What we're driving: BMW X1 xDrive28i

  • 22-Oct-2017 11:55 EDT

BMW's smallest crossover, the X1, comes in FWD or AWD layouts (image: Bill Visnic).

Intellectually, I know the X1 has to exist. Every luxury brand must have a compact crossover to satiate crossover-crazed customers.

But a look at the $46320 bottom line on this CUV’s Monroney label and a few hundred miles of driving tells me BMW’s sold out.

There’s argument about the degree of merit in the X1’s dynamic behaviour, but I found it immediately apparent the X1 intrinsically is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, even if BMW tries to mask this with the option of all-wheel-drive that most buyers desire when buying a crossover.

Will the average dupe who’s hot for a small luxury crossover know—or care—that the X1 shares its front-drive UKL2 architecture with BMW’s Mini brand? Not likely. But I know and I’m crying foul.

I can suffer the Japanese and even the American automakers pawning off front-drivers as luxury cars. But the German brands are supposed to be all about the dynamics and balance and that rear-wheel-drive layouts deliver. Yes, Mercedes-Benz is doing FWD, too, and Audi’s gotten away for some time with masquerading FWD architectures, but BMW blithely joining the con somehow is tougher to take.

Maybe it’s the flaky way the X1 starts into a high-speed corner (could the $400 M Sport suspension Band-Aid this?), but equally disquieting is the momentary scrabble for traction from the front tires when you ask for full boost from the 228-hp (170-kW) four-cylinder, that tug on the steering wheel before the xDrive system can react to send torque rearward. That tug that doesn’t happen when the thing’s designed to first send power to the rear.

A sanctimonious view? Maybe. But where’s it end, BMW? First your legendary inline six-cylinder becomes an option-sheet mainstay and now rear-wheel-drive is supposed to be negotiable, too?

2017 BMW X1 xDrive28i

  • Base price:          $35,100
  • As tested:            $46,320
  • Highs:                  Reasonably roomy cabin; exceptional cruising fuel economy
  • Lows:                  That front-drive platform; mediocre cabin materials
  • The Takeaway:    The Keeper of the Flame isn't on duty at the moment

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