BMW strikes back

The right price should have buy­ers beem­ing, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE bat­tle for buy­ers’ dol­lars is heat­ing up as BMW fights back against the Ja­panese in­cur­sion into its mar­kets.

The X1 sDrive range swaps all­wheel-drive for power just from the rear tyres. That earns them a hefty sav­ing and puts the Bavar­ian brand back on the radar of shop­pers con­sid­er­ing Subarus, Toy­otas and Hon­das, whose com­pact SUVs have started to nib­ble at the pres­tige sec­tor.

The 2.0-litre petrol and dieselpow­ered sDrive mod­els — the petrol ver­sion is con­fus­ingly known at the sDrive 18i — are the bar­gains of the BMW range, priced at $43,500 and $49,300 re­spec­tively.

The baby X mod­els are al­ready a suc­cess — more than 1300 peo­ple have bought X1s this year — but BMWsays though some buy­ers pre­fer the raised seat­ing height they don’t nec­es­sar­ily want the weight of an all­wheel-drive sys­tem.

‘‘Many cus­tomers en­joy the ride­height, load space and all-round prac­ti­cal­ity of a life­style ve­hi­cle with­out nec­es­sar­ily want­ing all-ter­rain ca­pa­bil­i­ties,’’ BMW Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Stavros Yal­louridis says.

‘‘ For these cus­tomers, the new sDrive X1 wag­ons have bet­ter fuel econ­omy, even bet­ter on-road agility and ex­cep­tional value for money.’’

That value equa­tion is the one BMW is count­ing on, with the range­top­ping Toy­ota RAV4 now $49,990, Honda’s best CR-V $42,790 and the Subaru Forester as high as $45,490. If BMW is right and a lot of peo­ple are more wor­ried about sit­ting up than stray­ing off-road, the sDrive range may be a win­ner.

A brief stint in the sDrive 20d is enough to show that it will turn more than a few heads to­wards the BMW badge.

The styling is un­mis­tak­ably BMW and that’s what most peo­ple will no­tice when you turn up.

It’s the drive and the in­te­rior lay­out that aren’t typ­i­cally top-shelf BMW — there’s no iDrive con­troller, for ex­am­ple— but that’s some­thing first­time BMW buy­ers won’t no­tice.

For them the air­con­di­tioner will be quick to heat or cool, the wind­screen wipers will au­to­mat­i­cally start as the rain falls, the rear park­ing radar will im­press their friends with grad­u­ated beeps as they get closer to the wall and it will still smell like a Beemer.

You get what you pay for and for close to $50,000, this is a car that de­serves to be shopped against main­stream com­pact SUV mod­els.

The en­gine is nois­ier than most BMW diesels at idle, but it dis­ap­pears once un­der way. It also gets along at a fair clip — the of­fi­cial 0-100km/h time is 8.3 sec­onds for the six-speed au­to­matic.

The au­to­matic will try to hold on to too high a gear on steep hills but flick the se­lec­tor into sports mode and the prob­lem goes away.

Too hefty a right foot ex­it­ing tight cor­ners will then light up the trac­tion con­trol warn­ing, but that’s to be ex­pected when 350Nm is un­leashed with­out due care.

For most of the time the ride is re­fined and it’s only when you push the sDrive be­yond the point of tyre trac­tion that it will give a dis­ap­prov­ing shake. It’s not enough to en­gage the sta­bil­ity con­trol, but 3 Se­ries sedan own­ers might won­der what went wrong. Then they’ll re­mem­ber the price . . .

The sDrive is not a per­for­mance car and doesn’t de­serve to be treated as such.

Fold down the rear seats and it will hap­pily take what­ever you throw at it, from bikes to re­moval boxes.

More im­por­tantly for po­ten­tial own­ers, it will also col­lect the kids af­ter school and ferry the fam­ily to the shack on week­ends with a look that says if you haven’t yet made it to the top, you’re work­ing on it.

High rider: the X1 sDrive counts on old-school rear-wheel drive.

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