It all began with the X5, and now we are at another stage of the X Line’s evolution. Please welcome the X2
‘the standard reaction to another new X model is, “what? what for?”’
you’d think that after 14 years in this job, I’d have done it all. For almost a decade and a half, I’ve attended Tokyo Motor Shows, Middle East test drives, and Thailand road trips. But one exciting activity has eluded me: a European media drive in a European car.
I’ve driven in Europe in a personal capacity, thanks to my mom’s former employment in Italy. As a Top Gear writer, I’ve driven a G-Class in Austria, but only briefly and in a closed course. I’ve never truly known the pleasure of getting to know a new automobile in the charming continent it was designed in (and for).
Until now. I was invited by BMW Philippines, recently acquired by the San Miguel group, to experience the all-new BMW X2 in Portugal.
The standard reaction to yet another new X model is, “What? What for?!” It began way back in 1999 when the German carmaker unleashed the first X5 to the world. Ardent Bimmer fans were aghast that the blue-and-white propeller badge would adorn the vulgar American vehicle category known as the SUV.
But the X5 found a market, and even doubters were silenced because it was actually good. In a savvy bit of marketing, BMW never called it an SUV, preferring the term ‘sports activity vehicle’ (SAV). It couldn’t carve corners like a 3-Series, but it could seat five comfortably and even haul a few pieces of luggage. And enough DNA was retained for the X5 to merit being called a driving machine. Never mind the ‘ultimate’ part.
BMW was only getting started, apparently. The smaller X3 arrived next—a logical follow-up. But the X6’s debut in 2007 raised eyebrows again. A five-door midsize coupe-crossover... thing? What were the Germans smoking? But again, the sales vindicated BMW’s gamble. By the time the X1 arrived, we had already crossed the point of no return.
I confess I have a soft spot for the X line. I saw the first X5 at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show as a college student. Like most people, I had my reservations, and I wrote about my doubts in my online blog (yuck, blogger). That blog entry formed the basis for my sample article when I applied for a position at Top
Gear Philippines, and now here I am. Our family eventually bought a first-generation X5. All it took was a drive up to Baguio to convince me that this ‘SAV’ made perfect sense. As I negotiated a hairpin on Kennon Road, with “Nessun Dorma” playing in the insulated cabin, the X5 clung to the road and transmitted every kickback-ridden rut on the road to my fingers. My understanding of physics was broadened that day.
And now we arrive at yet another stage in the X
evolution—the X2. Like the X4 and the X6 before it, it’s the ‘coupe-fied’ version of an existing model, which, in this case, is the X1.
The program BMW has prepared for the global launch is simple: fly in, sleep, relax, attend dinner presentation, sleep, drive, relax, sleep, fly home. Trust the Germans to craft a fun itinerary in 13 words.
During the dinner, I’m fortunate enough to be seated next to Wolfgang Stutz, head of BMW’s engine technologies development. I learn that the X2 will be made in the German city of Regensburg, and that—in M Sport spec—it’s 10mm lower than the X1 and 7cm shorter from the street to the roof. Thee variants will be available at launch: sDrive 20i, xDrive
20d, and xDrive 25d. Later on, the sDrive 18i, xDrive 20i, sDrive 18d, and xDrive 18d will join the lineup. But the only option we have for our test drive is the xDrive 20d M Sport.
BMW is rightly proud of the mill in this variant—it’s a new engine, and the X2 is the first model to use it. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, it’s good for 190hp and 400Nm. This diesel powerplant uses a selective catalytic reduction system, also known as an NOx setup. A blue additive must be added
‘The X2 is low and squat, unlike its taller X1 sibling’
to the engine every 10,000km to manage emissions. As far as I know, BMW Philippines—or any local car brand, for that matter—has not yet made such a system locally available, so if we get the xDrive 20d, it’ll be a first for our market.
The BMW fanboy in me raises his hand, and I ask Herr Stutz if the bigger in-line-sixes will make their way to the X2’s engine bay. He says that X2 engines are mounted transversely, and inline engines are quite long, so there. But he says they’re happy with the diesels, and their target was smooth power delivery during development. I guess I’ll find out soon enough if they’ve accomplished this.
On the day of the drive, I take a few minutes to soak in the details of the gleaming X2 before me. BMW driving events are rather chill—something I didn’t expect from the exacting Germans. You just present your driver license, get a key, go to the row of parked demo units, press unlock on the key fob, then drive the BMW that lights up. Then just bring it back in one piece before the 3pm deadline.
Is there love at first sight? I’m going through a gold phase right now, and this unit in Galvanic Gold metallic is calling to me. BMW says it is reaching out to a young market with this model, thus this bling hue and new colors like Sunset Orange and Misano Blue. These sound more like Air Jordan colorways than car-paint options. But the Galvanic Gold finish is not tacky. You can see the deep luster of the metal, and the shade looks more mustard-yellow than full-on rapper bling.
After getting over the color, I analyze the body shape. The X2 is certainly attractive, but is it beautiful? My brain doesn’t give me a verdict right away. It’s low and squat, dancing between the crossover and wagon categories. Its X1 sibling would look positively tall beside it.
The omnipresent kidney grille is here, but this time it’s wider at the base than at the top—a first for a modern Bimmer. On either side of it are halogen headlights with hexagonal LED DRLs as standard. Full LEDs are optional. While staring at the
bumper—the engine has been started by now—I see flaps behind the grille opening automatically to let in air. They close a minute later. Whoa.
The 19in M Sport wheels are gorgeous, no contest. Standard X2s will get 17in rollers, but you’ll feel bad if you don’t get the M Sport trim. What surprises me the most is the appearance of the BMW roundel on the C-pillar, beside the Hofmeister kink. Bimmer fans will know this badge from the classic 2000 CS and
3.0 CSL from the ’70s. This is an unexpected—but welcome– throwback.
The cabin is as fine as the exterior. An elegant leather steering wheel, paddle shifters (optional), driver-oriented instruments, and a joystick transmission greet you when you enter. A high-resolution infotainment screen—standard across the range—dominates the center of the low dashboard. The metallic trim has an intricate mesh pattern that I can’t resist running my fingers over.
The seats are covered in alcantara-like fabric with yellow stitching. I don’t know if these have been designed to match whatever body color the X2 has, and I don’t want to ask around because I’m itching to drive at this point.
From our hotel in Lisbon, the route is set to take us to
the Ribeira D’Ilhas Surf Restaurant & Bar, about 60km away, and back. That’s only an hour’s drive away and we have about six hours with our test cars, so we have time to take photos and go around the countryside.
Like most of Europe, Portugal has amazing roads— supernaturally wide and well-maintained compared to our road network. I find the X2’s driving position is great, and this in itself is an argument getting a crossover. You sit snugly in the well-bolstered seat, but you have an expansive view of what’s ahead. In Metro Manila, where surprises in the form of distracted pedestrians and uncaring taxis jump at you, advance warning is precious.
Herr Stutz is absolutely correct—the engine is smooth as butter. The diesel hum is still there to bother finicky titos, but to me, it just fades into the background. Mash the pedal and the Bimmer surges forward with alacrity, but I feel the chassis can handle much more. Being the lowest model to the ground in the X lineup, the X2 displays the least body roll among its crossover siblings. Even then, road imperfections are easily absorbed by the chassis and the suspension.
My lightbulb moment with the X2 arrives when the navigation system leads me to a series of very tight streets—it almost feels like I’m back in Manila. On either side of my gold BMW are inches separating me from an embarrassing apology to my German hosts. But the X2’s compact dimensions, accurate steering, and exact throttle feedback ensure that I won’t be remembered as that portly Asian journalist who struck gold paint.
My convoy stops to take photos, and as I enter the X2 again, the side of my head hits the door frame—a reminder of this crossover’s diminutive size. I have a chance to sit in the back (with Singaporeans in the front seats), and it feels comfortable. The top of my head doesn’t brush the tapered roofline, so six-footers should have no trouble riding in the back. I do feel a little dizzy once we hit the mountain curves—a possible downside to having a small cabin rotate so quickly. But overall, it’s still a pleasurable ride.
As I return the key of the X2, I ponder on the weaknesses of this new model. At 10-11km/L, fuel economy could be better, but we’ve also done a lot of throttle mashing. The design looks a little awkward from some angles, but that’s subjective.
Like all the even-numbered X models, this will boil down to taste, because the driving feel is practically guaranteed. If you’re turned off by the look and the idea of the X2, then don’t bother. But if it strikes a chord within you and you’re up for something bold, versatile, and fun to drive, then all you have to do is wait till BMW Philippines brings this in and pick a color.
There’s something about a three-spoke tiller that we love