When BMW made the switch to its UKL architecture for the second-generation BMW X1, many fans were quite displeased. The idea of a front-wheel drive-based BMW simply boiled the blood of most BMW faithful. It’s a heresy that seemed unthinkable until it happened. But now that it has happened, there are many enthusiasts who are changing their tune after driving the new X1.
I sampled the BMW X1 back in October in the heart Mexico’s Copper Canyon. The terrain was treacherous, to be kind, as we drove through incredibly tight hairpins, rock and boulder-covered roads and off-road terrain that would scare some Jeeps. The entire time, the little X1 impressed me and always felt like a BMW. The new X1 is a BMW through and through, despite its front-drive nature. And it seems I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Automobile Editor-at-Large, Arthur St. Antoine has been in this business for years now and has sampled probably thousands of press cars from every possible automotive brand. It takes a lot to impress someone with that resume. St. Antoine recently spent some time in the all new BMW X1 xDrive28i and actually came away impressed, claiming that the little X1 “won me over”.
Sure, the previous BMW X1 was a better handling car, as it was based on the previous E91 3 Series Touring chassis and was rear-wheel drive-based. It was also smaller and lower, so it was a bit sharper, dynamically. This new X1 is taller, longer and wider than the model that it replaces. While that leads to a slight decrease in dynamics, it does bring about a far more comfortable and roomy interior with more passenger and cargo space. So it loses some handling prowess for the practicality that is so desired in the segment.
However, despite its decrease in dynamic capability, it still steers, drives and feels like a BMW. “Steering response is quite fine, and the chassis—riding on standard 18-inch alloys—nibbles into bends crisply, with little body roll. Even better, it does it without the compromise of beating your backside on broken asphalt.” says St. Antoine. If that isn’t the description of how a BMW is supposed to be, I’m not sure what is. Good steering — check. Nimble chassis — check. No compromise in comfort — check. That’s a recipe for a proper BMW.
At the end of his review, St. Antoine claims that the X1 is likely the SUV to beat in the segment, being better than the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA Class and Range Rover Evoque. While I can’t personally attest to the qualities of the Mercedes or Range Rover, I can say that the BMW X1 is leaps and bounds better than the Audi Q3, having driven both. So it isn’t just me, the BMW X1 is a seriously good BMW. Front wheel drive and all.