A small but vocal contingent of sport wagon enthusiasts have clamored for years to have more wagons sold in the U.S., but manufacturers haven't been able to justify the cost in the face of relatively low sales. Like several other automakers lately, BMW believes it has created a clever workaround in the form of a compact crossover called the BMW X1.
Once you wagon enthusiasts are done scoffing, keep reading. No, the 2011 BMW X1 is not a 3 Series wagon, but it is built on the 3 Series platform. More than that, it's co-opted the AWD drivetrain from the 3 Series xDrive in an effort to give it more overall capability than a plain old wagon.
When the the U.S. market X1 finally arrives in early 2011, there will be only one powertrain to start: BMW's hallmark 3.0-liter inline six, naturally aspirated in this case and producing 258 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque on premium unleaded. With a curb weight of about 3700 lbs, it's no lightweight, but BMW says it'll still pull off a 0-to-60 sprint in 6.8 sec and hit a limited top speed of 127 mph, or 143 mph with an optional high-speed setup. On the European cycle, it'll even get up to 32 mpg highway, though it takes a big hit in the city and only returns 18 mpg. It'll also tow up to 4400 lbs.
All that hauling power hits the ground through BMW's six-speed automatic transmission, which mounts paddles on the steering wheel and a manual shifting gate on the gear selector for those looking for a little extra thrill. From there, the power is routed either through the rear wheels or BMW's xDrive AWD system, which features a 40% front, 60% rear distribution under normal conditions. Should any of the standard 17-in. or optional 18-in. wheels start slipping, the Performance Control system lifted from the X6 will use individual brake calipers and the differentials to route power to the other wheels.