Car reviews - BMW - X2 - sDrive20i
Design, packaging, sharper dynamics, ride on $400-optional adaptive dampers, seat comfort, dash ergonomics
Room for improvement
No manual, limited range of engines for now, high opening price
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1 Mar 2018
SLEEKER and more dynamic looking than the X1 it is spun from, the all-new X2 also offers a palpably sportier driving experience to match the styling, which is good news for BMW fans who thought that the company had begun to abandon its old ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ ethos.
We’re not saying that people should abandon their coupes, but there is a bit more interaction and response here in the sDrive20i than we expected.
Luxury compact SUVS. Overpriced and underperforming show ponies or worthwhile alternatives to regular sedans, wagons and hatches with posh badges?After extensive exposure with the successful but patchy BMW X1, we leaned towards the latter before being let loose in its lower, swoopier and sportier X2 offshoot.
On paper, the reduced practicality and inflated $2300 premium looked at only worsening and not bettering the experience.
However, an open mind is a handy thing to remember, because the front-wheel sDrive20i that BMW is bringing in as the sole representative of the F39 (until a cheaper petrol and all-wheel drive turbo-diesel is arrives mid-year) certainly did exceed expectations. And not just because the bar was set fairly low in the first place.
For starters, kudos to the Bavarian brand’s designers who’ve styled what is the best-looking even-numbered X-badged BMW in history.
Proportion meets restraint here, so your eyes are drawn rather than repelled by this compact SUV’s form. Nice proportions dominate.
We’re particularly impressed by the old-school C-pillar roundel placement, slanted wheel aches and animated front and rear light graphics.
Similarly, leveraging the X1’s neat and functional (if now totally anonymous within the BMW range) dashboard is no hardship for users, as the admittedly up-spec $4000 Launch Edition we drove (with its bigger central touchscreen, head-up display and sunroof as well as $1190-extra Harmon Kardon audio set-up) did lift the ambience up a notch above an sDrive18i.
Furthermore, even though there is less overall space inside compared to the donor SUV, you’d never call it cramped or claustrophobic, with even a six-foot adult clearing his head in the back seat despite the panoramic roof, while a 20mm-lower driving position and superb sports seats do help make the operator feel more like part of the car. Some impressive packaging smarts going on in there.
Surprise number four is how lively the 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre four-pot turbo petrol’s performance feels, providing eager off-the-line acceleration and sufficient overtaking power.
We never really had a chance to see how jerky or laggy the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is/isn’t, but on the wide-open roads around the ACT where the launch was held, smoothness was the word. And refinement too.
Best of all, though, is how more reactive and measured the electric power steering felt, resulting in the sort of agile and communicative handling you often wish for but don’t always enjoy in modern BMWs.
Again, the roads were pretty complementary, but driven with some enthusiasm, it is clear that the quicker-ratio helm – free of the variable-ratio nonsense that blights so many other models – works with, rather than against, fast and effortless roadholding.
We have high hopes for the incoming xDrive25i AWD range-topper.
Additionally, the $400 optional, but absolutely essential, Adaptive Suspension option really helped take the edge off a ride that BMW assures us is better than the X1’s due to the new-to-brand ‘pre-loaded stabiliser bushings’ – a plastic ring that results in faster reaction times when cornering, thus enabling the fitment of softer shockers.
We’re still not convinced that our $63,180 as-tested sDrive20i actually represents good value (how can BMW think it is OK to charge at least $429 for Apple CarPlay – even if it does have a cordless interface) and the (standard on our variant) M Sport package’s 19-inch wheel and tyre package were drone-prone over coarser surfaces.
We shudder to think how the poverty-spec sDrive18i’s cabin will look and feel.
However, none appear to be deal breakers if you have your heart set on a premium compact SUV because the X2 looks, feels and drives better than many we’ve tested – and certainly eclipses its X1 sibling.
We’ll reserve final judgement when we drive more from the range, but as it stands, the X2 is a big step in the right direction as far as both the even-numbered X-badged BMWs and upmarket small crossovers are concerned.
Now that’s a surprise!
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