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RoadTrip to Destination X - 2018 BMW X2 to Pelican Point

2018-06-21 08:00

RoadTrip: Ferdi de Vos, Images - Ryan Abbott

Image: RoadTrip, Ryan Abbott

The incredulous look on the face of the Namibian policeman at a checkpoint near Langstrand between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund said it all. It was evident from the clogged sand in the front inlets of our car that we went off-roading with it, but it did not look like a 4×4, nor like a vehicle you would use in the dunes...

However, driving in the dunes in Namibia without a permit is illegal, and he confronted us: “Where did you drive in the sand?” he wanted to know.

Sand chasing

We explained, but it was quite difficult to convince him we drove the BMW X2 from Walvis Bay to Pelican Point – all along the remote, nine-kilometre long peninsula mostly consisting of soft sand. And yes, while access to the Point is restricted, we had permission to do so. 

In the end he did let us go, but not before shaking his head again... not exactly sure what to make of our story, and the compact BMW that went sand chasing in a region where kitted-to-the-hilt 4×4 Land Cruisers and Hiluxes reigned supreme.

Our earlier sojourn along the stretch of deep beach sand on the remote spit leading to the Pelican Point lighthouse was still fresh in my mind. Following the tracks of the lead 4×4 I wondered whether it was such a good idea to traverse the soft sand in a BMW. But as if reading your mind, the xDrive system of the M Sport X-kitted X2 20d handled the situation with aplomb, instantly sending power to where it was needed and constantly modulating the revs to keep the wheels from spinning.

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                                                                             Image: Ryan Abbott

Deflating the 20-inch low profile tyres did not help much, as they still struggled to find grip in the deep sand, and the low ride height of the X2 was a major problem; it could not follow in the deep tracks churned out by other vehicles, as it bottomed out, and this meant we had to cut my own spoor in the sand. And while the low front apron and huge air intake with Frozen Grey inserts, as well as the specially designed side air inlets are attractive, it was not very practical in these conditions, acting as sand scoops on each undulation. 

Still, despite these limitations the BMW made good progress, even earning a thumbs-up from the astonished driver of a fully rigged Cruiser passing by, and soon the lighthouse came into view, rising like a ghost from the mist, akin to a mirage in the desert...

                                                                    Image: Ryan Abbott

Minutes later we parked the X2, now well covered in sand, at the Pelican Point Lodge. It was an unusual sight, the bright Sunset Orange BMW next to the tall lighthouse tower, and some of the workers – who have seen many 4×4s come to grief on the sandy beach – shook their heads at the audacity of bringing such a vehicle to this remote spot.

A shining light

In contrast to the well-worn lighthouse at Pelican Bay Lodge, constructed around the living quarters for the erstwhile lighthouse keepers, looked stylish and modern against the murky, eerie seaside backdrop – a shining light on a remote outpost. 

Friendly porters helped us transfer our heavy bags into the warm lodge, and once inside and away from the wind, we were shown to our rooms. Our party occupied two rooms, the Pelican and the Lighthouse, both fitted with luxuriously comfy queen-sized beds, sliding glass doors onto the balcony that look out over the bay, a spacious bathroom, warm blankets, and seats to sit on while taking in the view.

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Each room, as well as the lounge and dining room features Eco-Smart Fires – ethanol burners built into concrete ledges, with a very easy and safe lighting process. The lodge also offer a wide array of activities – from boat cruises to bike rides, and seal viewing to jackal tracking.

Mounted on “fat bikes”, we travelled past giant colonies of seals, a flamboyance of flamingos, three lonely jackals (apparently there are five on the peninsula), and even a pod of dolphins a little off shore – a game ride with a difference. Watching the sun set from the lodge was spectacular. Throwing vivid colour across the sky, we managed to get fantastic images of the aptly coloured BMW in the somewhat surreal surrounds. 

But, in the process we did manage to beach the X2 on top of some deep, churned-out ruts ... It took quite a while, and a Land Cruiser Prado, to free it from the sandy trap. 

The sounds of seals and the call of sea birds woke us up the next morning, and after a hearty breakfast we set out exploring Walvis Bay and surrounds before returning to Swakopmund. Our stay at Pelican Point Lodge was memorable, as it offers the adventurous traveller looking for something different a unique opportunity to get completely immersed in the natural environment of the Namibian coastline.

Rain on the plains

Our journey started two days earlier in Cape Town, and after overnighted at Grünau – 140km North of the Namibian border – we traversed the never-ending stretches of road leading past Keetmanshoop, Marienthal, and Rehoboth.

Here the X2 was in its element. The slickness of its 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission impressed, and on the smooth road surfaces its ride quality was comfortable. Delivering 140kW and a muscular 400Nm of torque it was easy to overtake, and with the drive mode selector in Eco it sipped only 5.2 litres of diesel per 100km.

                                                                     Image: Ryan Abbott

On the road from Windhoek to Swakopmund we again appreciated the comfy interior, with dash and cabin layout reminiscent of the X1 and X3, multi-function steering wheel and optional Head-Up Display, while the premium sound system was belting out old and new road trip favourites …

Onwards from Rehoboth the countryside was lush and green after some good rain, and close to Omaruru we even drove through a thunderstorm. Here we encountered roadworks and on some of the badly rippled surfaces the ride in the X2 was quite hard, even in comfort mode. 

Near Usakos, next to the Spitzkoppe, the clouds cleared, but this quickly changed as we got closer to the coast, and we entered a misty, cool Swakopmund. With its bold and extrovert styling the X2 looked right at home next to the new, recently opened four-star graded Strand Hotel – set on the Mole, a historic site surrounded by the ocean on three sides.

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In true Namibian fashion the service at the Strand Hotel was exemplary, the rooms inviting, the view spectacular, and the craft beers cold and welcoming … It is perfect for travellers wanting to explore Swakopmund and its surrounds, and for us a peaceful haven before starting our long return journey back south.

On our 4 000km odyssey with the X2 we did establish that this coupé-like X-car was a comfortable long-distance cruiser, and while it performed admirably in the sand, it was not really suitable for rough roads and sand driving – mainly due to its low ride-height, low front design, big rims, and low-profile tyres.

                                                                     Image: Ryan Abbott

In this sense, to my mind, it is not a real X-model, but rather a make-over of the 2-Series Active Tourer with a better-looking body kit. So, if sand and rough dirt roads are on your road trip itinerary, stick to an X1, or better still, an X3.

Specifications: BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X

Engine: in-line four-cylinder turbodiesel
Displacement: 1 995 cc
Maximum power: 140kW @ 4 000 rpm
Maximum torque: 400Nm @ 1 750-2 500 rpm
Transmission: eigth-speed Steptronic, xDrive
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 219 km/h (limited)
Consumption: 5 l/100km (combined cycle)
CO2 Emissions: 131g/km
Price: R722 600 (without extras)
Warranty: five-year/100 000km Motorplan

We do like: Funky styling, a powerful, quiet diesel engine, comfortable, yet compact interior, frugal consumption. 

We do not like: Ride height too low to be considered an X-model, tyres and wheels unsuitable for rough dirt roads, ride harsh over undulated surfaces.

RoadTrip rating: 75%

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