During my extended overseas sojourn in the USA, resulting in my absence from these columns for a while, the thing that really made a lasting impression in my mind was a dessert that is taking the young people in the west coast of the USA by storm named the “Dragons breath”. First started in Asia in the Philippines/Taiwan and introduced to the city of Angels by an ice cream parlour that I happen to habitually frequent by the name of “Chocolate chair”, where they custom make liquid ice cream to your taste, while you wait and then infuse it with Liquid nitrogen, which is maintained circa -196 to -320F, to instantly freeze up the liquid and form an ice cream dessert.
When you eat this dessert the temperature difference in your mouth and the liquid nitrogen sends out plumes of smoke like vapour from your mouth and nostrils like a dragon, thus giving the dessert its name. Kids as well as young adults love it and play with these smoke plumes to form different shapes etc lending to the spectacle. Despite health warnings even little kids have their crunchy flavoured cereal balls, which are like our TIPI TIP, laced with the stuff. Even I tried it and there is no enhancement to the taste but the spectacle is worth experiencing.
Amidst the Dragons Breath and Liquid Nitrogen experience I did manage to have some close encounters with some exotic metal like the Karma Revero and the Pagani Huayra and had the chance to drive a range of Bavarian heavyweights from the BMW stables too. Back on home territory I have just test driven the latest entry level SUV from BMW the second generation X1 designated F48. The little SUV is no dragon and does not exhale any fire from its front but only does so from its posterior via its single exhaust but fret not, as all X1 engines, including the 18i under test are Euro 6 compliant, for Nitrous oxides and Hydrocarbons and BMW has been ranked no 1 by the Dow Jones sustainability index as the most sustainable car company in the world for many years, so you can drive guilt free.
The first generation X1 though dubbed an SUV was more wagon than SUV, however the current iteration is a proper SUV and looks like a “honey I shrunk the X5” version, which makes it a great looker. It is 15 mm shorter, but a sizeable 23 mm wider than the outgoing E84 version and stands taller too, hence has a much nicer, aggressive and assertive road presence. The proportions look just great and the gait and stance now look very sporty.
The Kidneys are much larger as is the trend with BMW and more pronounced. The M sport version tested here was in a M sport specific colour, Estoril blue which is not offered on the other two spec levels namely S line and Sport line and lends itself beautifully to the body kitted and wheel arch extended sport spec which was adorned with the handsome style 570 double spoke bicolour 18 inch alloys. As SUVs go this one is indeed a very handsome piece of kit. The head lamps are the flat bottomed LED units with corner lighting and the rear clusters too are LED.
The version on test and on offer is loaded to the hilt and comes with every doodah and doodad available for the model including, glass panoramic sunroof, roof rails, smart key, with auto closing/opening boot, etc. The mirrors and side skirts are painted body colour and the roof rails and window surrounds are in satin black as opposed to satinated silver in the other versions. The rear diffuser too is painted in satin black and makes a nice contrast against the Estoril blue.
Mech & Tech
As this is the entry level version the engine for 2018 is a three cylinder 1499cc unit pumping out 140bhp, 4 bhp more than last year and 220nm of torque coupled to a new seven speed DCT gear box. The infotainment screen is the latest version of NBT Evo and is touch enabled and coupled to the I drive controller with handwriting recognition and the larger 8.8 inch version screen and the expensive head up display. Navigation via GPS is enabled by the agents prior to delivery which is a bonus. I checked out the navigation and it was spot on with its directional searches etc. Suspension is via multi-link, braking by ventilated discs all round and the steering is the now common electric rack.
The gear lever is the digital version but BMW has moved the stop button which was at the top of the fob which was very thumb friendly to a lower position, a minor irritant for BMW afficianados as all other models have this button at the top, which is the logical position. Three drive modes are on offer Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro. The handbrake is an electric one. A good 183mm of ground clearance is also on offer with the new X1.
The marvels of keyless entry provides easy ingress, and I plonk on the comfortable seats and with the panoramic sunroof cover opened the interior looked fabulous swathed in sunlight, looking bright and breezy the way I like interiors to be. I do a short drive in comfort which is the default mode and the ride is pretty impressive as BMW now gives you the option of speccing an M-sport with standard suspension as in this SUV, opting out of the rather stiff M sport suspension. The engine is very smooth and despite its three cylinder configuration there is no NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) that one can discern. The claimed sprint time to 100kmh is a rather respectable 9.6 secs and is class average for a 3 cylinder 1.5 litre. Though it will not set the asphalt on fire it is certainly swift enough for the daily commute and to get one out of tight traffic situations.
The kick down facility in the all new seven speed DCT transmission is almost instantaneous and you can overtake with a surge of torque which is placed between 1450-4200 rpm, this is the comfort zone of this car. I then did an extended drive in sport mode which I believe would be the preferred mode for most and the car feels more lively and responsive. In this mode if you do employ pedal to the metal driving one needs to rev the engine to its limit to induce gear changes, but I would prefer changing around 5500 rpm using the manual shifter, to make rapid and smooth progress.
Closer to 6500 rpm the engine seems to sound strained and I do not think it’s worth heading there to wring that last ounce of power from the little engine. The engine is indeed impressive and I would have loved if paddle shifters were on offer, but no worries you can still use the Steptronic, if you really feel like a race.
The car corners impeccably, with a wee bit of body roll and despite its front wheel drive layout, which is almost impossible to discern at normal driving, there was absolutely no understeer or steering tug. In a recent test by motoring journos in the USA, the X1 generated a best in class .86G of cornering force, against its rivals the Mercedes GLA, Audi Q3 quattro, Infiniti QX and the Lexus NX. The electric rack and pinion steering has plenty of feel and has been fettled by BMW to feel its best. The suspension set up is also brilliant and the SUV manages to be comfortable and soft at slow speeds and rides over ripples and broken road surfaces at speed in exemplary fashion, it even manages to flatten out mid corner bumps, without any disruption to the forward progress.
The brakes are another revelation, as the vented front and rear discs have a very gummy feel to it and grips and bites with uncanny, but progressive ferocity much like a leopards’ grip on its prey. No letting up or fading here till the little SUV is hauled to a halt. It comes equipped with lane departure control and pedestrian detection function. Whilst the lane departure control when activated in the city, where it has become impossible to drive within lanes, can be a minor irritant, but would be a boon on the highways. I guess its BMWs contribution to the errant motoring fraternity in Sri Lanka, who have a penchant to defy orderly lane discipline and would be particularly useful for the highway lunatics. The “sheer driving pleasure” and the “ultimate driving machine” DNA sure runs all over this fabulous SUV, so drive one to be converted.
Living with the X1
As opposed to the first generation where the interior was really Spartan with hard touch plastics, faux leather called Sensatec for the seats, and non-electronic single zone air-conditioning etc, this second generation X1 has a very premium and high quality interior with piano black and burl wood trim with aluminium edging and soft touch plastic and leather surfaces with beautiful double needle seaming done by artisans and dual zone climate controlled air-conditioning.
The X1 will be a great car to live with as it can comfortably accommodate 5 adults with plenty of head and leg room both in front and at the rear. Though the middle passenger in the rear may be wanting a bit of shoulder and leg space, the fit would certainly enhance the terms of endearment with ones fellow passengers. Though front wheel drive, BMW has persisted with the transmission tunnel though now reduced in size, due to standardized production architecture, as the model with the bigger engine using the same body shell, has four wheel drive. It’s a pity as some of the competitors have a flat floor at the rear which is a boon and space optimization was one of the reasons BMW went in for FWD in the first place. The rear seats have adjustable backs and can slide back and forth generating huge amounts of leg space which is a fantastic space liberating feature. The boot space is class leading and has a flat floor for ease of loading and also has a concealed under floor space large enough for a duffle bags. The 40/20/40 split fold rear seats can now be folded from the boot area using a switch which is very convenient, to extend cargo space. The boot has powered closing and the foot activated lift gate function which would be a boon for ladies, returning from their shopping expeditions with both hands laden with shopping bags. Though be warned, do not attempt this if you are in stilettos, unless you happen to be a ballerina adept at the pirouette.
There are plenty of oddment spaces and bottle and cup holders and the door pockets now accommodate one litre bottles which was not possible in the earlier model. The centre rear seat belt which is an irritant in most cars has been dealt with by the tech boffins at BMW by permitting it to retract to the rear roof via a magnetic anchor.
BMW has paid a lot of attention to detail in this version to make the interior as luxurious and tactile and feature packed as its upper end models and it really shows and the interior is now a very livable space, where you would want to spend time in. In its M sport guise the carpets and roof lining are in anthracite and you could opt for a choice of four interior colours, and our car was decked out in the rather durable black Dakota leather for its electric leather chairs. Both front seats have lumbar support and driver seat memory. The cup holders are covered in a concertina type cover and the centre armrest has a USB port and a wireless charge dock for the phone. The steering is also the thick rimmed leather covered M-sport version.
Whilst the customizable ambient lighting in laser strip form adds to the interior drama and spectacle, the fabulous twelve speaker Harmon Kardon stereo will ensure that both Michael Bubble and Rookantha sound their best at all times.. Ladies will also appreciate the rather thrifty turning circle and the ease of the steering, not to mention the illuminated vanity mirrors on offer. As is customary in most German cars the X1 comes with runflat tyres and sans a spare or the jack up paraphernalia, so buy yourself a tyre sealant kit.
The X1 has a 5 star euro NCAP rating and six airbags. It’s got a reverse camera with moving grid lines with front and rear parking sensors and a slew of other safety related features like latch anchors for two child seats. If you have ever used child seats you would have been very frustrated with chipped nails and the struggle to get them off when you need extra space, well these new latch anchors( I tried them a couple of times in a friends car) are very easy to slide on and off. Lane departure warning, auto dipping high beams and the usual ABS, Traction control etc are all a given. A sort of a notable but cheap omission is a blind spot mirror which is now a common feature and a very useful safety add on for highway motorists.
Fuel Econ & Price
The average fuel consumption for this model is 5.4 litres/100 km and urban is 6.4litres/100 kms whilst extra urban is 4.7 litres. The tank capacity is quite large at 61 litres and should yield at least a 1100 km range which is fabulous. Your journeys would only be interrupted by your urge to pee, poo or chew
Of course be warned that manufacturer claims come with certain caveats and preconditions that cannot be conveniently met in day to day running hence discount by at least 10% to arrive at real world figures. BMW conducts its fuel testing and performance testing using 98 Octane with a maximum of 10% Ethanol. The recommendation for the X1 is 95 octane, whilst 91 octane usage is also permitted.
Depending on the options one ticks the price would vary circa 12 million to 14 million SLRs, and one could order it in the Comfort line guise or in M sport guise. The X1 comes with a two year unlimited mileage warranty, which will give you 730 restful and worry free nights.
As an entry level SUV the X1 is extremely well endowed and lavished with all the luxury trimmings available in the high end models and is a great ambassador to introduce the brand image to would be first time BMW buyers. Due to the current duty waiver permit scheme in operation I am sure there would be very many first time BMW buyers and the XI would certainly give them a taste of what’s on offer in the rest of the range.
With a low 122 gms/km of CO2 emissions the X1 is very environmentally friendly and is euro 6 compliant for all emissions and qualifies for the green sticker to enter green designated environmental zones in German cities, so environmentally conscious, would be buyers need not fear that the Mahaweli will run dry or that the elephant population will dwindle every time one puts ones lead foot down on the thrill pedal.
The highest spec M sport version on offer leaves very little for an enthusiastic customer to do as it is loaded to the gills, hence its as good a time as any to get a fully specced car. Option crazy car dealers would love this spec as it gives them all the bragging rights on a platter. As the BMW tag line says its “Emotions vs Emissions and Passion wins”
THE NEW F48 vs THE OLD E84
Having owned 70 cars during my life time and still counting of which 26 have been BMWs, I would unhesitatingly state that the E84 BMW X1 is the car I have owned for the longest period of time and the most reliable, despite varied use by multiple drivers within my family. On a quick comparison of the F48 with the old, the differences are like curd and treacle, both are great having their own virtues but yet they are stunningly different. The E84 version imported to Sri Lanka was a back to basics version devoid of many options in order to meet the Duty Free Permit limit of USD 25,000/= at that time, hence there was no leather, no sunroof, no alloys, no climate control, no multi zone aircon, no DRLs and many more lacking. The current iteration however, again taking advantage of the engine capacity based current duty structure comes laden with all possible options and of course with the latest tech available currently, like navigation, Bluetooth, Apple car play, electric seats, leather, auto boot opening, head up display etc etc. The major differences are that the current version is FWD as opposed to RWD before and is Longer, wider and taller than the E84, but is 15 mm shorter in length. Its more SUV now than station wagon of the E84 and has 183mm of ground clearance compared to the 144mm. They both have 61 litre fuel tanks but the engine and drive train cannot be compared as the current version is a 1.5 litre 3 cylinder turbo petrol engine as opposed to the torque laden 1995cc 4 cylinder turbo diesel.
The former had a six speed auto as opposed to the seven speeder now. In all respects the current car is a great evolution of the former, it has more leg, head and shoulder room and interior packaging with adjustable and split rear seats making the car much roomier, the luggage space too is much liberated. The interior is top drawer and real premium in terms of fit finish and material as a BMW should be and makes the E84 look like a poor cousin, which indeed it was. If the current car can match, and I am sure it will, the reliability quotient of the E84, it would indeed be a life time investment for many first time BMW owners.
140bhp @ 6,500rpm
220Nm @ 1,480-4,200rpm
Seven speed DCT
Front wheel drive
Ventilated disc all round
Wheels & Tyres
225/50R18 all round
Style 570 M-Sport alloys
0-100km/h in 9.6s
Top speed 201km/h
Kerb Weight: 1,505kg
Fuel Tank: 61L
Boot Space: 505L