X2 is the only BMW with the badge on its C pillar

X2 is the only BMW with the badge on its C pillar

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BMW keeps on filling out its Sport Activity Vehicle line-up, making 2018 a busy year for the brand's SAVs. The X7 will soon act as a new bookend to a range which starts with the X1. A new X5 is imminent, while the second generation X4 is arriving at dealerships. The line-up was recently completed - for now at least - by the X2, a 4,360mm long Range Rover Evoque rival.

Crossover looks, SUV abilities, BMW dynamics

The break up a wide expanse of metal, BMW has placed its stylised spinning propeller badge on each pillar.

March saw the arrival in European and North American dealerships of the first BMW to wear an X2 badge. The low-roof crossover had been heralded by a prototype which was exhibited at the 2016 Paris motor show. The production model was revealed to the public at the Detroit show in January with production starting up soon after.

BMW seems anxious not to make what some see as Audi's mistakes, in that at the front and rear ends, this new SAV looks like no other model in the brand's range of crossovers and SUVs. Having said that, the company's design team has done the same thing as Audi in that the wide pillars aft of the rear doors have been given distinctive styling touches.

While the Q2, which is smaller than the X2 and X1, has a large slab of silver-painted trim covering its largest pillars, BMW has instead placed its stylised spinning propeller badge on each pillar. That not only breaks up the wide expanse of body-coloured metal but also references some of the make's most attractive models from its long-ago past such as the 3.0 CSL. That car's thin pillars now look shockingly unsafe, which is worth remembering for anyone who think many of today's vehicles border on the inelegant, or worse.

Another touch which takes BMW design in a new direction is the grille. No, we aren't returning to the era of shark-nosed models, more's the pity. Instead, the shape looks like that of other BMWs, only upside down.

Do the various elements of the exterior design work? They certainly offer buyers yet another distinctive choice over not only the X1 and far larger X3 but also the best selling 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Gran Tourer. As noted recently, these MPVs, grouped in with the low volume coupé and convertible, have made the 2 Series the brand's best selling model line in Germany.

If BMW can make a running change to fix the issue with the mirrors and make a spare tyre standard, this would then be close to being best-in-segment.

Probably the best way to sum up the way the X2 drives is to say that you cannot tell that this is a transverse-engine, front-wheel drive architecture SUV. The variant I tried had xDrive AWD but even so, it genuinely felt like a traditional rear-wheel drive BMW. That's some achievement. Certain Minis also use the same architecture as the X2.

Powertrain choices

Every X2 is powered by a turbocharged engine, although not all are available in every country.

The diesel range is as follows:

  • sDrive18d (front-wheel drive, 1,995cc, four-cylinders, 110kW/150hp and 350Nm)
  • xDrive18d (aside from having all-wheel drive, identical to sDrive18d)
  • xDrive20d (all-wheel drive, 1,995cc, four cylinders, 120kW/190hp and 400Nm)
  • xDrive25d (all-wheel drive, 1,995cc, four cylinders, 170kW/231hp and 450Nm)

Petrol variants:

  • sDrive18i (front-wheel drive, 1,499cc, three cylinders, 103kW/140hp and 200Nm)
  • sDrive20i (front-wheel drive, 1,998cc, four cylinders, 141kW/192hp and 280Nm)
  • xDrive20i (aside from having all-wheel drive, identical to sDrive20i)
  • sDrive28i (front-wheel drive, 1,998cc, four cylinders, 170kW/228hp and 258 lb-ft)*
  • xDrive28i (aside from having all-wheel drive, identical to sDrive28i)*

*BMW AG quotes the same power output of 228hp for the 28i and 25d even though their metric outputs differ; the sDrive28i and xDrive28i are for North America

It depends on the chosen engine, but there are three transmissions: six-speed manual, seven-speed dual-clutch Steptronic or eight-speed Steptronic torque converter automatic. The ZF eight-speed auto is standard for the as-tested xDrive 20d, while the DCT is for the 20i.

Scolding the folding

Aside from no spare tyre there is only one other major (and easily fixable) fault with the X2. This issue is shared with most other BMWs and also some Mercedes models, suggesting that the same supplier is used. The problem is the exterior mirrors which, for no logical reason, will not fold or stay folded above about 10mph. Let's say you're driving along a single track road slowly and hit the button to pull the mirrors in. This they do but then, out they go again, uncommanded, as speed rises slightly. Why? Press the button to tell them to be obedient and they ignore you. Maddening. But a terrific way for BMW and its dealers to make lots of money from replacing broken parts.

Roomier in the back than an X4

Things which are deserving of praise would include the big boot (470 litres), the roominess of the rear seats and the views out for adults and children. Not only is it as good as the X1, but much better than in the larger X4 which I was recently very impressed by, aside from the claustrophobia which the rear cabin can induce.

Best in segment? Almost.

'Well-being' is a term that is applied too often but in this case, it sums up the X2. This car deserves to be a big seller and it won't be surprising if and when that starts happening. The depth of highly intelligent engineering becomes more and more obvious during every drive. The Galvanic Gold paint of the press car even began to look attractive after a week, although I am still not sold on the contrasting grey plastic trim. An X2 painted black, white or maybe red might have more general appeal.

If BMW would make a running engineering change to fix the issue with the mirrors and specify a spare tyre as standard, the X2 would then be close to being best-in-class.

Manufacturing

The F39 X2 is based on UKL2. This FWD/AWD architecture is also the basis of X1, 2 Series GT, 2 Series AT, Mini Countryman, Mini Clubman and China's Zinoro 60H.

As well as production in Germany (Regensburg), there should also eventually be assembly in Brazil (Araquari), and in China too (Tiexi). The model for China may have an extended wheelbase so as to simplify both the manufacturing process and give the model similar appeal to the locally made X1, which has a stretched body. At the moment, the only X2 sold in China is the same car as the one available elsewhere and it's an import from Germany.

A few days ago, BMW AG and its joint venture partner Brilliance Automotive Group Holdings agreed to expand their shared production capacity at two assembly plants in Shenyang. Tiexi is one of the two, Dadong (also known as Da Dong) being the other. The JV will reach a combined annual capacity of 520,000 BMW vehicles during 2019.

The expansion will make the Chinese manufacturing operation the largest in BMW's worldwide network of plants. Currently, that label applies to Spartanburg, where the majority of BMW SUVs are built and where the factory's annual capacity has recently been lifted to 450,000 vehicles. Unlike the plants in Shenyang, the US site has no powertrain manufacturing operations, all engines being imported from Europe.

The successor will use FAAR (Frontantriebsarchitektur), a new platform derived from UKL1 and UKL2.

BMW also confirmed that the iX3, which will be the brand's first fully electric SAV, will be built in China from 2020 and exported to multiple countries. Sources are also speaking quietly about potential majority control of the JV by BMW AG. This follows a statement from the government in Beijing that it will begin to allow foreign OEMs to lift their ownership of car making ventures above the present 50 per cent threshold.

F39 - the life cycle

The second generation X2 isn't due for release until 2025, which should be around three years after today's model is facelifted. There will be extra variants added between now and then, including a high performance one rumoured to be called X2 M35i.

The successor will use Frontantriebsarchitektur, a new platform derived from the existing UKL1 and UKL2. FAAR is BMW Group's next generation front- and all-wheel drive architecture. The initial vehicles for this platform should be the 1 Series five-door, three-door and four-door. Expect to see the first of these in 2019.