You get used to it. That’s not how you want to begin a review of any car let alone a BMW. Yet that was our overriding theme in the week and almost 700 miles we put on the all new 2023 BMW X1 28i. From the tech inside to drivetrain interfaces to the way it actually applied power from a standing start, the X1 is a bundle of new ideas that feel both compelling and a bit disorienting. Perhaps most importantly to MotoringFile readers, what does it tell us about its twin, the forthcoming 2024 Countryman as well as the current F60?
The all new 2023 BMW X1 28i is offered with the familiar 241 hp, 295 lbs of torque B48 four cylinder turbo. That propels the car from 0-60 in 6.2 seconds – a respectable number but one that will improve with the forthcoming M40i model our sources have informed us about.
Unlike the previous X1, xDrive is standard and is offered exclusively with a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. All the more compelling when you consider the X1’s base price of $38,600 (at the time of publishing).
Those numbers bode well for the Countryman given that it will likely positioned below the X1 in cost but not necessarily in spec. But as you’ll see not all is perfect with this new X1. Or at least this example. But first let’s breakdown how this will directly influence the next Countryman.
Is This Really a Preview of the Next MINI Countryman?
While we don’t have all the details, we have a lot of them. What we see here is roughly the specification of the Countryman S. Available only with the DCT 7 speed, the Countryman S will have a similar output to the 241 hp and 295 lbs of torque.
This is also the same platform and drivetrain will see in the Countryman. Albeit with some subtle differences. The Countryman will make do with passive dampers and steering calibrated for more direct response and feel. Additionally it’ll be 3″ shorter, 2″ shorter and fractionally more narrow which also means we’ll see less weight. While we’re not talking dramatic differences, clearly MINI is keen to make the Countryman more driver oriented than even the X1 M Sport we tested last fall.
The all new X1 has also grown fractionally across every dimension; 1.7-inches (43 mm) longer, 0.9-inches (22.9 mm) wider, and 1.7-inches (43 mm) taller. The wheelbase has also grown by 0.9-inches (22.9 mm) and sits at 106 inches (2,692.4 mm). For what it’s worth we’ll see the Countryman also grow but not quite to this size. But as you can see in the photos above this is a noticeably bigger car than the current F60 Countryman. While not dramatic, the overall length is the biggest differentiation between the two.
Comparing the New X1 to the F60 Countryman
Maturity. That’s the overriding feeling you get when you step out of the 2023 F60 Countryman and into the new BMW X1. The X1 has raised the bar dramatically in terms of material quality inside the cabin. And as much as we have issues various interfaces in the new car, it’s hard to argue that the interior feels more elevated and inviting.
On the road the maturity theme carries over as the X1 feels less responsive and more isolated as well as more comfortable and luxurious. The X1 equipped with M Sport has the much more ability to dial up or down the engagement with adaptive suspension, throttle mapping and steering software than the F60 sport setting. However our Non-M Sport orange X1 test car didn’t have ability and this felt decidedly less engaging.
The Tail of Two BMW X1s
The X1 28i we reviewed last November in and around Palm Springs was a very different car than this X1 test car. That was an M Sport model with the adaptive suspension, performance tires and (critically) paddle shifters. Hopping into our test car we were a bit shocked to see such a low-level of spec on a press car. While this wasn’t the standard trim (literally what BMW calls the base X1) it had the xLine design as its base with the majority of options coming courtesy of the Premium Package. No adaptive suspension, paddle shifters or even adaptive cruise (the latter due to the early production of the car).
The difference between the car we drive at the X1’s launch and this one was night and day. What M Sport does to the X1 is give the driver more control and a touch more connectivity to what’s happening underneath you. Without it you had an X1 with dulled senses that you as the driver, had to work hard to wring any satisfaction out of.
The passive dampers themselves weren’t so much the issue as the throttle and shift mapping combined with rudder-like steering feedback. Which makers our original take on the M Sport equipped X1 all the more interesting. In our time with the X1 with M Sport we found steering and suspension tuning that were particularly improved over the previous generation. There was both more engagement and more versatility in the adaptive suspension.
In Comfort the steering resistance is noticeably lighter than before to the point of being surprising at first. The X1 we tested last fall had the Adaptive M Suspension which has more range than the previous generation. In Comfort the ride is more compose than the passive dampers this new X1 came with. This new range within the setting allows comfort to be more comfortable and sport to be more aggressive. In Sport we found that the X1 comes alive with an heavier steering that feels artificial but does provide positive feedback to the point that you can place the car with trust anywhere in a corner. Along with the hardware and tuning, the .8″ wider track definitely helped. There’s precision with this set-up that surprised us and is a clear step forward from the previous X1. The Sport suspension is also a noticeable improvement with better body control and less lean while being no more harsh over expansion joins or rough pavement.
None of that was present in this non-M Sport X1.
What should we expect in the next Countryman? Can MINI dial in more engagement and feedback? MINI knows the brief so we can only hope for the best. But in this non-M Sport X1 BMW has clearly gone down a more mainstream road.
Yes this is an X1 and no most people won’t be attempting to even engage with it the way you might with a MINI hatch or even a 3 Series. But this is still a car that wears the Roundel and it wasn’t long ago when BMW was using the tagline the ultimate driving machine.
What’s really surprising is just how alive this car becomes with those options. In our first drive we called this new X1 the best since the first generation which was derived from the E90 3 Series. In fact the we said, “rarely have we seen such a dramatic increase in design, quality and performance from one generation to the next.”
One of the most glaring issues we had with this particular X1 and not our previous was the throttle lag on initial tip-in. With the start-stop on (which it is by default every time you start the car) there’s a very noticeable lag from the engine engaging and acceleration beginning. So much so that we found ourselves having to time it just right to cross busy streets. This hesitation was only felt from a dead stop with the start-stop system turned on. But when do you need more power than that scenario? This feels like software left unfinished to us and it’s something we didn’t experience in our X1 28i M Sport late last year.
Another area that felt less than sorted was the 7 speed dual clutch. The incredibly refined XF 8 speed and even to a lesser extend the Aisin 8 Speed found in the previous X1 (and Clubman and Countryman) are a lot to live up to. This dual clutch does not do that. While shifts are smoother, they’re also slower. While you could argue that the experience fits the use-case, that excellent ZF 8 speed proves that you can have both refinement and millisecond shift times.
However if there was one disappointment above all else it had to be the all new touch-based iDrive system. Gone is the multi-function iDrive controller and in its place a 100% touch experience. It’s an interesting move given that BMW has for over ten years proclaimed multi-function controllers as the safest way to use an infotainment system while driving. Yes consumers have become well acquainted with touch-based systems since those statements were made. But there is no denying that it takes more concentration to use a touch-based system on the move.
There are moments of excellence. The X1 28i comes standard with BMW’s excellent all wheel drive system xDrive and for the first time in the US. Dynamic Cruise control and Navigation are standard along with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. One interesting programming note that we mentioned previously – this early production X1 didn’t have Dynamic Cruise (adaptive cruise).
SensaTec is the only interior material available as BMW has quietly eliminated leather from the X1’s ordering books. While that may sound like a downgrade, BMW’s latest version of SensaTec is a clear step-up and feels better to the touch than mid-grade leather the X1 had before. It will also surely be more durable.
The X1 comes with 18” wheels as standard but can be optioned with 19” and 20” the latter exclusively with performance tires. And finally BMW is offering an optional trailer hitch with a towing rating of 3500 lbs. Expect this option to be available next year.
All of these changes serve to position the X1 better against its less premium rivals in the US while increasing both the quality and driving experience (when optioned correctly).
Inside the screen is phenomenal and the connectivity with CarPlay is excellent. But it’s BMW’s core OS interface that is one of the most awkward moments of UX. The fact that you have to go through a vertical scroll of only three rows of icons down the list of up to 20 to 30 different apps is usability nightmare.
Conclusions – Results Inconclusive
You get used to it. That phrase just kept coming back as we struggled with having to re-learn interactions that we’ve known for years if not decades. Do things get better when you get used to them? Let’s not lose fact that this X1 is a fundamentally better car than the previous version. Which makes a few of these issues all the more frustrating. This should be a huge win for BMW in so many ways. But without M Sport which its adaptive suspension, shift paddles and
If your X1 is specified with M Sport, you’re in a much better starting point. Throttle mapping is slightly better, you have shift paddles and it’s just generally easier for an enthusiast to get more out of the X1. And as much as we dislike this latest version of iDrive, there’s little question you will get use to it as an owner.
A week can reveal a lot about the car but rarely has it shifted opinions more. While we hold fast in our initial, glowing review of the X1, this latest version we tested underscores the importance of picking your options carefully. It also likely underscores the danger of allowing software to play such a huge role in the fundamental characteristics of a car. Get them just slightly off and the entire experience suffers.
The 2023 BMW X1 is a leap from the old one. In almost everything measurable this is a better car than what came before it. But BMW has some work to do in our minds. Certainly there are software fixes that could immediately alleviate the hesitation in acceleration. And we’d love to see some major UI re-thinking of this latest iDrive.
The good news is that this X1 like all modern BMWs is designed to take fairly large and critical updates over the air allowing for rapid and painless updates to not just what iDrive offers but how the car drives. And it could very well be the fact that our test car was from an early production batch that is the root of several issues we found.
Looking back at that initial drive we can’t help but put the rose-tinted glasses back on and be impressed. The way that car drove coupled with the impactful changes in standard equipment and optional equipment and you have a $38,600 car that’s genuinely appealing in this segment. And when optioned right, even compelling from a driver’s perspective.