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BMW's new X2 now available in SA

2018-03-15 10:08

Lance Branquinho

Image: BMW SA

Johannesburg - If you are one of those BMW traditionalist, the brand’s new X2 might be a troubling vehicle for you to understand; there’s no rear-wheel drive or manual gearbox option and the platform is shared with Mini’s Countryman.

The presence of the X1 makes the need for X2 even more puzzling. It has 1mm less ground clearance (yes, 1mm, we checked), less boot space but crucially, it looks much better than BMW’s other compact SUV. And BMW is very aware that in the hugely competitive compact SUV/crossover segment, appearance is nearly everything.

X1 vs X2

If you want to understand X2’s appeal in respect of X1, BMW isn’t shy admitting that the former is more of an attempt at a compact SUV coupe, than a utilitarian five-door hatchback with gravel-travel ability. Think of X2 in relation to X4, and X1 as a junior X3.

Two specification grades are available, M Sport and M Sport X, with both rolling 19” alloys, upgradeable to 20s. Distinguishing Sport X from Sport is grey cladding around the lower bumper, wheelarches and rocker panels. Whereas cladding looks awkward on most compact SUVs, the X2 carries its protective plastic with aplomb. If you are a true BMW fan, you’ll notice the additional roundels on the C-pillar, a homage to Munich’s legendary 3.0 CSL from 1972 - and something unique to X2 within BMW’s product portfolio.

Image: BMW SA

Engines

Engines are familiar BMW fare; the turbocharged 2.0-litre fours, either petrol or diesel, powering to 151kW/280Nm and 140kW/400Nm. Gearboxes are either BMW’s 7-speed dual-clutch (in the X2 20i) or ZF’s 8-speed automatic if you want all-wheel drive, which is only available in the 20d derivative. A more affordable X2 18i will become available in May.

                                                                    Image: BMW SA

Price

The X2 range is limited but BMW’s optioned on delivering cars which are comprehensively equipped to market, hence the full pricing, positioning X2 in a retail segment starting less than R650 000 and peaking slightly beyond R720 000. By May, the 18i derivatives will broaden X2’s appeal to a price point of R573 122.

Available now: 

X2 sDrive20i M Sport - R644 252

X2 sDrive20i M Sport X - R673 952

X2 xDrive20d M Sport - R694 154

X2 xDrive20d M Sport X - R723 854

Due in May:

X2 sDrive18i M Sport -R573 122

X2 sDrive18i M Sport auto -R602 822

X2 xDrive18i M Sport X - R593 922

X2 xDrive18i M Sport X auto - R623 622

Image: BMW SA

What’s it like to drive?

Beyond the more daring styling, there are engineering changes to differentiate X2 from X1. It’s the kind of product recalibration one would expect from BMW, upgrades to enhance the driving experience. X2’s front wheels are orientated to have a greater angle of negative camber and its rear-suspension features stouter anti-roll bars. The idea is to deliver a compact BMW SUV which is slightly sharper in its responses, despite the front-wheel bias of its design.

For decades BMW has traded on rear-wheel drive being a unique selling point of its vehicles. The purity of feedback BMW has always prided itself upon, is a priority achieved by separating the wheels transferring drive, from those which steer. My feeling has always been that unless you are driving a very powerful BMW close to its design limit, the characteristic rear-wheel drive dynamic behaviour is generally imperceptible. Very few drivers who own a BMW with less than 200kW would ever notice if their vehicles were front-, rear- or all-wheel drive. Perhaps only in the rain, or on gravel, with all stability systems disabled, could an average South African BMW owner tell with confidence, which traction configuration their car has.

                                                                        Image: BMW SA

As such the front-wheel drive bias of his new BMW is of little consequence. X2 behaves much like its Mini Countryman cousin, which is unsurprising, considering the shared platform. It’s agile and all-wheel drive only engages its electromechanical centre-clutch pack when it’s necessary to have torque pulsing to those rear wheels. The slight suspension geometry changes over an X1 make for a marginally more agile car and the cabin is classic BMW simplicity, far more ergonomically accomplished and less fiddly than Mini’s Countryman, with a typically excellent driving position.

Not outrageously fast, but symmetrically balanced in the offering of its performance and handling, X2’s designer appearance will appeal to those who find X1 a touch odd-looking. It’s aimed at a fashion conscience BMW customer, hence the additional BMW badging on the sides. For those who might have been tempted by Mini Countryman but were annoyed its fussy cabin, X2 is a very apt alternative.

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