Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beemers and big-bosomed Bavarians

On test… BMW X1 xDrive23d

Mine joined the legion of crinkled foreheads around the world when news of BMW’s new X1 first appeared. “Nooit bru, what the…?”. “ Was ist das, Jurgen?”. “Luigi, non posso credere i miei occhi!” Yes we were all a tad taken aback (though not all quite as much as Luigi) by this latest addition to BMW’s X range of SUVs. Surely they already had all the bases covered? The X3 was the baby SUV, the X5 the dad, and the X6 the gold chain-wearing, midlife crises-having rich uncle? Why would they bother with a baby baby X?

I now know. Because I drove one.

Loaned a top-of-the-range 2.3 turbo diesel in that sort of bronzey/brown metallic colour you see in all their ads, the X1 immediately pulled Beemer’s trademark trick… like all its siblings, the X1 looks a lot better in the flesh. And bigger too. Despite being visibly smaller than the X3 when you park them next to each other, the newer car feels bigger inside, benefitting from better allround packaging and inside. At 1 350 litres with the rear seats folded flat, it’s not quite up there with the X3’s 1 980 in similar mode, but it’s still a lot. Put it this way – there’s plenty of space for five adults or a small family

That aside it was driving the X1 that really impressed. Actually not so much “impressed” as converted… in a kind of biblical way. I was carving through Cape Town’s little piece of tarred heaven that is De Waal drive when the epiphany came upon my person. Such is the brilliance of this car’s handling that a beam of sunlight broke through the grey clouds and a choir of large-bosomed, breast-plated Bavarian sopranos sang “oohoooooooooooh!” in perfect harmony.

Then and there the X1’s purpose in life was made clear to me. It’s simply the perfect urban SUV: it’s spacey enough for a two-sprog family; the xDrive 4x4 system means excellent road-handling and safety; there’s just enough pavement-hopping ground clearance; and it’s a real driver’s car without and any of the usual SUV wobble.

One thing though… I don’t know about that fashionable “Marrakesh” brown it’s painted. This year brown might well be the new black, but next year brown will just be… well… brown. Prices range from R335 500 for the two-wheel drive sDrive18i, to R464 000 for the xDrive23d steptronic