BMW strikes back
The right price should have buyers beeming, writes Craig Duff
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.