Rear-wheel drive has been a centerpiece of the BMW brand since time immemorial. So, when BMW announced that it would start making front-wheel drive cars, it inevitably caused quite an uproar among the purists – and rightly so (we’re among them, as you can tell). But BMW insists that the new front-wheel drive platform (UKL) doesn’t dilute the brand’s core principle, which is to say that its cars will always be ultimate driving machines!
The first UKL-based BMW model was the 2 Series Grand Tourer, but that never came to India – and we suspect it never will. The next model on the same platform is the second-generation X1, which has been on sale in the country for quite a while. Now, the first gen X1 was the car that created the entry-level luxury crossover segment in India. But, then, its success was short lived once the Audi Q3 arrived. Why? Well, it felt cramped and outdated in front of the Audi – which was more spacious, better equipped and far more practical.
With the new X1 though, BMW has addressed all of the aforementioned issues – and that’s happened mainly because of the adoption of this new platform. Since the engine is now mounted transversely, it liberates more cabin space – making the X1 roomier and more spacious than before. Additionally, BMW has loaded the car with all the latest bells and whistles – so now it’s as well equipped as any of its rivals. And while it may not be the best looking crossover out there, the new X1 is definitely a far more interesting design than its bug-eyed predecessor. But the real question is this – does it still feel like a BMW to drive?
In India, BMW offers the X1 only with an 187bhp/400Nm 2-litre turbo diesel engine. It’s a refined and responsive powertrain, no doubt, but when you put the gearbox in Sport mode, the engine sounds a little rough at the higher reaches of the rev range.
The gearbox is an 8-speed automatic that can be had with either front-wheel (sDrive) or all-wheel drive (xDrive) configuration. Not much of a difference under normal driving, since power is mostly sent to front wheels in the AWD version as well – the system only channels drive to the rear axle if the need arises. And that’s actually what baffles us a bit because it’s really hard to tell if this car is based on a front-wheel drive layout! You really have to poke it hard to show its FWD roots. On top of that, body roll is kept within control and the handling is pretty accurate. The steering, however, feels unnecessarily heavy and the ride is a bit stiff. All told, the X1 feels every bit as engaging as a BMW should.