IT WAS was back in 2015, somewhere inland from Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast, that former Wheels staffer Damion Smy and I exchanged ‘the look’. (No, not that look, people. Keep it clean. Family publication, etc.)
‘The look’ was all that was needed to encapsulate one of the those ‘oh dear, what have they done?’ moments.
We were sharing a BMW X1 on the Australian media launch, and Damo was in the passenger seat. For the previous 20 minutes or so, as the craggy but fast backroads pitched the X1 around like a cork in a cranky baby’s bath, neither of us had spoken, but we were both thinking exactly the same thing.
Then came a fast, sweeping left, with ripples in the bitumen created by logging trucks lumbering through on baking hot days. The X1 unloaded a spiteful volley of rack rattle and pitched drunkenly in protest.
“Jeez-us,” said Damo, already popping on what would be his imminent PR hat, “who chose these roads for this launch?”
I thought the roads were perfect, because while it was clear that the then-all-new X1, on UKL architecture shared with Mini (and 2 Series Active Tourer) had plenty of virtues, its hard-driven dynamic composure and chassis absorbency on lumpy Aussie bitumen weren’t among them.
It transpired that the cars we drove on the launch were fitted with conventional passive dampers. Optional adaptive dampers (officially Dynamic Damper Control), BMW explained, would be available for customers ordering their cars at that time for just $690, and would be fitted to a subsequent fleet of press cars.
Which is a slightly long-winded answer for any of you who may have sniffed, “What’s with the X1?”
It’s here, adaptive dampers very much present and accounted for, to seek redemption for its performance on that launch program, and its fairly unceremonious first-round exit at 2016’s Car of the Year, due mostly to – you guessed it – a lamentable ride.
We’ll get to the dynamic assessment of the adaptive-damped chassis in due course, but first, to the basics.
Ours is the top-spec petrol of a four-strong X1 range. All are 2.0-litre turbo four-pots; a low-output diesel in front-drive, high-output all-wheel drive, and the same pairing reflected in two petrol variants.
Our BMW X1 xDrive25i pumps out 170kW/350Nm (up 29kW/70Nm on the front-drive sDrive20i) which hustles it to 100km/h in a claimed 6.5sec and uses 6.6L/100km in the combined-cycle test.
Without options, we could have been away for just over $60K plus on-roads, but happily our example is a bit fruitier. It’s armed with the M Sport package ($2300) bringing a different design of 19-inch wheel running 225/45 R19 Dunlop Sport Maxx run-flat rubber, sports seats with comprehensive electric adjustment, as well as extendable under-thigh support and heating, external M aerodynamic package, M Sport wheel with paddle shifters, and the all-important Dynamic Damper Control, among a few other trim and black-out changes. The only other option fitted to our car is the Black Sapphire metallic paint at $1190.
The level of standard equipment is high – this top-spec version comes standard with the Innovations Package (optional on lower variants) that adds active cruise control, head-up display, Navigation Plus, DAB+ radio, as well as the Comfort Package: keyless entry, auto tailgate, and heated electric seats. But naturally that didn’t stop me scanning the options list to see what might have been.
The main omission that caught my eye was the Harman/Kardon 12-speaker/360-watt amplification upgrade ($1190), which would have been nice, as the stardard system lacks a centre channel, and when played loud, delivers bass that’s a bit muddy and thuddy, rather than tight and tuneful.
On the upside, early impressions suggest the X1’s ride and body control are vastly improved on the adaptive dampers, and the powertrain, packaging, interior treatment and general liveability are all winning me over.
A great second start after a bumpy beginning.