Yet another BMW SUV is here to drag customers away from saloons and hatchbacks. At least it looks and drives rather well.
Well, it figures. Two weeks ago I put down SUVs and the way they are shaping the auto industry for the worse. So what do I get to drive the week after I wrote that? An SUV, but of course.
Thankfully, the new BMW X2 is better than most SUVs I have driven. At least from a driver’s point of view. But more of that in a minute.
The X2 is the latest addition to BMW’s ever growing SUV range and, just as the number 2 reveals, it sits above the X1 and below the X3. In concept, though, the X2 is closer to the X4, because it is the coupe-ish version of the X1, just as the X4 is the same thing for the X3 (and the X6 for the X5 for that matter).
Being based on the X1, the X2 is built on a front-wheel drive chassis and uses the same powertrains as its cousin. That means that, for now at least, the 18d and the 20d diesels will be the best sellers. Whereas the 18d can be had in front and all-wheel drive, with a manual or eight-speed auto transmission, the 20d is all-wheel drive, auto ‘box only. Curious is the fact that, if you opt to include the four-wheel drive system in the 18d, you cannot have the automatic transmission.
They both share the same two litre diesel block, but the 18d produces 150 horse power, while the electronics on the 20d are tweaked to give an extra 40 horse power. Spec for spec, the 18d is at least €6.000 cheaper than the 20d, and its entry point sits at €45.500, whereas to take a 20d home you must part with at least €54.850. One pattern begins to appear: the X2 is not a cheap car. In fact, if you take into account that this is an X1 in a different suit, where are the extra €1500 you have to pay for 2 – model for model?
Well, first of all, there’s the way it looks. The X1 is quite generic and, dare I say, a bit bland. It is for those who really don’t want a 3 series Touring because they were caught in the SUV band wagon. The X2 is something else. It looks different. Bolder. More interesting. Its design is not plain, which means it takes a while to soak it all in.
In fact, for the four days I drove one around I was looking at it, searching for the design as a whole, as I constantly found new details, new ideas. I really like it when that happens.
Then, there’s the way it drives. Being a more driver’s oriented model, the X2’s set up is different from the X1 and you can feel it. It’s more eager, it’s more dynamic, it’s, well, better. I borrowed a X2 xDrive 20d with the M-Sport Pack, which sits at the top of the range. Because I drive every new BMW that comes out, and because I know what this engine and gearbox are capable of, it is easier to distinguish the nuances of any given chassis onto which they are put.
The X2 drives really quite well. But be very careful: it drives very well for an SUV. A 3 Series saloon or Touring drives a lot better. So this is a bit of a paradox, actually: the X2 is an SUV for people who like driving, but people who like driving would be better off with a 3 Series.
I guess, then, that what it means is, assuming the image the car projects is the most important factor in the purchase process of an SUV, and the reason buyers prefer an SUV to a hatchback or saloon, an X2 is aimed at those who ‘must’ have an SUV but still have a nagging feeling that driving pleasure should still be present.
Besides the drive, always very important for a BMW, the X2 is a quiet, comfortable place in which to travel and the overall quality is what you would expect from the Bavarians. The cabin is more appealing than the X1’s but you need to spend at least €15.000 in optional extras to make this feel like a proper premium proposition. Don’t even think about buying this car without the M-Sport Pack. I mean it. Really. It looks like it is not a finished item. Something like an X2-lite.
All in all, the X2 seems like a winner. I would still buy my 3 Series Touring, but, for all you SUV lovers out there, it doesn’t get much better than this.
P.S. a big thank you to my friend Fernando Guerra for the wonderful pics of the X2 he took at a very early 06:00am on a Sunday. He is one of the greatest architecture photographers of the world. He shouldn’t be this good at shooting cars. I am very glad he is.
By Guilherme Marques
Photos: Fernando Guerra