy cabin to its passengers compared to a sedan with a slight, raised and sub-SUV like profile. The ergonomics of the interiors are also very car like. These designs tread by the line right in between a proper sedan or notch back and a proper SUV. Companies claim that in addition to providing the driving comfort of a sedan, they also offer slight off-roading ability while providing a mega-car-like cabin. The advantage that this genre of cars has is that at the end of the day even though they are meant to be comfortable people carriers, they sport a very SUV-like profile as against the drab van-like profiling of the big people carriers.

The X1 very correctly abides by the definition of this genre and sits right in between the 3 series sedan and the more serious SUVs of its family, the X3 and the X5.

The X1 does share its platform with the 3 series sedan but has larger tyres and sits slightly taller. The design cues of the X1 are alligned to the BMW family theme. Be it the kidney grill, or the aggressive stance, or the rear fifth door styling which is so 3 series like. If you spend a bit of time you do notice the subtle lines that add to the overall appeal.



Engine and power train:

The X1 is powered with a 1995 cc motor that generates an impressive maximum power of 177 bhp and a whooping maximum torque of 350 Nm between 1750 - 3000 rpm. This power is transmitted through a 6 speed automatic gear box to the rear wheels of the vehicle.

Of course this is a powerful engine. The fact that the speed of the car has been electronically limited to 200 kmph and that too for a car which is a crossover and hence with considerably weaker aerodynamic attributes than a sedan, speaks volumes. All this power is sent to the rear wheels of the car. Now that’s a very exciting recipe!

When we began driving the car initially, our first reaction was that there is power, of course, but it is not delivered or available without a faint lag which we found to be more predominant in the lower gears. The main reason for the lag was of course not the turbo this time but the automatic transmission. We simply love manual gear-boxes. Manual gear boxes, we believe are the best option for drivers who really want that control and responsiveness.

Thankfully, BMW also offers a tip-tronic manual option and when you turn to it, there is almost a transformation in the way the power train behaves. All that mild lag at lower gears and lower rpms almost disappears. In this manual mode of the gear box, you experience how linear the power delivery is and how readily the power is available at the slightest tap of the gas pedal.

The lower gears, especially the 2nd and 3rd have a good range so driving in the city traffic is not bothersome. You almost begin to enjoy the lack of the lag in the manual mode to such an extent that you indulge into the quick overtakes and snappy lane changes in city traffic. Not because it is good to do so but because now you know you so easily can! After the initial novelty of the responsiveness died down, we settled into more sane “driving by the lanes” which we always follow and recommend.

Coming back to the power delivery, we raced the car with no effort at all to speeds in excess of 160 kmph. Sad that we could not push the car further and actually test the electronic limit of 200 kmph owing to the traffic. A straight 0-100 kmph drag was achieved in about 8.5 secs!

How I wish I could post my image with devil’s horns as I type all this! Sigh!



Driving dynamics:

How could we review a beamer and not talk about the drive! To begin with, you will take a little while to get used to the slight heaviness of the wheel especially at lower speeds but once you are past that phase, it is a sheer delight! The steering of the BMW X1 is extremely direct. As direct as direct can be! It is sharp and gives the driver the fantastic feedback. This is not surprising as BMW is known for making real driver’s cars.

I normally drive a car which is known to be a driver’s car in the segment. After being with the beamer for a few days, when I moved back to my own set of wheels, whose drive I simply adore, I found myself looking for something. That responsiveness, that connection, that level of control was just not there! I just cannot think of a better testimonial for the steering of the beamer. Now, having established how fantastic the steering is, lets move on to some of the other aspects that influence the driving dynamics of the vehicle.

Lets talk about the suspension of the car. If I have to describe it in a word, the word would be - stiff! Stiff to the extent that the ride is rather bumpy and the car seems to over-react to the disturbances on the road at high speeds. We found the ride harsh even while going over the uneven paver-blocked patches on the roads on Mumbai.

As we mentioned earlier, the seating is a lot car like, but, slightly higher. When it comes to the dynamics of the vehicle, this is what spoils the magic in our opinion. For a vehicle with such precise steering and a rather stiff suspension, one would expect phenomenal cornering behaviour. It is almost like that apart from the fact that the party is spoilt by the body roll which is rather significant. This is mainly due to the higher center of gravity of the vehicle thanks to its crossover nature. Apart from this aspect, the control is tremendous. So sit back and cruise and you will have a blast unleashing the power of 177 horses under the hood!



Run-flat tyres:

All the BMW models are without a spare wheel. Why? Because they do not need one. And why is that again? Because they run on Run-flat tyres. In short, run-flats are tubeless tyres with a stiffer side wall which helps to retain the shape of the tyres even when the air pressure drops due to a puncture. The main advantage that run-flats offer over normal tubeless tyres is that the air pressure drop is supposed to be much slower and hence safer than ordinary tubeless tyres. In case of a puncture and the resulting drop in the air pressure, you can continue to drive at a prescribed reduced speed for a distance in the range of 150-200 kms which could be enough to reach a BMW service station. This has allowed BMW to do away with the spare tyre.

All this sounds good. But when it comes to Indian conditions, some problems emerge. BMW advises against fixing or repairing a puncture. What that means is, in case you do have one, BMW recommends that you replace the tyre itself! Now coming to the cost of the tyre. The price of a run-flat tyre ranges from INR 17000 to INR 28000. That is a heavy price to pay especially in Indian conditions where punctures are not as rare as abroad. We are told that irate customers eventually resort to getting the puncture repaired from local shops which is of course not prescribed. The insurance cover for all BMW cars does take care of the replacement of run-flat tyres subject to usage deductions but it could still prove to be a headache going through all the claim formalities. It is for a reason that the Mercedes and Audis have not gone the run-flat way at least in India.



Interiors:

Typically BMW. In fact the interiors of the X1 are a lot 3 series like. Mainly black with nice touches of leather, metal and slivers of wood. The signature three spoke BMW steering wheel with mounted controls. We were handed the top of the line Exclusive variant which has sports leather feel to the steering. The center console houses the 8.8” display for the loaded infotainment features. The iDrive system is at the center of all the infotainment offerings. Unlike the more advanced beamers, the iDrive system in the X1 is not really that complicated as the very complex settings are absent. And, on second thoughts, a lot of people would prefer it that way.

The X1 is equipped with a dual zone fully automatic air conditioner. We found the cooling simply brilliant! The seats are quite comfortable and body hugging to give you a very good and comfortable seating for long drives. With the multi-directional electronic seat adjustment with memory function, it is quite effortless to find the right position.

All the mirrors in the X1 adapt automatically to ambient lighting conditions to switch to night mode. This is particularly helpful when it comes to the outside rear view mirrors as it can get really annoying when cars behind you sport the high beam.

The front seats are supported with sliding arm rest which doesn’t come in your way when you operate in the manual gear mode. The rear bench is fairly comfortable with ample head room owing to the bigger profile. Lots of small storage bins and a very generous boot thanks to the seating capacity of 5 adds to the utility quotient.

This top end X1 also offers a sun-roof for those playful and environmentally friendly times. We of course were forced to keep it rolled up throughout owing the typical October hot day.

Overall evaluation:

A lovely engine. A brilliant steering. Decent equipment list on this variant. Fairly frugal diesel motor. Good pricing. These are some of the key factors that will attract buyers who belong to the “my first BMW” segment. This Urban Crossover may not be able to do much serious off-roading but it is not expected to.  So, if a crossover is what you are looking for, then the X1 does make a good case for itself overall. The diesel variant starts at about Rs. 24,00,000 and the fully loaded one that we drove is about Rs. 30,00,000 ex-showroom. We would recommend that you seriously consider the diesel X1 though if you can stretch your budget. You will certainly not regret the decision.