With four-cylinder xDrive28i versions of the 2014 BMW X1, you have a choice of rear-wheel drive (sDrive28i) or all-wheel-drive (xDrive28i). But if you crave excess, there's a turbocharged in-line six and included AWD in the X1 xDrive35i.
Altogether, that drivetrain's expected to generate 0-60 mph times of 5.3 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph; but the xDrive28i is surprisingly quick, too, and can do the 60-mph dash in as little as 6.2 seconds. .
With the four, the X1 feels perky and plenty strong, with 240 horsepower at 5000 rpm and peak torque of 260 pound-feet at 1250 rpm through 4800 rpm. It's coupled only with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift controls and stop/start.
A little perspective could help here: Just this base X1 is as fast to 60 mph as the first E30 M3.
The xDrive all-wheel drive system works with stability control to split torque front to rear (variable to 20:80, with an available Performance Control option); it requires the X1 to retain BMW's former hydraulic steering unit--while the rear-drive sDrive28i can be packaged with a more efficient electric power steering system, hence the gas-mileage differences.
While we haven't driven a rear-wheel-drive X1 and thus can't comment on its electric power steering, the hydraulic systems in the xDrive versions are excellent. It's not particularly quick, but it's a pleasure to wind and unwind. If there's one standout impression of the X1's performance, it's of fluidity at speed--not something that crossovers typically excel at.
Our test X1 xDrive28i came equipped with a Sport package including 18-inch wheels and tires, Servotronic variable-ratio steering, but without the M Sport Package and Performance Control. The package hasn't been as well-reviewed as we'd expected, with understeer a big complaint--as much at issue as the base X1's electric power steering. And the brakes pour out more pedal feel than the entire lineups of some automakers from half a world away.
Expect BMW dynamic excellence here; you'll find very little body roll or dynamic misbehavior, and the X1 doesn't feel flustered being driven like a sport sedan, or by brittle, broken Michigan byroads. Skip the M Sport package and it's capable of soaking up all kinds of small imperfections without skittering over them in unimpressive ways.
Off paved roads, the X1 is surprisingly deft--more so, at least, than you might expect given its off-road performance. While it doesn't have the sort of wheel articulation you need for rutted trails, it has enough toughness and ground clearance for gravel roads or snowy driveways.