BMW X1 Driving Review Round Up - How Does it Feel Behind the Wheel?

by Tim Jones on July 19, 2012, 5:41 pm

The X1 is BMW's new to the US baby sports activity vehicle, or SAV in BMW lingo. The X1 has been available in Europe and Canada for several years now, but the US has been deprived for the first half of the E84 X1 life span. BMW has now face lifted (LCI) the X1 and is bringing it state side. You can pick up a 2013 X1 in one of three configurations -

X1 sDrive28i
One of two US exclusive models this is the first time BMW has offered an "X" car in rear wheel drive only. BMW build this model based on feedback from warm climate BMW owners that like the elevated driving position of an SUV but don't need all wheel drive for inclement weather. The 'sDrive' RWD drive train is coupled to an 8 speed automatic and the turbo four cylinder N20 from the F30 328i. This variant of the X1 drives the most like a car and can really move. The base price starts at $31,545

X1 xDrive28i
The X1 xDrive 28i takes the same four cylinder turbo available in the sDrive and couples it to BMW's xDrive all wheel drive system and their 8 speed automatic. This car is going to be the most common X1 sold as the N20 motor really rockets the X1 along and the all wheel drive lets you take on the most inclement weather. Base price starts at a reasonable $33,245.

X1 xDrive35i
Another US exclusive model BMW knows how Americans like their 6 cylinders. The N55 found in the outgoing 335i E9x and the all new F30 335i is an amazing turbo 6 banger making 300 hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque. This X1 is all muscle and moves the sport activity vehicle from 0-16 in just 5.3 seconds. As with the F30 3 series many of the driving reviews feel the N20 powered 28i is a better value overall then the 35i drive, but test drive them both and decide for yourself. Base pricing on the 6 cylinder X1 is high as result of the bigger motor and starts at $39,345.

Read more about the BMW X1

BMW X1 Driving Reviews

The US press got a chance to slide behind the wheel of all three variants of the X1 and let us know what they think of the driving experience.
If you have ever driven an E9X model car and liked it, there is a good chance you are going to enjoy the feeling of the X1. The car is mostly based in E9X technology and the xDrive models are lucky to have hydraulic steering (sDrive28i comes with EPS) which is sure to be a big selling point for the enthusiast. When you sit in the X1 it almost reminds you more of driving a car than it does a Sport Activity Vehicle and that makes sense given it's size. That feel is a big bonus for drivers in our opinion. Hit the brake, push the start button and you hear that welcomed, aggressive exhaust note that puts a smile on your face. The xDrive35i is equipped with the older six speed automatic and while it is fun to drive, you end up missing the newer style 8-speed that is found in other cars such as the F30 335i.

Read the complete BMW X1 Review

Automobile Mag
What looks at first like it might be the OMG RWD BMW GTI we've wanted for so long isn't actually a car for enthusiasts -- it's an aspirational vehicle for when your girlfriend's paychecks outgrow her Honda CR-V payments. Shame, that, because even though the X1 doesn't strike us as an enthusiast-friendly vehicle, it goes like the dickens. If you can overlook its crossover-ness (or look over it, as the X1's roof is 4.3 inches lower than a CR-V's) you might just like it.

Best of all, the X1 is based on the 1-series, which means itself was based on the last-generation E90-chassis 3-series. Getting some seat time in the X1 reminded us just how much better the old 3-series worked. Sure, it doesn't have quite as many gadgets and gizmos -- and neither the 1-series, the X1, nor the old 3-series is as pretty as the new 3-series -- but those earlier cars have a fundamental, built-in "just right" factor. The steering, the brakes, the ride, the handling, and all the secondary controls and instruments just feel perfect. The volume control is on the correct (left) side of the steering wheel; the cruise control is an easy-to-operate stalk. You don't have to select some ridiculous "Eco Pro" mode to save fuel or "Sport" to waste it -- you just start the X1 and it drives right. Just like the last 3-series did.

Read the complete Automobile Mag BMW X1 Review

As for this xDrive model with 35i performance, automatic six-speed and 18-inch wheel/tire setup, the 3,891-pound performer did alright for itself. In this particular configuration, the X1 is a strong vehicle and we soon found a groove over the Bavarian two-lanes. In fact, this particular X1 feels a lot like the finest 3 Series saloon as it cruises down the road. Steering here remains hydraulic and feels perfectly at home in this trim and it didn't hurt that the Bavarian countryside is beautiful and we were just in a smooth carving mode.

That there is a six-speed automatic transmission on the 35i trim is completely confusing, however. All other 35i trims from BMW get the eight-speed Steptronic, even the new M135i from M Performance, which will also have an xDrive version later on, so there are no physical excuses why we could not have had the eight-speed in our X1 xDrive35i. The veritable chasm between the first and second gear ratios on this old six-speed 4.71 then 2.34 help creates lagging moments that the eight-speed would fairly cure.

Read the complete AutoBlog BMW X1 Review

So how does the X1 drive? The xDrive 35i does seem to accelerate like one of those dangerous over-engined sleds from the '60s, but without the danger. Funny thing is, eight-speed gearing and probably 300 pounds less weight make up for a good bit of the sDrive 28i's 60-hp/45-lb-ft output deficit, making the acceleration lag feel like a whole lot less than the one second claimed by BMW (5.3 vs. 6.2). Our rear-driver also benefited from the M Sport package, and so felt perhaps a bit better buttoned-down, but still eager to understeer at the limit, and those limits were less clearly enunciated through the helm of the sDrive 28i, because that's the only model to which electric power steering can be fitted. The all-wheel-drive system crowds the electric motor, so all X1 xDrive models get BMW's sublime hydraulic-assist steering -- an endangered species to be protected and fostered. The six sounds sublime and has no detectable boost lag, but its aging six-speed is slower to shift and less engaging than the rapid-fire ZF eight-speed, which keeps the little N20 humming near its sweet spot. That's why we're guessing the slightly heavier xDrive28i might actually be the X1 to lust after. Couple xDrive with the M Sport package, and it gets a special performance programming algorithm that sends 80 percent of the torque to the rear during cornering, with a bit of braking to the inside wheel shunting torque outward to help rotate the car and ward off the understeer we felt in the rear-driver.

Read the complete MotorTrend BMW X1 Review

Car and Driver
The premium sense is reinforced by a structure that felt rock solid on the Bavarian roads near BMW headquarters in Munich, and the cabin was hushed even at 100 mph.

Although you sit a couple inches higher in the X1 than in a BMW sedan, the driving position still feels more carlike than trucklike. Brake feel is superb, and the steering precision and weighting are very good, even on the rear-drive model that uses an electrically assisted rack. Moreover, the 2.0-liter turbo and eight-speed-automatic combo motivates the X1 effortlessly

Read the complete Car and Driver BMW X1 Review

As you'd expect from BMW they have more or less nailed the driving experience and it seems the reviewers often like the N20 powered 28i more then the bigger N55 powered 35i. Did this change anyone's mind on getting an 2013 BMW X1? What engine and drive configuration are you getting?
BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 1BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 2BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 3BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 4BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 5BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 6BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 7BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 8BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 9BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 10BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 11BMW-X1-New-York-Auto-Show 12

Leave a Comment

You must be a registered member to comment on stories. Please take a moment to register for your free account now. If you already have an account, log in using fields below.

6 responses to BMW X1 Driving Review Round Up - How Does it Feel Behind the Wheel?

bimmerized commented:
July 19, 2012, 6:44 pm


at least these reviews are consistent regarding the different steering systems installed on the different models. so it seems the Sdrive will get the electric and the Xdrive the hydraulic. Not sure if it's correct given that the explanation was not since electric steering is available on Xdrive models in Europe. Regardless, hydraulic steering is not enough of a reason to get Xdrive if not needed.

Prior to these reviews it was difficult to tell which models would get the electric steering as the BMW USA web site only posted that the 35 would get the electric steering.

I guess we'll have to wait to confirm on production cars. How does one tell which steering type is installed by looking under the hood?
mason commented:
July 20, 2012, 9:40 am

It looks like X1 2.8 is the way to go.
tim330i commented:
July 20, 2012, 9:43 am

Originally Posted by bimmerized View Post
How does one tell which steering type is installed by looking under the hood?
Hydraulic power steering will have a power steering pump connected to the serpentine belt. There is no pump for BMW's EPS system.

bigjae1976 commented:
July 25, 2012, 8:16 am

BMW stated in an article in is not installing electric p/s pumps in the X1/3/5 due to the potential severe service conditions. The electric pumps may not hold up.
tim330i commented:
July 25, 2012, 11:42 am

Originally Posted by bigjae1976 View Post
BMW stated in an article in is not installing electric p/s pumps in the X1/3/5 due to the potential severe service conditions. The electric pumps may not hold up.
The X1 sDrive 28i does get EPS. The xDrive 28i and 35i get the hydraulic steering. I was told this was a result of space constraints. You cannot put a massive EPS rack in the same spot as the front differential. If you haven't seen a EPS rack it is absolutely massive next to a hydraulic rack. Pics of the Bimmerfest Project 328i rack here (scroll down) -

Axel61 commented:
July 27, 2012, 10:02 am

NOW bring it in DIESEL form and then we're talking!!