BMW X2 up for any activity

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Styling is smoothly attractive, the X2 sDrive20i test car's presence accentuated by its striking blue finish. Photo: David Thomson

There was a bit of kerfuffle back in March, when BMW launched its new X2 sports activity vehicle.

Original plans were for a purely 2WD range comprising the $60,990 sDrive18i and the $70,900 sDrive20i. But pressure from South Island dealers elicited an almost immediate change of heart from BMW New Zealand, which quickly confirmed a four-paw variant - the $73,900 xDrive20i - to be added to the line-up, with the first such vehicles due to land here by June.

Drivesouth has now become one of the first publications in New Zealand to sample this new variant. That time, while brief, was spent driving the xDrive20i on snow and so was perfectly aligned with the local rationale for an all-wheel-drive addition to the X2 range. Either side of snow-time, an sDrive20i was supplied for appraisal, and driven in a range of less extreme winter conditions that typify both coastal and inland Otago at this time of the year.

To recap on the basics of the X2 story, this new model is a sportier first cousin to BMW's compact X1 SUV. It shares a common wheelbase and much of its platform with the X1, but is shorter overall, with sleeker, coupe-like lines.

Styling is smoothly attractive, the X2 sDrive20i test car's presence accentuated by its striking blue finish, 20-inch alloys and M-Sport spoiler. These features, along with a raft of interior options, including Dakota leather trim, power-operated front seats, an uprated audio system with Apple Car Play and digital radio, premium navigation, M-sport steering, and a head-up display add $14,840 worth of extras to the standard sDrive20i kit.

That standard kit already includes LED headlights, satellite navigation, heated front seats, two-zone climate control, an automatic tailgate and BMW's driving assistant plus package. This covers lane departure warning, speed limit info, high beam assist, collision warning (with pedestrian warning), active cruise control, and park distance control.

Power for the 20i variants in the X2 range comes from the BMW B48 turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. Introduced back in 2014 and now used extensively across the BMW range, this engine is deployed in various states of tune, the X2 taking the 141kW/280Nm variant.

The sDrive combines this engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, providing factory figures of 7.7secs for the 0-100kmh sprint and 5.9l/100km for the standard cycle economy return. The xDrive, meanwhile, packs a conventional eight-speed automatic, also with paddle-shift controls. It boasts a superior 0-100kmh sprint time of 7.4secs, but a less favourable though still respectable standard cycle economy return of 6.5l/100km.

Climbing aboard the sDrive test car, I was impressed by interior detailing that colour co-ordinated trim, seat and doormat stitching with the exterior paint scheme. The interior LED strip lighting can also be colour matched, though other hues are selectable via the central controller and screen to suit driver preference.

There's a pleasing variety of trim surfacing too, though one does eventually get to hard plastics below knee height. A greater niggle for me was the relatively small front door and a forward bulge in its frame that I often brushed against when entering the vehicle.

Folk familiar with the current X1 will notice the X2's quite different driving position. Lower and car-like, it combines with significant suspension differences and a more rigid body structure to provide the key ingredients for a sportier driving experience.

Having sampled the sDrive20i comparatively briefly at the time of its local launch, I was impressed by its strong performance, and felt that a good job had been done of combining easy-going city manners with solid highway credentials.

While there is less space behind the front seats than in an X1, the vehicle took five adults with overnight bags from Queenstown airport to a nearby hotel; it may have been a squish in the back for three blokes, but it was certainly manageable.

Further time in the driver's seat on test included an extended three-hour highway workout from Wanaka to Dunedin in conditions that started off fine and dry during daylight hours and concluded with a spell of very wet and sometimes misty evening driving.

The driver's seat is both comfortable and supportive for long-haul driving. Ride quality, while tending towards the firm end of the spectrum, is good, and noise levels are reasonably muted even on fresh coarse-chip surfaces.

In the dry, the test car shows some of the character of a mildly hot front-drive hatchback in its responsiveness, poise and adjustability through flowing sets of fast, medium and occasionally slow-speed bends. Body roll was nicely contained even when pressing on and the steering provided decent heft and feel, but suffered from a dead patch around the straight-ahead position.

Damper roads and reducing visibility increased the demands on both car and driver during the final part of the highway test. Aided by driver knowledge of the road, it was possible to maintain a decent clip while buttoning off a little, and the driving experience still delivered plenty of satisfaction.

However, the ultimate X2 fun I have had so far was behind the wheel of an xDrive20i on snow and ice.

At risk of giving away too much about an upcoming story, that fun was had at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (SHPG) winter testing facility on Central Otago's Pisa Range.

There, an xDrive20i X2 equipped with special winter tyres was one of several BMW models featured as part of the company's Alpine XDrive programme. Testing on a snow slalom course that placed a premium on driver smoothness, it displayed excellent balance and a surprising turn of pace alongside other BMW models that included the fabulous X3 M40i, 4WD 3-series and 5-series cars.

Even in conditions that were not fully representative of local driving, that experience was sufficient to convince me that while the sDrive20i X2 is a good car, the xDrive variant is better still.

BMW X2 up for any activity
At a Glance
AT A GLANCE

 

BMW X2 sDrive20i

 

For: Pleasant styling inside and out, engine that combines strong performance with decent economy, good balance between comfortable ride and handling prowess.

 

Against: Front door access not as brilliant as it might have been, steering lacks a little for feel.

 

Verdict: Hardly a traditional BMW, but a fine car nonetheless.

 

 

Overall rating: ****

 

Design & styling: ****

Interior: ****+

Performance: ****

Ride & handling: ****

Safety: *****

Environmental: ****

 

SPECIFICATION
Price: $70,900

Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbo-petrol, maximum power 141kW@5000-6000rpm, maximum torque 280Nm@1350-4600rpm.
Transmission: Seven speed dual clutch.
Brakes and stability systems: Front and rear disc brakes, ABS, DSC ASC, DTC, DBC, EDLC.
Safety rating: ANCAP five star.
Wheels and tyres: 19-inch alloy wheels and 225/45 tyres standard (20-inch with 225/40 tyres as driven).
Fuel and economy: 5.9 litres per 100km, fuel tank capacity 51 litres.
Emissions: 134 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Dimensions: Length 4360mm, width 1824mm, height 1526mm.

RATING (4/5)