Dave Humphreys samples the newest addition to BMW’s ultra-successful range of X-Series SUV, and comes away mightily impressed.
Our interest is always piqued when BMW launches not only a new car, but a whole new model name. The introduction of the X2 comes as no surprise, given both the success of existing ‘X’ models, and the ever-increasing global demand for crossovers and high-riding vehicles. More than five-and-a-half million BMW X vehicles have been sold since 1999 and last year, the X1 was the company’s top seller, with 286,661 sales globally; an increase of 30% compared to 2016.
Currently, there are two distinct silhouettes used by BMW’s range of X cars, with the odd-numbered X1, X3 and X5 adopting a more traditional, SUV shape with an upright rear. Many slated the coupé-like X6 when it first appeared on the scene back in 2008, but it went on to enjoy considerable sales success and, latterly, spawned the smaller X4, while serving as proof that there was customer demand for such a vehicle around the world.
So, quite naturally, BMW has opted to fill in the gap in the line-up with the new X2, but it follows a different approach. It forgoes what should have been a sloping roofline, were it to follow its bloodline, in favour of a more upright rear. BMW describes the X2 as a ‘Sports Activity Coupé’, as it did with the original X6. The company’s head of design for the Compact Class, Thomas Sycha, explains that he expects the X2 to appeal to a very different, younger buyer, but that it still needs to retain functionality without compromising on style.
It certainly stands out more than some others in the X line-up – and that’s not just because of the eye-catching (if divisive) Galvanic Gold paintwork featured on all the test cars at the international launch. Even when viewed in isolation, the X2’s proportions stand out. Reach for the measuring tape, and you’ll find that it’s over 70mm shorter than the X1, yet it has the same wheelbase.
Pushing the wheels closer to the corners by reducing the front and rear overhangs, is a clever way of improving any car’s appearance, but it’s especially well-executed with the X2. But there’s also the semi-coupé roofline that crowns the slimmer side glass; these features really round-out the car’s appealing image. Elongating the top of the rear door better integrates the traditional Hofmeister kink, without the need for an additional pane of glass so, whereas the BMW X1’s side features four panes, the X2 makes do with three.
Reducing the height of the glazed areas also plays a role in emphasising the car’s planted stance; you could almost call it chunky! Sitting on 19in alloy wheels, the slightly squared-off wheel arches are well-filled and don’t necessarily shout long-travel suspension, nor does it look to encourage any serious off-roading. We suspect the car park at the local mountain-bike trail might be just about as challenged as the xDrive transmission ever gets.
As with more recent BMW X models, there is now greater differentiation in the exterior body kit, according to the car’s specification grade. These differences are highlighted in the X2’s side skirts especially. Standard models will see the cladding finished in black, and they’ll roll on 17in alloy wheels. While a smaller rear spoiler doesn’t look very impressive, it is the basic version that arguably appears the most SUV-like.
Choose an M Sport version, though, and the X2 adopts a more road-biased image, with the cladding finished mostly in the car’s matching paintwork. Up front, the bumper section takes on a more striking look, with a more attractive finish around the fog lights, which appear pushed right to the edge of the car’s nose. Along the side, some of the detail in that cladding is lost by virtue of being painted, though the rear looks more shapely thanks to a longer spoiler. Wheels for the M Sport variant start with 19in rims, with the option of upgrading to 20s.
One interesting side note is the construction of the tailgate. To make the X2’s rear appear more cohesive, the hatch is double-skinned. An outer plastic layer is fixed on to a metal inner, to create a flush finish that integrates better with the sculpted rear lights. The boot itself measures in at a useful 470 litres. There’s a decent aperture to access it too, though the hard parcel shelf doesn’t rise up that high due to the shape of the upper section of the opening, which could be a nuisance when reaching deeper into the boot.
PIPES OF PEACE
All four-cylinder-engined X2s feature twin tailpipes, with only a single exhaust differentiating the smaller engines. At 90mm in diameter, the outlets are bigger than those that grace the BMW X6.
But to see the X2 in its most appealing guise, as seen in our images here, you need to look to the M Sport X trim. It’s here that the cladding is most stylish, finished in Frozen Grey and leaving a sliver of body-coloured sill beneath. Machine-faced Y-spoke 722M alloy wheels complete the look that also features chrome window surrounds. If there is one grade that leaves you in no doubt about the X2’s premium credentials, this is it. Two other notable aspects of the X2’s exterior design will undoubtedly become discussion points. For the first time on a modern BMW, the company’s signature kidney grille design has changed. The familiar trapezoidal shape gets flipped upside down, widening from the bottom up.
Sycha says that this was done to emphasise the car’s solid stance and it will continue to be seen in other models going forward, including the forthcoming 8 Series. While unlikely to upset the purists that much, it does mark a new chapter in BMW’s design language, where the kidney grilles will be shaped to fit in more with their respective model’s character.
What will no doubt spark debate among purists and BMW historians alike, though, is the design team’s decision to fit the BMW roundel to the X2’s C-pillars. Evoking memories of iconic cars like the 2000 CS and 3.0 CSL isn’t necessarily wrong, but some may question doing so with a ‘mere’ crossover. But, regardless of which side of the fence you sit, it’s a brave move and demonstrates that BMW is still willing to go a little off-piste when it comes to design.
Inside, much of the main architecture is shared with the BMW X1, but the choice of materials and design inserts gives the car a fresher image, especially if you choose a model further up the range. Up front, the centre console appears to be more favourably angled towards the driver, and retains a familiar layout to the X1’s.
On both M Sport and M Sport X models, there’s a new upholstery combination of Micro Hexagon fabric and Alcantara Anthracite with the usual M piping, and either blue or yellow contrast stitching. The latter stands out and fits in well with the M Sport X look.
The instrument binnacle and centre console facias get a high-gloss black finish that looks smart, while the latest automatic gear selector receives similar treatment. All models get the now familiar, free-standing infotainment screen, with standard versions coming with a 6.5in display. Many will want to upgrade to the 8.8in Touch Control system, which is as lovely to use as it is to look at. It also works particularly well if you want to use it in conjunction with Apple CarPlay, for example.
Our test car was also equipped with BMW’s optional, full-colour Head-Up Display. It provides all the relevant information in a clear and easy-to-read layout and, if you’re using the navigation system to find your way, its turn-by-turn guidance display makes the journey easier. Even more complex junctions are simple to read as a result.
But as interesting and connected as the X2 is, the biggest question for us is, how well does it drive? For now, we can only tell you what the xDrive20d is like; though this 190hp engine is one of the initial launch powerplants, it will be joined by a more powerful 231hp xDrive25d variant, which has a hefty 450Nm of torque. Both diesels feature an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.
BMW will also offer an X2 sDrive20i with a seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission. Later this year, the engine range will further expand to include a three-cylinder sDrive18i and additional four-cylinder versions, including the xDrive20i, xDrive18d and sDrive18d.
What’s noticeable right from the off in the xDrive20d, is that BMW has put more effort into noise suppression. Its four-cylinder engines aren’t known for being the quietest but, in the X2, the noise levels are lower than they are in the X1. In traffic, the eight-speed auto makes the most of the 400Nm of torque and keeps engine speeds mainly on the low side. The steering is light and has a pleasant, consistent feel to it. Even on the larger 19in wheels, the suspension soaks up broken, city Tarmac without transmitting much of it through the cabin. Even sharper thuds are well absorbed.
Getting out of busy city traffic and on to less populated motorways helps to showcase BMW’s claim that the X2 is one of the slipperiest cars in the segment, with a coefficient of drag value of 0.28. There’s little in the way of road or wind noise, even at higher cruising speeds. The ride settles nicely and, for a passive suspension set-up, it feels very well damped.
Where the X2 truly shows its finely-tuned ride quality is when you get it on to a proper B-road. The M Sport suspension lowers the car by 10mm, yet doesn’t seem to detract from comfort levels. The X2’s suspension also benefits from a new set-up that sees a ring of plastic inserted into the bushings. This means that it can react much faster to a radial force, enabling it to respond better. Body control improves and it allows for the dampers to be softened from the outset. The result is a more controlled ride quality that’s closer to that of a saloon, than a high-riding crossover.
In the twisty stuff, the xDrive transmission works in tandem with that new suspension, while the M Sport’s linear and direct steering encourages you to explore the limits of the car’s grip. And there’s quite a bit of it to explore. Out of corners there remains a slight rear bias to the feel of the xDrive, and body roll is kept to a minimum.
You can flick through the gears yourself via the paddles on the Sports steering wheel, but simply leaving the transmission in ‘Sport’ works well enough if you just want to make good progress. The four-cylinder engine does get more vocal as you demand more from it, but there’s still enough insulation that you don’t feel like it’s being thrashed.
Away from trying to torture its Pirelli P Zeros, the BMW X2 feels very much its own car in the range. It’s engaging to drive and, importantly, it doesn’t feel just like a re-bodied X1. Some may even draw comparisons with the MINI Countryman, but the X2’s image and, more importantly, its driving experience, set it well above its relations.
While the X2 will undoubtedly add to BMW’s sales numbers, we can’t help but think it could also cannibalise some of the X1’s sales. One thing’s for sure, though, and that is BMW has once more stepped up its game in delivering a car that is as good under the skin as it is dripping in kerbside appeal. Even though the X2 is ostensibly pitched into the crossover/SUV territory, it is very much one of the sportier members of the X family. For the driving enthusiast, it is undoubtedly one of the more entertaining cars in this burgeoning segment.
More than five-and-a-half million BMW X vehicles have been sold since 1999, and BMW is confident that this new X2 will build on that impressive success.
Reducing the height of the glazed areas emphasises the X2’s planted stance; you could almost call it chunky!
Elongating the top of the rear door better integrates the traditional Hofmeister kink without the need for an additional pane of glass so, whereas the BMW X1’s side features four panes, the X2 makes do with three.
Top: Inside the X2, much of the main architecture is shared with the X1, but the choice of materials and design inserts gives the car a fresher image. Above left: The X2 will offer decent practicality across the range. Above right: Both M Sport and M Sport X models get a Micro Hexagon fabric and Alcantara Anthracite upholstery combination, plus either blue or yellow contrast stitching.
The X2’s rear hatch is double-skinned; an outer plastic layer is fixed to a metal inner, to create a flush finish that integrates better with the sculpted rear lights.
It’s an interesting styling move to place the BMW roundel on the X2’s C-pillar.
To see the X2 in its most appealing guise you need to look at this M Sport X version.
For the driving enthusiast, it is undoubtedly one of the more entertaining cars in this burgeoning segment
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2018 BMW X2 xDrive20d F39
ENGINE: 1,995cc, four-cylinder Twin Power
MAX POWER: 190hp at 4000 rpm / DIN
MAX TORQUE: 400Nm at 1400-3500 rpm / DIN
TOP SPEED: 137mph
PRICE (OTR ): £33,980
The car park at the local mountain-bike trail might be just about as challenged as the xDrive transmission ever gets