Stopped by BMW SF yesterday...
I was in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco yesterday and stopped by the BMW dealer just for fun. For context, I have a 2006 BMW X3 (6-spd manual, m-sport, premium package, xenons, PDC) and checked out the X1.
They had two on the lot, a fairly basic white X1 28 sDrive and a fully optioned X1 35 xDrive. I only explored the 28 as the 35 was locked. Curiously, I was there for ~1/2 hour, and nobody from BMW SF came to talk with me.
Size: The X1 is the perfect size for my needs. I live in a city, and the X1 is small enough to parallel park. But it's also large enough to fit 4 adults comfortably or 3 adults plus their backpacking gear. I'm 6'2" and after adjusting the driver's seat was able to sit behind myself easily.
Ground clearance: I use my X3 for backpacking in the Cascades, Sierras, and various national parks. Three weeks ago, I drove 270 miles each way from SF to Sequoia National Park. It was 270 miles of highway driving followed by 25 miles of rutted dirt roads and switchbacks to the Mineral King trailhead on the south side of the park. This is typical for me. You don't need a Land Rover for these roads, but the ground clearance helps. 99% of the driving is just highway driving where the BMW excels. The X1 seems the best of both worlds.
Fit & Finish: The materials and perception of quality reminded me of an Audi A3 or VW GTI. It was good, but clearly not comparable to a 5 series. Coming from my 2006 X3, I thought it was an improvement.
Cost: The X1 35 xDrive M-Sport with all of the options was $50K. The 28 sDrive didn't have a window sticker on it. That's some serious money when a VW GTI is $30K fully loaded and Golf-R is $36K fully loaded. Comparing the X1 to the Golf-R, the real difference is ground clearance. The question then is whether that extra ground clearance is worth the $10K difference. Like I said, I spend 99% of the time on roads and <1% on dirt roads, so it's tough to justify that price gap.
Transmission: For $45K, I'm not willing to compromise on the transmission. If the X1 is offered in the US with a manual, it will likely be my next car. If it's automatic only, then that's too much money to be dissatisfied with the transmission. My X3 is six years old and only has 42K miles on it, so I can afford to wait another 4-6 years for BMW USA to bring a manual to the US.
San Francisco, CA
2006 BMW X3 3.0i (m-sport, manual, premium, pdc, xenons)
2006 BMW 330Cic (sport, manual, premium, pdc, xenons) - sold
2006 Mini CooperS convertible (sport, manual, premium, pdc, xenons) - sold
1998 Audi A4 2.8 Quattro (tiptronic, bose, sport pkg) - sold