A subcompact crossover worthy of the M Performance badge
When news of the arrival of an X2 broke back in 2016, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes a little. Was there really a need for another subcompact crossover in the BMW lineup between the X1 and X3? With the recent release of the all new M35i xDrive variant, however, I finally got the chance to get behind the wheel of one and fully admit it’s won me over. Keep reading to find out why.
First of all the vehicle doesn’t really resemble the other products within the X family. Rather than possessing a traditional bulbous SUV form factor, the greenhouse is compact, the hood long and the overhangs short, embodying the traits of what the automaker calls a Sports Activity Coupe (SAC).
Being an M Performance, model designers have added extra flair such as a Cerium Grey finish on the kidney grille frame, bumper air intakes, side mirror caps and dual tailpipe finishers, as well as an aggressive rear window spoiler. In addition, DARPAN’s press loaner had the optional sport seats draped in gorgeous perforated red Dakota Leather and large 20-inch split-spoke “721M” alloy wheels fitted, punctuated by standard signature Dark Blue metallic powder coated brake calipers peeking through.
Unusual for the segment, BMW’s excellent Head-Up Display is available. This is no chintzy motorized translucent panel à la Mazda CX-3 or MINI Countryman, but a full-colour projection onto the windshield. Essential information including precise speed and turn-by-turn navigation instructions appear to be floating approximately two metres in front of the driver, right above the hood, easily accessible without needing to take attention off the road.
Under the hood of the M35i is a 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo engine — the first application of an M Performance four cylinder — mated to a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission, producing a surprising 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is undoubtedly quick, good for a 0-100 km/h time of 4.9 seconds, but I would be remiss not to mention that turbo lag is noticeably perceptible in first gear. There were times over my week of testing where my intention was to merge quickly to follow the traffic flow, and after pinning the accelerator, the SAC didn’t get going for a second or two.
Once things start cooking though, the noise pouring out of the M exhaust system boasting a special adapted silencer system is purely intoxicating. I was so happy that the brand didn’t hold back on the growl just because of the vehicle’s place in the utility segment. In Comfort drive mode the sound is balanced, relatively quiet building to a nice burble as the rpms climb, while in Sport it turns into a real screamer.
Like how the X2 doesn’t take after other crossovers in looks, the handling is also better than most, too. The suspension has been tuned to offer a dynamic on-road motoring experience, resulting in stiffer springs, dampers and a lower overall stance. One particular piece of engineering ingenuity is a differential installed at the front axle, mitigating loss of grip on the forward set of wheels. Refreshingly, when entering a corner enthusiastically, I was met with crisp turn rather than the typical excessive body roll expected from a 1,688 kilogram crossover.
Highlights (as tested):
Motor: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 302 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 332 @ 1,750 rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 12.3 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)