No, this isn’t the same First Drive story we published a year-and-a-half ago, and no, the BMW X1 still isn’t on-sale here. What’s going on, then? Well, BMW hit a little production snag, but the X1 is still coming and in the meantime, the Bavarians have been cooking up a little update that should make the X1 even more appealing to U.S. buyers.
Less than two years isn't nearly long enough on the market to spur a mid-cycle facelift, so the changes to the 2012 X1 aren't readily apparent - until you step on the gas. The updates are under the hood, where it matters most. But why then does the X1 have the same xDrive28i model designation? That we can't answer. Ask BMW.
What we can tell you is what's new: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. Last time around, the X1 was rocking a 258-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six with 228 pound-feet of torque and nary a turbo in sight. The straight-six was a good engine, and when you wound it out, the X1 did a pretty good impression of a 3 Series wagon, which it more or less is. But then, your average driver doesn't typically wring out the engine, even if that's how BMW engines are best enjoyed.
Conscious of this, as well as of the ever-tightening fuel economy and emissions regulations, BMW has decided to downsize. That is why the free-breathing inline-six is on its way out in favor of the new breathed-on four-banger. On paper, the advantages are many. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration actually drops by 0.7 seconds, BMW says, to just 6.1 seconds. Average fuel consumption, as measured on the European cycle, improves by 5 miles per gallon to 30 mpg average. CO2 emissions drop by 35 grams per kilometer.
That's not bad for a smaller, less-powerful engine, at least from a pure horsepower perspective. BMW's new turbo 2.0 puts out 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The virtue of the trade-off in horsepower and torque comes in the delivery. Both engines have nearly identical horsepower curves, but the four-cylinder peaks 2000 RPM earlier and holds it to redline, whereas the six didn't peak until the 7000 RPM redline. In fact, until 6000 RPM, the four-cylinder is actually making more power than the six at any given RPM. The torque curves are even more interesting. Where the six built up to its peak torque at 3000 rpm then tapered off slightly, the turbo four hits peak torque at 1300 RPM and holds it to 5000 RPM before tapering off.
The real-world result is, quite predictably, that the turbo four feels more powerful off the line and while accelerating in gear from low RPM. Both in town and on the highway, the new four-cylinder feels faster than the old six-cylinder without giving up any of the smoothness. The power and delivery are very well-matched to the vehicle and make it a great daily driver. For the average driver, it's perfect, but for the enthusiast, it's a bit of a letdown. Winding out the inline-six made the X1 nearly as fun to drive as a lower-trim 3 Series. But then, enthusiasts won't be angling for an X1 -- they'll just buy the 3 Series, so it's a moot point. The six-speed manual is nice, too, but as I'm sure you've already guessed, we won't be getting that in America. We didn't drive the eight-speed automatic model, but experience with other BMWs tells us it's a fine transmission and we don't expect any issues.
Not with the transmission, anyway. There are other issues, but they're related to the plant that builds the X1. The plant is maxed out, which is not a bad issue to have. Greater-than-anticipated demand in other markets has the Leipzig plant running at capacity already, so BMW doesn't have the volume necessary to meet anticipated U.S. demand. While the company is working on a solution, this means the X1 is still a year way at minimum. By the time it does reach our shores, the six-cylinder engine should be phased out completely and replaced by the turbo four.
The story doesn't end there.BMW wants to introduce more diesel models to the U.S. market to bring up its CAFE numbers, and the X1 has as much potential as any BMW. More important for us, the company is also considering a performance model. Don't expect an "M" badge, but BMW is mulling over the idea of dropping the 300-horsepower turbocharged inline-six from the X3 into the X1. Will it? No telling yet, but an extra 60 horsepower in a 500-pound-lighter package is always music to our ears.
Until BMW gets its production strategy sorted out, though, we'll just have to wait. Whenever the X1 does come, expect a starting price around $30,000 to $35,000 to slot under the X3 and take aim at Mercedes' GLK and Audi's upcoming Q3.
| 2012 BMW X1 xDrive28i |
| Base price || $33,000 (est) |
| Vehicle layout || Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 5-door SUV |
| Engine || 2.0L/241-hp/258-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4 |
| Transmissions || 8-speed automatic |
| Curb weight || 3750 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 108.7 in |
| Length x width x height || 175.4 x 70.8 x 60.9 in |
| 0-60 mph || 6.1 sec (mfr est) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 25/35 mpg (est, Euro cycle) |
| CO2 emissions || 0.65 lb/mile (est) |
| On sale in U.S. || Mid-2012 |