BMWBLOG recently threw everything we had at the new 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i.

11,158 ft mountain pass in a snow storm. Check. 9,000 ft pass in a blizzard. Check. Highway speeds on snow packed icy roads at -3 degrees Fahrenheit – Check. All while loaded down with the author’s family and ski gear for a week. – Check. You see, this author comes from a perspective of owning BMW X SAVs for about ten years taking them on this trip many times before. So this little X1 had some big brothers it needed to keep up with to deserve its X badge in our mind.

What is the BMW X1? Is it a Sport-Ute? Is it a wagon on steroids? A crossover? More importantly is it worthy of a BMW X badge? After all, it has the lowest ground clearance of any X series vehicle and it’s the only X series available without all wheel drive. To find out, BMWBLOG recently put an X1 xDrive28i to a week long test in some of the worst winter weather the Colorado Rockies had.


Introduced to Europe as a 2010 model, the X1 has been a sales success with over 300,000 delivered by mid-2012. At a base MSRP of $30,800, the X1 is the least expensive BMW in the U.S. market even though it’s not the smallest. I first saw the X1 in the BMW Welt in 2010 and though it didn’t look bad, it was missing something. During the LCI update for the 2013 model year, this missing refinement was infused before being brought to the U.S. market.

The motor in the X1 xDrive28i was the biggest mystery for me. I have been engrained in the BMW family, loving the signature low rumble and wonderful wave of torque of the BMW inline-six. Further, having owned an X3 and an X5, we have driven this same route through the Rockies many times with them, so I figured it would give a unique perspective to evaluate the X1. We wanted to find out if new N20 four-cylinder would be enough motor to climb an 11,000 foot pass in the Colorado Rockies with family and requisite ski gear loaded up.


The N20 motor epitomizes BMW’s Efficient Dynamics principles: smaller displacement, Direct Fuel Injection and Variable Valve Timing which BMW calls Valvetronic. This 2.0 liter four-cylinder makes 240 hp at 5,000 rpm with max torque of 260 lb-ft located at throttle tip in – a ultra low 1,250 rpm. Th engine is mated to a ZF-sourced eigh-speed quick shifting automatic transmission. BMW does offer an N55 3.0 liter inline-six Twin Power (single) turbo which produces 300hp/300ft-lbs for the X1. This does come standard with all wheel drive, but it bumps the base MSRP up to $38,600. BMWBLOG found the N20 four-cylinder such a good motor in the X1, it’d be our choice but can see why some might opt for the N55 six-cylinder.

(Read BMWBLOG Test Drive N20 Engine)



A bit about BMWBLOG’s test X1 xDrive28i – it had a base price of $32,350. It was nicely optioned, well okay, loaded with options starting with the Sport Line that included some sweet anthracite grey 18” wheels. To help handle the cold in the mountains, it was equipped with the Cold Weather Package that surprisingly included a heated steering wheel in addition to the heated front seats and headlight washers that we put to use frequently while driving in snow. Unfortunately you cannot get heated rear seats as you can in the rest of the X series SAVs, a big negative when it’s minus 3F out and you have a passenger back there. This X1 had the Ultimate Package, a $6650 option which combines the Premium Package, the Technology Package, and iDrive/Bluetooth. Fortunately they had included the $250 BMW Apps which in this scribes humble opinion should be standard with all iDrive units. Lastly it was topped off with Servotronic, Sat Radio and destination charge bringing the MSRP up to $45,595.


Interior is unmistakable BMW and the premium pack with red deviated stitching you get with the Sport Line combined with iDrive certainly dresses BMW’s entry level auto up. Rear seats fold down in 40:20:40 fashion, opening the 12.7 cubic feet of luggage space up to 47.7 cubic feet. Covering over 2,300 miles in one week, I was able to keep myself comfortable with power adjustable seats and much needed adjustable lumbar support. Seating position is much lower than you get with an X3, X5 or X6 so it’s lacking that commanding SUV view and might be a turn off to some X series shoppers.


Driving the X1, one immediately notes excellent feedback from the steering. It is perhaps one of the last hydraulic units in a non-M car that we’ll see. The steering wheel feels just right in the hands, it’s not the stout thick size of a 1M but it’s not too thin like some Porsches can be. The vision out of the X1 is excellent tough not the commanding view most SUV owners are accustomed to. Fortunately, there’s no obstruction when looking over your shoulder like you get with the massive C-pillar of say an X6. The suspension is firm yet compliant but does reveal some significant body roll should you *cough* attempt autocross style turns. Accelerating out of a corner you can feel all four wheels grip and pulling you out. At highway speeds in curvy mountain roads it was a sheer pleasure, and easily kept BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine reputation intact.


Passing semi-trucks in the mountains, one wants to get around them very quickly especially on two lane curvy roads. The N20 four-cylinder had absolutely no problem when put in this situation. Its peak torque is available at a ridiculously low 1250 rpm and yet carries through to 4800 rpm. The well matched eight-speed automatic would quickly drop a few gears and launch the X1 out around the trucks. In the mountains, I chose either Sport on the transmission or Manual which allowed nice control of the motor while climbing or descending. In the X1 under full throttle, speed climbs quickly so you need to watch it or you can get into the ticket zone before you know it. The power delivery is different than the classic inline-six. It’s not bad just different. There is also quite a bit of ticking from the Direct Fuel Injectors, so much so that it almost makes you think it’s a diesel, see what you think in the video we shot.

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BMW offers the X1 in three variants. The X1 sDrive 28i with a BMW’s lowest MSRP in the U.S., $30,80,0 and it comes with the N20 four-cylinder,. The X1 xDrive 28i starts at $32,500 and adds all-wheel drive like the one tested here. And finally, the X1 xDrive 35i with a base price of $38,600 and has all wheel drive plus the the 300 hp N55 inline six-cylinder.


Annoyances and nitpicks? Not many, but I did notice upon of exiting the X1 my left calf pant leg would get a nice coating of road grime just like I would get from a first generation X3.

Center console cup holder position was irritatingly hard to reach, it was where my elbow wanted to sit and I am 5’10”. If I was 6’7” like Jared Gall of Car and Driver it might work better. Lastly, a loaded X1 ventures easily into X3 territory. I thought the styling of the X1 looked great but concede looks are subjective and some may not care for it. BMWBLOG drove 2,374 miles during which the 2013 X1 xDrive28i consumed 89.68 gallons of premium fuel yielding 26.5 MPG.

Going into this test, I wasn’t sure what to expect but ended up extremely impressed with the X1. All in all, I think the BMW X1 an excellent addition to the X series family in the US. It may be BMW’s least expensive BMW but it can handle virtually anything it’s bigger brothers can just in a smaller package.