2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i review: Not your Bimmer baby

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i

The temptation to call 3013 BMW X1 the Baby Bimmer SUV is strong, but we won’t do it. It is, however, the smallest of its genre from the Ultimate-Driving-Machine company, below the large BMW X5 and mid-size BMW X3, and our test 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i is the smaller engined version of the X1. The BMW X1 xDrive3.5i has a bigger engine.

But how big is the BMW X1? At 176.5 inches, it’s a little less than two inches long overall than the 2013 Ford Escape. But the Escape is about a half foot taller, and the X1’s wheelbase of 108.7 is just shy of three inches longer than the Escape’s. And finally, the BMW X1 had a ground clearance of 7.0 inches, the Escape, 7.9 inches.

Those measurements tell a lot about the personality of the X1 versus other small crossover/SUV’s. It’s lower overall, not by much but enough to make a difference while its wheelbase is significantly, as those things go, longer. All other things being equal, that augurs for a sportier ride. Of course, things aren’t equal, and the folks at Ford might be able to equal the BMW in handling—BMW engineers are good but pixie dust is not a birthright—but that wasn’t Ford’s goal.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i dash

BMW interior designers show they can make curves with the dash of the 2013 BMW X1. (click to enlarge)

It’s about other numbers: The base price of the 2013 Ford Escape Platinum AWD, the highest trim line (which includes all-wheel drive and the turbocharged and direct injection 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine) has a base price of $32,120. On the other hand, the rear-drive 2013 BMW X1 sDrive2.8i checks in at $30,800. Advantage BMW, right? Well, remember that’s with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine but with rear-wheel drive and it’s the base price, before a lot of good stuff has been added in.

The all-wheel drive 2013 BMW X1 xDrive2.8i we tested had a base price of $32,350. But by the time all the options were added in—and there were some left over—our tester was up to $45,595. We’ll do the math: That’s more than 40 percent more—make that approaching half again, if you want—that the Escape Titanium. And that’s a lot.

Simply put, the BMW X1 is not only not in the same neighborhood, it’s in the next county over.

So what’s so special about the X1 versus the Escape, other than the circular logo instead of the oval?

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i cargo area

With the rear seats folded, 2013 BMW X1 has 63 cubic feet of accessible space. (click to enlarge)

Let’s start with the engine. Like the 2.0-liter Escape’s, the BMW’s engine is two liters, and it has direct injection and turbocharging. But the BMW goes at least one step further. It borrows its architecture from the BWM in-line six-cylinder engines and technology as well. The valve train not only has continuously variable valve timing but valve lift as well, which not only allows a wider range of intake and exhaust management, it even allows the elimination of the throttle plate, reducing restrictions in the intake tract for improved induction.

The turbocharger, like those in other BMW turbocharged engines, uses what BMW calls “TwinPower Turbo technology.” That’s not two turbochargers but rather a single turbo with two inlets, allowing the turbocharger to spool up more quickly to decrease any turbo lag.

The result of the engine tech results in 240 horsepower at 5000 rpm while maximum torque of 260 lb-ft is maintained from just 1250 rpm and up to 4800 rpm. Surprisingly, the Ford engine peaks at 240 horsepower as well, and makes 270 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Still, the BMW still gets there with a lot more technology, and the Bimmer’s wide spread of torque yields an engine blessed with remarkable flexibility. The X1 sDrive28i and xDrive28i scoot 0-60 mph in 6.2 and 6.3 seconds respectively.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i badging

BMW places trim level data on the lower edge of the front door, as on our test 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i. (click to enlarge)

The BMW X1 models also pass their power through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all are equipped with automatic stop/start technology. It’s unnerving at first to have the engine stop when the vehicle comes to a stop, such as at a red light. The engine restarts when the driver’s foot is lifted off the brake pedal, and does so with a twist that can be felt by everyone aboard. The engine will restart if stopped for much more than the typical stoplight cycle. It doesn’t have a hybrid’s battery. And start/stop doesn’t shut the engine off with the transmission in park, for the same reason.