The bargain BMW: the all new X1

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The brand new, 2016 BMW X1 was just launched a month back in Dhaka. Available through Executive Motors at a bargain price of less than 80 lakhs, the all new X1 comes loaded with features and is a joy to drive.

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Targeted squarely at families who will be purchasing their first ever BMW German luxury car or families with existing 3 or 5 series sedans in their driveway but want to have an SUV as well, the X1 is the baby SUV in the X range of BMW’s. Smaller, more efficient, and cheaper to drive and maintain than both the X3 and the flagship X5, the X1 is meant to provide you with the BMW experience without breaking your wallet like other SUVs.

The BMW for the last few years ethos has largely been the right balance between efficiency and luxury extravagance. Nothing else signifies that as much as the relatively new motor they’ve employed as a power source for the 2 and 3 series – the 1.5 litre 3 cylinder TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine. It’s tiny, yet powerful; more importantly, it helps BMW beat the restrictive import tax placed on cars with large displacements and helps them reach more remote markets such as ours. BMW has taken the concept of a turbocharged engine and taken it back to its roots – in the 70’s, the turbocharger was a way of downsizing engines with big displacement but making sure the power remains the same, essentially reducing the amount of fuel needed to make the power. It changed the world of automobile performance, but what it was intended to do was help the cars and their manufacturers beat a worldwide oil crisis. And BMW have decided to put their smallest motor in their range to the test by putting it in their smallest SUV.

The TwinPower nomenclature might make some people think the engine comes with twin turbos, but in reality it comes with a single twin scroll turbocharger that is designed to operate silently and in the background, adding power and torque to the low and mid ranges while the engine does its thing just like a naturally aspirated engine would. Its supposed to feel like a naturally aspirated engine – unlike the Japanese, the Germans prefer to hide and muffle the evidence of a turbocharger. Equipped with 136 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, the 1.5 litre motor is powerful and compact, so don’t let the 3 cylinders fool you.

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While driving, the X1 lets you enjoy the motor to its fullest in the mid ranges. The engine is at its happiest in the 4500-5500 RPM range, purring along gently till you decide you need more thrust. Generous dabs of the throttle result in a lively, muted growl and the speedometer starts climbing up. It’s not a frantic sort of acceleration, although the uneven cylinder configuration does make the engine sound a little rough and capricious when you’re pushing the car harder. It’ll do fine on the highways if you decide to take your BMW SUV to your country house or on a roadtrip, but where it will shine is navigating the urban traffic crawl – the amount of torque available to your right foot and the 8 speed Steptronic gearbox makes it a breeze to navigate in stop-start traffic.

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Inside, you get all the amenities you expect in a BMW. BMW’s signature infotainment system, BMW i-Drive, is a marvelous piece of tech that is much more user friendly than what the rivals at Mercedes Benz and Lexus have, allowing you to navigate between on-board vehicle information to your essential multimedia to the digital user manual. You get a full array of audio options along with Bluetooth handsfree, phonebook sync and steering mounted controls. There’s dual zone climate control, rear air-conditioning, a fully powered panoramic roof, and a plethora of safety features including eight airbags, parking sensors and safety restraining system. If its equipment you look for in a car, in the X1, you’ll be a satisfied user.

The front and rear seats, clad in beautifully crafted Sensatec leather, will cocoon you and leave you in comfort, whatever the length of your journey. While it doesn’t have the fancy back massage and ventilation trickery that the X5 and 7 series flagships come with, it still says a lot about the premium nature of BMW vehicles, if their smallest SUV is equipped with leather thrones for seats. In the rear, the legroom is plentiful and the boot will swallow up any amount of luggage you throw at it. The tiniest of complaints about the car is the width – with a big person in the passenger seat and a big person driving the narrow-ish X1, arms will rub and fight for space on the center console armrest.

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Other than the narrow dimensions of the X1, there is very little that will take away from your BMW SUV experience. The suspension is finely tuned to give you uninterrupted access between paved road and muddy village terrain, with no perceptible drop in ride comfort in the switchover. The low ride height and the massive wheels with low profile tyres can be deceiving – this SUV is definitely not a complete soft-roader running from unpaved roads. You can use it as you would use your Pajero or Prado, but perhaps to a lesser degree.

With all that in mind, the BMW X1 makes a whole lot of sense for people who are looking into purchasing their very first BMW. Unless you want to opt for a 3 series from the 90’s that you found going for 5 lakhs on bikroy.com, the X1 is your gateway to BMW ownership. And why wouldn’t you go for an SUV that is quiet, luxurious, economical yet powerful, loaded with technology, and able to go (somewhat) off-road?

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