New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

BMW X1 driven

2010-04-30 07:32

Angus Thompson

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model X1
Engine 1 995 cm3 16-valve four cylinders
Power 110 kW @ 6 400 r/min (18i); 130 kW @ 4 000 r/min (20d); 150 kW @ 4 400 r/min (23d)
Torque 200 Nm @ 3 600 r/min (18i); 350 Nm @ 1 750 r/min (20d); 400 Nm @ 2 000 r/min (23d)
Transmission six-speed manual or six-speed automatic Steptronic
Zero To Hundred 9.7 (18i); 8.1 (sDrive20d); 8.4 (xDrive20d); 7.3 (23d)
Top Speed 202 (18i); 218 (sDrive20d); 213 (xDrive20d); 223 (23d)
Fuel Consumption 8.2 (18i); 5.6 (sDrive20d); 6.2 (xDrive20d); 6.6 (23d)
Steering rack-and-pinion power steering
ABS plus CBC, DSC and DTC
Front Suspension aluminium double-joint tiebar axle
Rear Suspension central-arm axle with longitudinal arm and double wishbone
Price sDrive18d manual – R335 500; sDrive20d manual – R376 000; xDrive20d manual – R418 500; xDrive23d Steptronic- R464 000
Compact and versatile aren’t words one would usually use to define a new BMW these days, given the penchant for performance and brand power in the German luxury market. But this description couldn’t be more apt for their new X1, as I find myself staring skyward, trundling up a steep and slippery dirt track on the side of Table Mountain.

Not even two hours before, the same sDrive variant was clawing its way through the smooth, asphalt corners up Sir Lowry’s Pass, driving my right foot to the floor and widening my smile as BMW’s inherent X factor (its rear wheel driveability) took affect.

So what is the X1 and against what can its talents be measured?

Well to understand this, one has to look to the aging X3. Although it’s due to be replaced later this year, it largely defined the mid-range premium SUV segment when it was launched in 2004, and went on to sell over 120 000 units per year since its global launch six years ago.

Its always been pricey though and the likes of Toyota’s RAV4 and Fortuner, Honda’s CRV, Hyundai’s Tucson, Nissan’s Qashqai and VW’s Tiguan have all since proved to be more popular and more attainable with local pundits. But BMW have now segmented this growing market further, offering the brand’s perceived status, quality and class at lower entry point in the new X1.

Factor in South African’s thirst for the outdoors and the sense of security one feels from a raised seating position and you begin to understand why there’s already a four-month waiting list for the new BMW X1.

Bits of 3 Series, parts of 1

The newcomer is built off the E91 3 Series touring chassis and uses 1 Series suspension components. The combination provides more agility than the X3 onroad as well as generous ground clearance (194mm) off road. The centre of gravity is lower and as a result the X1 feels more planted and less top heavy than the X3 through turns.

One does get a hint of its raised rear end, in its weight transfer when pressing on through turns, but ultimately most will find its greater proportions very car-like to drive and far closer to the dynamics of medium executive sedan in its feel. Think 3 Series control, with a higher seating position and generous grip on asphalt.

Although the open road is where the X1 is likely to spend most of its life, it is the first BMW X model in SA to offer the option of both rear (sDrive) and all-wheel drive (xDrive) powertrains with a semi-command driving position.
X models proliferate European markets and account for nearly a fifth of all BMW models sold worldwide, due to the needed traction in snow and ice.

Local customers opting for either of the two sDrive models (the 110kW sDrive18i or 130kW sDrive20d) enjoy  rear-wheel drive dynamics and better fuel efficiency due to the weight reduction over the xDrive versions (5.2 litres/100km in the case of the sDrive1.8i.)

The more adventurous among us can opt for the 130kW xDrive20d or 150kWxDrive23d all-wheel drive derivatives. These get Hill Descent Control as standard, while Performance Control (which uses electronic brake and throttle intervention to control torque transfer across each axle) is available optionally.

An array of attractive 17-inch alloys is fitted as standard across the range, while 18-inch designs are available optionally. While these big rollers add bling they are likely to offer more bump in the bush (due to their lower profile boots allied to the thicker side walls of the runflat tyres).

BMW’s persistence with Runflat technology means that no spare tyre is available from standard, a fact likely to quell most enthusiasm to venture too far north of the Zambezi in the X1. According to BMW, low sulphur diesel isn’t a requirement for the diesel variants. 

Big battle looms

The X1 is built in BMW’s Leipzig factory, the same as the 1 Series, and escapes the polarisation of its more oddly proportioned brethren. The exterior offers a better proportioned balance than the hatchback that will command more attention than most its SUV rivals.

Its sporty demeanour breathes more beauty than brute though, so some may find it too soft and svelte for the savannah. Personally I like its appeal and the quality and design of the interior, both elements that were highly criticised by press abroad.

The X1 does have a soul and its appeal is not only in its style but its added versatility. On the inside BMW have opted for three generous rear seats (over a bench seat) with a 40/20/20 seating configuration split. The back rests of each rear seat fold down progressively, with each set angle growing the 420 litre boot compartment to its full capacity of 1350 litres.

The absence of a spare wheel does allow for an additional storage compartment beneath the boot floor, which can also be used to conceal valuables when parked.

Although every manufacturer has a presence in this market and the likes of the forthcoming Hyundai iX35 and the newly introduced Kia Sorento offer a strong argument in terms of value, expect to see plenty of X1s on SA roads in the future.

Judging by initial demand, the X1 will also steal the attentions of the traditional mid-executive sedan buyer, searching for extra load space, practicality and offroad versatility, without compromising the onroad dynamics or quality synonymous with this German marque.

sDrive18i manual – R335 500
sDrive20d manual – R376 000
xDrive20d manual – R418 500
(add R16 000 for auto variants)

xDrive23d Steptronic-  R464 000                                                                                                

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