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Review of the 2016 BMW X1: A whole new world

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On: Fri, May 13, 2016 at 2:27PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 BMW X1:  A whole new world

There comes a point in many people's lives where they sometimes hit a crossroads between idealism and reality. Sometimes, when faced with the harsh reality of how the world really works, we are all but forced to rescind some of the convictions we may have so staunchly heralded as our personal mission statements. It happens in every facet of human life. Creative writers become copywriters, musicians become music teachers, actors and actresses become waiters and bartenders, exceptionally talented college football players accept a job with the Cleveland Browns… We have all done it at one point or another, because the truth is, we need to get by in life. And while holding true to some self-decreed moral code is all well and good, the truth is, that code doesn't always pay the bills, and when the money is staring you dead in the face, sometimes, we find a way to bend that code just a little bit to make ends meet.

BMW, while clearly not in any semblance of dire straits, has very recently broken its own code in the name of the Holy Dollar—although, the car we are about to tell you isn't BMW's first dabble into the world of moral amendments. Over the past decade, BMW has since rescinded its stance that The Ultimate Driving Machine had to have a rear-drive setup with a high-revving naturally aspirated engine in order to be a true M-car. But… while Bimmers were keeping to their code, and doing a decent job of pumping 400 horsepower our of their M-cars, when they started getting smoked at the track by 500+ horsepower twin-turbo Mercedes and Audis, suddenly an M-car didn't need to be naturally aspirated to be part of the family. But we digress…

Anyway, back to the next chapter in BMW's fall from grace: The 2016 X1 xDRIVE 28i. Besides being an annoying mouthful to try to say or type, this little sport ute is the very first front-wheel drive-based BMW… Ever. Well, sorta. We'll explain that part later. The X1 is a product of supply and demand. It seems Americans just can't get enough of smaller SUVs that look like trucks, but have the road manners of cars. They are turning into this generation's Minivan. In terms of sales, crossover vehicles topped the 4 million mark in 2015, and are expected to outsell mid-sized sedans and compact cars… Combined. So seeing the demand, BMW jumped at the chance to get a piece of the action. BMW engineered the new X1 as a front-wheel drive base because it is a more efficient setup. The FWD setup saves space, cuts frictional losses, saves plenty of weight (88 pounds worth), and even improves rear seating room as well as adding two extra cubic feet of cargo room (for a total of 27). All of these things add up in a growing segment where competition is getting fierce with rivals like the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA, and Lexus NX all vying for showroom supremacy.

But once the shock of a FWD-based Bimmer has subsided a little, the X1 is actually a very nice little car… Truck. Cartruck. The interior is pure BMW, with sporty gauges, intuitive control layout, and plush but supportive two-tone French-stitched leather. Take a glance at the 6.5-inch (or optional 8.8-inch) screen to get an idea of what's going on outside or inside the X1, look skyward to the all-encompassing double-pane sunroof to remind you that the world you're looking at is a lesser one, because out there isn't the inside of a BMW. Little additions like the power-operated hatch that can be operated by swinging your foot under the rear bumper, or the knowledge that although BMW didn't equip the X1 with a real tow hitch; they were smart enough to wire it to allow the use of a trailer; all serve to bolster your confidence in just how utilitarian this car/truck can be. Outside, Bimmer has done a good job of emulating what Audi has all but perfected: Taking a design and keeping it looking the same, despite having models of different sizes. You always have to look twice to distinguish between an Audi Q5 and Q7, and BMW has taken that idea to its SUV lineup. The 2016 X1 looks a lot like the X3 or X5 (and we will guess also look like the future X7). It's a good-looking sporty, aggressive-without-being-too-much look that suits its smaller size nicely on the X1. The double-kidney grille, big front air ducts, Xenon lights, and ten-spoke wheels all serve to remind just what kind of DNA is built into the little X1.

For having only a tiny all-aluminum 2.0-liter turbocharged (shocker) and intercooled inline-4 cylinder engine, the direct-injected powerplant pumps out a respectable 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The other numbers that might surprise you coming from such a little grocery-getter are its acceleration numbers. The X1 accelerates its 3,736 pound frame from 0–60 mph in only 6.4 seconds, to 100 mph (if you're so inclined) in 16.9 seconds, through the quarter mile (in case that GLA owner just won't stop talking smack) in 14.9 seconds @ 94 mph, on its way to a top speed of a governor-limited 129 mph. Around the skidpad, the X1 also held its own, posting a 0.87 g. Braking is an area the BMW could use a little work in, stopping from 70–0 mph in 180 feet. For comparison's sake, the 5,000-pound Audi Q7 stops from 70 mph in 166 feet. The X1 may be able to blame its standard P225/50R-18 Pirelli Cinturato P7 All-Season tires for their lack of grip and, thus, lackluster stopping ability. There are grippier options for about $600 more on the option sheet. At the pump, the little SUV (or SAV or whatever) gets very car-like EPA numbers at 22/32 city/highway mpg, with an average of around 25 mpg combined. Not terrible for being almost 4,000 pounds and four-wheel drive.

If you're like us, you're still reeling from the shock of the front-drive layout of the X1, and BMW's Ultimate Failing Machine setup. But, remember how we said we would explain a little further? The truth of the matter is that the X1 is the first BMW to sport a front-drive setup, but it isn't the first FWD setup that BMW has built. For almost the last two decades, BMW has, in fact, been building front-wheel drive cars. But they haven't been called BMWs. They have been called Mini Coopers. See where this is going? The X1 is built on the same platform as the Mini Cooper Clubman. Basically, it's BMW just taking another piece of the pie they were already involved in via Mini Coopers, only now they are double dipping into the same pot, because, well… That's where the money is. So, while we know BMW isn't hurting for cash, they aren't clearly aren't in the business of missing out on it either. And while we would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of that board room meeting, obviously the decision was made that even though it might ruffle some purist's feathers, the company wanted to build cars that most people would be okay with having on the road, and maybe they figured technically, they were already building FWD cars, so what's the harm? A little tweak in their idealism could be worth several million in sales, and, if we're being honest, how many of us wouldn't tweak our own code of ethics if all that money was going in our pockets?

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