Well, we are halfway through over one month “ownership” of our BMW X1 courtesy of BMW’s Access program and so far, have been using it pretty much every day for pretty much everything, nothing has gone wrong with the car, and I’ve begun to like to quite a bit.
The last time I tested the X1 was 4 years ago back in 2015 and one of the main issues I had with that car was its gearbox just felt old and didn’t quite feel up to scratch. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person who felt that way as BMW had since changed the gearbox on this car to a more modern twin-clutch DCT unit.
Believe me when I say that this new DCT gearbox makes a whole world of a difference to the driving characteristics of the car. Gearshifts are exceedingly smooth and the engineers have done a fantastic job to get it to work in harmony with the 3-cylinder powerplant attached to my car. So much so that I initially was wondering if I had the 4-cylinder unit. The gearbox does a remarkable job selecting the right gears, choosing when to hold onto a gear and when to drop a cog or two. Coupled with the rather unique burble of the little 3-cylinder, driving the X1 sDrive18i is dare I say, more fun than it’s bigger sDrive20i brother.
Ride and handling is once again a good area to remind myself of my previous drive of the car, it’s one thing to test a car over the weekend, quite another to have to use it daily. And as a daily, I liked driving it. It’s comfortable without giving too much body roll into the corners and handles well without too much harshness in the ride. Surprisingly, I do find that it rides and handles better than the XC40 we have in the household. I wonder if it is because of those 19s I slapped onto the Volvo? But regardless, between the BMW and the Volvo, one thing that stands out the most will have to be the weight difference.
I don’t quite have the stats now, but just from driving them, you can tell that the BMW is much lighter on its feet, it turns quicker, stops faster and doesn’t pitch and dive as much on throttle or braking. With the Volvo, I often find myself having to dig deeper into the brake pedal to get the car to stop but with the BMW, I can get it to stop pretty much where I want it to with consistent brake pressure. The Volvo also has a strange tendency to roll from side to side on really uneven surfaces which is something I do not experience in the BMW. Again, all this just shows how much more adept the Volvo is to cruising than being pushed around, the BMW, on the other hand, might have a front-wheel-drive chassis, but it just drives so well. Well enough that with the keys to both cars on hand, I’d usually take the smaller, less powerful X1.
The only issue I guess I have with the X1 would be that it does feel a lot less modern and high-tech when placed next to the Volvo, a car that at just a slight premium in price (compared with ours) came with plenty of digital screens and so many tech toys it’ll make little boys and girls in digital startups scream with delight. The X1, in comparison, is “just a car”. A good one no doubt, but still, “a car”.
As a driving machine, both cars are of course SUVs and thus, inherently flawed. But as something to use every day, I’m beginning to understand why the X1 is BMW’s top seller. I know it sounds strange, but I think I’m having more fun driving this than the bigger engined variant.
As for Access by BMW? Well, the car has not failed me in any way, which meant that there was no reason to contact anyone from BMW. So I guess my next correspondence with them will be when I eventually have to make arrangements for the car to be returned. It will be a rather sad day when she has to go back.