Photography Siddhant Gadekar
The X1 isn’t just BMW’s best-selling SUV in India, it’s also the highest selling luxury SUV in the country, which should give you some perspective about its importance. I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed when BMW switched to a front wheel drive layout for the second generation X1, though I can’t deny the fact that the layout helped BMW make the SUV more spacious. Not to forget the fact that the second generation X1 felt a lot more premium and luxurious, which added to its desirability. And the recipe continues with the all-new, third generation X1.
First things first, I have no doubts in stating that this is the best looking X1 till date. It has grown in size, but the bigger news is that it looks smashing from every angle. In fact, given the larger dimensions and new design, it also looks as if it belongs to a higher segment. And that’s because there’s very obvious design inspirations from the X3, besides which this new X1 is nearly as large as older iterations of the X3, as it is 53mm longer, 24mm wider, and 44mm taller than the previous X1.
Admittedly, I do like the kidneys on this one as they go well with the sharper headlamp design and bumper both. The headlamps are adaptive ones and use a clever design that makes it appear as if there’s twin headlamps inside the housing. I’m also digging the new X1’s side profile, as the flat bonnet, longer wheelbase and design for the 18-inch wheels make it look very appealing while the roof spoiler does its job of helping the SUV look better really well. I’m liking the rear end more than the front though – the tail lamps use a clean but sharp 3-dimensional design, the spoiler has a kink and the rear bumper looks sporty, besides housing faux diffusers. Overall, like I mentioned this is the best looking X1 yet with excellent road presence, especially in this trademark blue.
The design story inside is the same as there’s a radical departure from BMW’s traditional cabin design. The dashboard looks a lot classier as everything is clean and uncluttered. The interiors are also where the X1 feels like a bigger and more expensive SUV, thanks to the detailing, varied surface finishes and more. Elements like the curved and massive single glass slab housing the instrument cluster display and infotainment screen both, the brushed metal finish on the dashboard’s central rib and the floating central arm rest all do the job to the effect. The storage under the armrest though opens the wrong way for a right hand drive car! I’m seriously impressed with the efforts gone into positioning the wireless charging pad – it sits vertically and even gets a ‘lock’ to hold your phone in place while it is charging!
The driver-focused infotainment screen is a crisp looking 10.7-inch unit while the instrument cluster display is a 10.25-inch unit. There’s a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, connected technology, dual zone climate control, ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof, an automatic tailgate and park assist ensuring the X1 is high on features. You also get a ‘digital key’ which you can also share with up to four people meaning you can lock/unlock the car with just your smartphone which is really cool. You also get a Reversing Assistant to help you pull out of a tight spot with ease. The M Sport version also gets massaging front seats, upping the ante for the X1. Drive modes can be switched via the centre console or touchscreen which uses BMW’s slick new interface we’ve been seeing for a couple of years, while the drive selector is a toggle like newer BMWs and has replaced the traditional stick.
Air-conditioning can be controlled only via the infotainment screen but BMW has ensured its basic controls are always displayed at the bottom of the screen and you don’t need to fiddle around while driving. You also get ADAS functions like active cruise control and braking avoidance, though I would have liked a HUD as well. The feature list is exhaustive nonetheless and is complimented by the plush interiors courtesy the soft touch leather, textured metal surfaces, high quality plastics and overall feel. That said, while it looks really good from the outside, the interiors outweigh the appeal of the exterior design by a large margin, at least in my books, as getting behind the wheel was always a delight. What’s also impressive is the space, at the front and rear both and the new X1 is sure to impress the chauffeur-driven lot too.
We’ve only driven the diesel version powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that’s down on power as compared to the previous X1. You now have 150PS as compared to 190PS earlier, which is a bummer, but the engine feels extremely refined and in fact you really cannot tell it’s a diesel from inside! Peak torque produced is 360Nm and the engine has been tuned to offer excellent low end to midrange grunt and that’s where it truly shines, working well in conjunction with the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. There’s an engaging feel while driving, especially in town and the X1 certainly does justice to the BMW roundel on its bonnet as a driver’s car. Out on the highway is where you feel the need for more grunt, especially when driving spiritedly. You also get a 10-second boost via the left paddle shifter though it is more of a mild thrust than anything else.
The X1 also lives up to being a BMW on the ride and handling front. The suspension is firm but the SUV has no trouble soaking up typical Indian roads, ruts and expansions joints. There’s a fine balance between ride and handling and in fact the ride quality only gets better as you build speeds. Handling is where the X1 delights, as the chunky M Sport steering offers excellent feel and feedback and also feels very direct. The Bavarian car maker does know a thing or two about making driver’s SUVs and this new X1 delivers on the front. It also feels planted and nimble through twisties, while body roll is well controlled courtesy the firm suspension. Overall, this is a BMW thus, even if it’s not rear wheel drive!
To sum it up, the new X1 looks set to continue its run as the most successful SUV for BMW India and I’m also confident it will continue to do well in the segment, which includes names like the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3. It is bigger and more appealing looking from the outside and a whole lot more luxurious inside. An AWD version and more power would have been welcome, but it certainly has excellent appeal, especially considering that prices begin from Rs 45.90 lakh ex-showroom for the petrol, while the M Sport diesel you see here retails at Rs 51.60 lakh ex-showroom, which is really good for the package that you get.