X-Sighting: All-new BMW X1 crossover spells worldly, innovative, sufficiently roomy

The new 2013 BMW X1 stands out against cobblestone streets on South Adger’s Wharf. The compact crossover has arrived at Rick Hendrick BMW in Charleston.(Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/9/6/2012) .


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Carmakers, like most retailers, tend to zero in on stratified markets to promote their new lineups.

GenXers get amped over sporty, low-priced head turners. Young professionals ogle fuel-sipping, spacious sedan hybrids. Growing families look highly on versatile minivans and sport utilities.

Not unexpectedly, there’s an identified audience for the new X1 Sports Activity Vehicle — as BMW calls its higher-riding people movers.

According to Andrew Robinson, sales associate at Hendrick Imports in Charleston, the manufacturer is going after “the 20 to 80 (year old) demographic.”

In other words, there’s hardly a driver without a reason to buy BMW’s entry-level crossover. “It’s everybody,” Robinson said.

For instance, compact sport-utility vehicle owners would take a look at the five-door X1’s extra space and comfortable seating for five. Sedan buyers would be intrigued with the all-new model’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine pouring out 240 horsepower and 255 pounds-feet of torque.

“It has a very peppy engine, especially at highway speeds,” he said.

Eco-friendly drivers would check out the vehicle’s 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway fuel numbers as well as be pleased that the model uses mid-grade gasoline as opposed to premium, a pricey standard in many BMWs.

Fathers and mothers would purchase X1s for their college student sons and daughters, Robinson said. Meanwhile, grandmas and grandpas would relish the comfort and price; It starts at less than $32,000.

Financial savings include BMW’s service plan, which covers all factory-recommended maintenance at no charge for the first four years or 50,000 miles, and its generous list of standard features.

Shoppers will be ready to deal “if they can get a $35,000 BMW with the warranty paid for,” Robinson said.

Needless to say, BMW is excited about the new X1. The first demonstration models arrived at Hendrick Imports on Savannah Highway last week with an initial order of 10 saleable vehicles on the way, said Bennett Gault, general sales manager.

Built in Austria, the X1 was headed for the United States in 2010 but wound up on continuous back order in Europe because it was so popular, Robinson said.

The new edition can be purchased in three specialized styles: the Sport Line, xLine and M Sport Line. At the same time, the sport-utility offers a trio of models. They are sDrive28i with rear-wheel drive, a first for BMW in a sports activity vehicle; all-wheel drive xDrive28i and the AWD xDrive35i, which houses a turbocharged six-cylinder 300 hp engine.

The inline-six is capable off sprinting from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, thanks to BMW’s so-called “dynamic acceleration.”

As highlighted in a company brochure, the X1 sports a sliding-tilting panoramic moonroof, three-way split-folding rear seats and power front seats. Performance Control is an option for quicker cornering and more precise handling.

While the X1 is BMW’s smallest sport-utility, itstretches nearly 15 feet in length, contains a nine-foot wheelbase and shows off more than three feet of headroom front and rear and close to three feet of legroom in the back seats.

To flesh out the looks, the vehicle is available in one of 13 exterior colors including Marrakesh Brown and Valencia Orange, which are both metallic; Nevada leather upholstery; and wood, copper or aluminum interior trims.

“The X1 is part of the new generation of BMW,” Robinson said.

As judged by an afternoon drive last week, the all-new X1 brings a lot to the table with more than adequate performance and clever perks.

The four-cylinder demo model granted ample legroom and headroom in the front and good-sized space in the back seats, notably for an entry-level model. Adjustable power seats smoothed out the ride, even on a downtown cobblestone street.

While not cat quick, acceleration from the 240-hp engine was solid, and braking was firm. The sports-activity offers responsive handling, although not as tight as you might expect from The Ultimate Driving Machine, as BMW dubs itself.

Where the X1 really stands out is its familial traits. The cargo bay showcases width and depth for groceries, luggage and more. With a 40-20-40 split, the seats can fold down for all kinds of passenger and storage configurations.

Up front, the BMW provides a useful driver information system plotting mpgs and distance to empty. The center console showcases a central “menu” knob with “back” button for the viewing screen: Robinson described it like a computer’s mouse functions.

Voice activation, lodged on the steering wheel, showcases a nice perk: the user doesn’t have to first voice a category, such as “map,” before giving a command such as “gas stations ahead.” The driver also can switch straight to another use, such as selecting a radio station by calling out its frequency.

Another small but handy feature is the X1’s drink holder array. A center holder and one attached to the console both include grips that automatically tighten around a can or bottle. Along with storage compartments in the doors, the sport-utility contains molded side holders set at 45 degree angles, making it easy to reach and re-situate drink bottles.

The panoramic roof is pleasing, as it provides views over the back seats and opens in front with muted wind impacts. Trendy exterior features are standard 18-inch alloy wheels with various optional spoke patterns.

Even so, the X1 leaves room for improvement. Safety features such as a rear back-up camera and blind spot detectors on side-view mirrors are available but only as extras. Visibility is slightly obscured by the sloping rear roofline.

But uniformly, the all-new compact crossover carries an “everyman” quality: a fine-riding car that still finds time to be an imaginative utility vehicle.

For more information and photos, visit www.postandcourier.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.