2017 BMW X1 xDrive28i Test Drive

Terry Box | July 12, 2017
2017 BMW X1 xDrive28i Test Drive

One sunny afternoon in Southern California, I watched a squat, black BMW destroy wicked Mulholland Drive in a frenzy of high-pitched snarls.

I’m pretty sure it didn’t rank as the strangest thing that happened in loopy L.A. that day, home to a middle-aged guy who roller-blades in a trench-coat with a Beagle clinging to his back. Honest.

But the images of that early ‘90s 3-series Bimmer shredding Mulholland’s lethal 15-mph curves -- its tail swinging left and right in precise, smoky violence – stuck hard.

In these truckin’ days, though, my musty memories of low, loud, road-eating coupes sometimes seem as outdated as most of my clothes.

When many people think BMW now, they see a tallish crossover like the 2017 X1 xDrive28i I had recently.

In fact, I think these slightly awkward-looking station wagons could become BMW’s new “Ultimate Driving Machine” in a couple of years.

Whoopee. Can I please go back to the ‘90s if I take my Rage Against the Machine CD with me?

Although the German automaker built about 50,000 more coupes and sedans last year than crossovers, virtually all of the company’s growth in 2016 came from high-riding vehicles like the X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6, and dealers want more.

BMW always manages to squeeze more performance out of an engine than should be possible.

Meanwhile, sales of my beloved 3-series cars – the vehicles that once defined BMW -- tumbled a daunting 25 percent.

Oh, well. At least the metallic brown X1 I had recently – BMW’s most compact crossover -- wore its traditional kidney-bean grilles and carved sides well.

While it looked like a small BMW station wagon, the all-wheel-drive X1 actually rode on a front-wheel-drive platform shared with Mini, a subsidiary of BMW.

Still, once I got over that shock, I had to admit the X1 looked pretty inviting.

Besides those upright twin grilles, the little BMW featured a long, slightly raised hood and fairly thick sides with the company’s prominent character line cutting through the door-handles.

It’s large front and rear doors felt a bit odd, but the X1’s wheels were pushed to the corners of the body, making it appear kind of taut.

The truck-let also rolled on reasonably sporty-looking 18-inch BMW basket-weave style wheels wrapped with 225/50 tires.

Just two model-years ago, X1s were built on rear-wheel-drive platforms and propelled by one of BMW’s silky six-cylinder engines.

Pop the hood on an X1 today and you will find a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine mounted sideways, similar to what you would see in the bay of a front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper.

BMW always manages to squeeze more performance out of an engine than should be possible, and that is certainly true of the X1’s turbocharged, direct injected four-banger.

Though rated at a modest 228 horsepower, the engine spins out 258 lb.-ft. of torque at a diesel-like 1,250 rpm.

As a result, the 3,700-pound crossover sort of hummed with energy, pushing away from stops with a convincing surge that lasted 2,000 rpm or so.

The upscale tan interior gave the vehicle a nice near-luxury feel to go along with its price.

While a bit spongy initially, the little engine happily revved to 6,000 rpm, summoning tight, quick shifts from its 8-speed automatic and hitting 60-mph in a swift 6.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Drive it better than I did and you should get 22 miles per gallon in town and 31 on the highway.

Even more surprising given the X1’s 62-inch height, it turned into corners pretty aggressively, and felt fairly planted despite some body lean.

Find outr, the traction from its all-wheel-drive kept the truck-let clawing for grip and composed in relatively fast corners.

Like most modern vehicles and half the millennials I’ve known, however, the X1 didn’t communicate very well.

While it’s steering responded quickly, it felt kind of heavy and fuzzy, conveying little road feel.

If you’re as immature as me and drive around in “sport” mode all the time, expect a busy ride, the X1’s suspension stepping fairly hard over bumps and rises.

It rarely turned harsh and never really bothered me, but then, I kind of expect to be jostled and jarred these days.

At $45,120, the X1 was hardly cheap, but at least the upscale tan interior gave the vehicle a nice near-luxury feel to go along with its price.

A conservative black dashboard, for example, was finished in classy flat-tone plastic, curving gracefully over a traditional-looking instrument panel.

As a little bonus of sorts, the X1 also offered 27 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats.

The lightly sculpted dash also supported a 6.5-inch display screen about the size of an iPad, and featured a USB audio-connection and hands-free Bluetooth.

Tan plastic matching the seats and door centers covered the lower dash. Unfortunately, for those of us who prefer to watch the road when we drive, the stereo required using a touchpad on the display screen to tune it.

Those fine-looking tan leather seats, though, provided supportive bolsters and sectioned, sculpted centers, while leg- and head-room in back was good.

As a little bonus of sorts, the X1 also offered 27 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats.

Granted, I never mistook the X1 for one of BMW’s six-cylinder sedans.

Many buyers want compact crossovers today – not six-cylinder sedans – and the X1 is a dynamic alternative with plenty of BMW’s DNA in its new-fangled oil.

2017 BMW X1 xDrive28i

  • What I liked most: The X1’s lively performance and handling, which exceeded my expectations.
  • What I would change: The display screen and its distracting touchpad controls.
  • MSRP: Base price, $35,100; as equipped, $45,120.
  • Fuel Economy: Rated at 22 miles per gallon in town, 31 mpg on the highway and 25 combined, with the filler on the right.
  • Official color: Dark Olive Metallic.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 1,018 miles.
  • Weight: 3,736 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 175.4 inches long/71.7 inches wide/62.5 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 16.1 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Not available.
  • 2017 BMW X1 xDrive28i in a few words: If you can afford a near-luxury price, the X1 may be the best compact crossover in the segment.
  • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty.
  • Final assembly location: Regensburg, Germany.
  • Manufacturer’s website:
Photo credit: BMW
Tags: bmw, review, suv, test drive, x1
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