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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The xDrive 35i does seem to accelerate like one of those dangerous over-engined sleds from the '60s, but without the danger.
We've always been huge admirers of the inline-6, but for once, it's not the best choice.
Brake feel is superb, and the steering precision and weighting are very good, even on the rear-drive model that uses an electrically assisted rack.
Car and Driver
...It's not the drift machine the rear-wheel drive layout implies. Even when turned off, stability control will allow no silly sideways shenanigans. And when you're driving along like a nun, you'll be praying to your local deity for some steering feel -- electric power steering has sacrificed it in the name of saving dinosaur juice.
what is the X1 for? Certainly not for off-roading (the suspension is simply old-gen 3-series bits, with a bit more ground clearance but no strengthening).
There are two and a half flavors of X1 on the market: excessive turbo-six AWD X1 xDrive35i, versatile, turbo-four AWD xDrive28i, and base turbo-four RWD sDrive28i.
If you're feeling sporty, the xDrive35i model will run from 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds to a top speed of 130 mph. However, we prefer the four-cylinder, especially with all-wheel drive, which can move from 0-60 is a surprising 6.2 seconds.
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.
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.
The last X1 we fully tested, a 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.
The available six in the 35i does make the most of the tenacious grip and surprisingly tidy body control; but the base turbo four is plenty gutsy.