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BMW unleashes X1 prototypes

Bush-bashing baby BMW: The all-new X1 heads off-road in Mallorca.

Brand-new baby SUV from BMW let loose in Mallorca for global prototype press test

4 Jun 2009

BMW treated selected members of the US and European media to a world first drive of its all-new X1 compact SUV in Mallorca last week, when it also released no fewer than 135 images of its fourth X model in action for the first time.

Predictably, the lightly camouflaged pre-production prototypes offered up on the Spanish holiday island, ending two years of spy photography and representing the next step in BMW’s slow-release campaign, were virtually identical to the near-road-ready X1 concept that debuted at last September’s Paris motor show.

The only apparent changes for the production model that’s due to be manufactured in Leipzig, Germany from October, following its world debut at the Frankfurt motor show a month earlier, are detail changes to the rear bumper and wing mirrors, which now sport indicators.

Gone are the chromed inserts from the concept’s side skirts and lower front bumper, while the X1 continues BMW X themes like matt black plastic lower extremities for both the front and side bodywork, including wheel arches.

On the road, the X1 silhouette looks more like a high-riding version of the current 3 Series Touring (which is precisely what it is, complete with an xDrive system from the all-wheel drive variant not sold in Australia) than the far more angular, ungainly X3 mid-sizer.

14 center imageWhile the latter is expected to go further upstream in size, luxury and price when it is replaced by a second-generation model built not in Germany but the US from 2011, the X1 is nevertheless the best part of 100mm shorter, narrower and lower overall than the current X3, which now starts at $62,200 here.

While the new SUV’s interior is not pictured and remained partially disguised at Mallorca, reports suggest the X1 features an all-new dashboard design distinct from both the 1 Series and X3, whose pop-up central monitor does not get a look-in.

As the fifth member of the 1 Series model family, even though development of a redesigned version of the original five-door (E87) 1 Series hatchback is well advanced ahead of its launch (also in 2011), BMW newest SUV also joins three-door hatch (E81 – not sold here) and two-door coupe (E82) and convertible (E88) derivatives of the 1 Series.

The X1 will hit Australian BMW showrooms in February next year with a target starting price in the low $50,000s, making the world’s first premium compact crossover significantly more expensive than its most direct rival in the Volkswagen Tiguan (from $33,990) and similarly-priced small Japanese SUVs. That is at least until Audi’s Q3 arrives.

BMW Australia says the E81-series X1 will initially be available with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that powers the current entry-level X3 xDrive20d, which comprises more than 70 per cent of X3 sales. The 130kW xDrive20d will open the X1 range here.

However, BMW is later expected to add, for the first time in Australia, the company’s 150kW variable twin-turbo four-cylinder oil-burner, which BMW says is the world’s first all-aluminium diesel engine to deliver a specific power output of more than 100bhp per litre.

Offering claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in 7.3 seconds, it will be badged as the X1 xDrive23d.

In Europe, 105kW and 125kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, 190kW 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and 105kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engines will also be available, but there’s no sign of the X3’s 2.5-litre petrol or 3.0-litre diesel inline sixes.

Officially, the X1 xDrive20d sprints to 100km/h in 8.4 seconds, while the flagship xDrive30i does it in 6.7 seconds.

Unlike the rest of the range, the xDrive30i and xDrive23d will come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel gearshift paddles.

The standard xDrive permanent AWD system directs 70 per cent of engine torque to the rear wheels during normal conditions, but cheaper rear-drive versions of the X1 are expected to follow in Europe.

The X1 won’t go on sale in the US, BMW’s largest market, until 2011 - after production of the redesigned X3 commences in South Carolina.

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