Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2019 BMW X2 M Sport

BMW has been a major player in the SUV sector ever since the company introduced the car-like X5 back in 1999. The X5 was one of the first SUVs to blend in the practicality of an SUV, the look and feel of a premium luxury vehicle, and handling of not just any car but one worthy of being associated with the “Ultimate Driving Machine”.

The X5 was one of the gold standards that helped to redefine the SUV market over the last two decades or so, but will the X2 do the same? Probably not. Nonetheless,  it does help to broaden BMW’s offerings as consumers become more discerning, and the competition continues to be more plentiful and stiffer than ever.

What is it?

Yes, the X2 is a new name and yet another addition in the BMW range. The X2 is an interesting addition to BMW’s lineup in that it bucks convention with its sporty looks and low-slung seating position. Distinctive thanks to its bold styling on the outside, the X2  doesn’t have a direct predecessor but shares its underpinnings with the already excellent X1. Therefore it is hard to imagine a new model that needs less explaining than this vehicle.

Think of it as a better looking, sleeker, sportier, and very slightly less roomy counterpart to the X1, just like the X6 is to the X5, or the X4 is to the X3. However, the compromises in the X2 vs X1’s case are less than the aforementioned models.

As with all of these BMW models, sleeker looks are exchanged for slightly less space but also a slightly sportier drive. It should also be noted that these days, BMW’s X models globally account for roughly one in every three BMWs sold. That percentage is only going to grow with the introduction of the brand new X5 and the upcoming X7 launch.

What does the X2 compete with? Its main competitor is the Range Rover Evoque, a vehicle that Audi, MB, and BMW were surprisingly slow in challenging directly. BMW is leaving its more mainstream X1 to face up to the Audi Q3s, the new Jaguar E-Pace, and the Mercedes GLAs.

Because the X2 is going to be bought on style versus the X1, let’s talk about that. The X2 is aimed at urban young professionals so it’s packaged accordingly. Due to its shorter tail than the X1, there is an absence of a window behind the C-pillar/rear doors even though both vehicles share the same wheelbase dimensions.

BMW’s marketers were proud to point out that the BMW roundel makes its appearance on the C-pillars for the first time since the classic BMW coupes, including the M1 and the 3.0CSL Batmobile. Sadly, I think that this interesting design flourish may be lost on most shopping for the X2.

The vehicle also features, for the first time, inverted kidney grilles up front, which were designed to make the vehicle look wider and more planted. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing this on a couple more BMW vehicles in the future either.

Under the skin and the hood

As mentioned, the X2 is based on the same platform as the X1, which also shares its architecture with the MINI Countryman. However, the engineer who lead both the X2 and Countryman projects is quick to tell us that with the exception of the tailgate opening switch on the driver’s door, every single visible interior part is different between BMW and MINI.

The X2, X1, and Countryman also feel very different to each other, thanks to different roll-bars, bushings, steering racks, and different springs. For example, the X2 has thicker anti-roll bars versus its sibling and cousin.

BMW’s transverse-engine platform means that the X2 is built for a three or four-cylinder engine, with only the latter being available in Canada. Under the hood is BMW’s ubiquitous (but excellent) 228 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four cylinder engine mated with a fantastically responsive eight-speed automatic gearbox.

All X2s in Canada come with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. In this application, the X2 is front-wheel-drive biased but a propshaft sends drive to a computer controlled electro-hydraulic clutch pack at the rear axle that dictates when the rear wheels receive torque.

How does it ride and drive?

BMW hasn’t just transferred over the X1’s components wholesale. They spent plenty of time and money developing the architecture to coax out a specific character for the X2.

Behind the wheel, the small changes to the chassis make the X2 feel considerably sharper and sportier, more like one of its coupes, albeit a tall one. There is a greater amount of negative camber dialed in, and the steering feels more direct and weighty with a nice turn-in on twisty tarmac.

My test vehicle came equipped with the M Sport package with adaptive dampers and also ran the slightly lowered and stiffened M Sport springs. I’m happy to report that the ride motions were more on the progressive side rather than jarring.

Thanks to the adaptive shocks, there is a dramatic difference when you toggle between Sport and Comfort mode, allowing you to dial in your preference depending on the road surface and bendiness. The X2 uses its spring travel well, and even with its low profile tires there is little road noise or harshness. The suspension is on the firmish side, but it’s not upsetting.

Body lean is well-controlled overall and there is able cornering. Everything is predictable, well-sorted, and the X2 is easy to place on the road, in town or on country roads.

Less dramatic is the difference in engine tuning between Sport and Comfort mode. While the revs rise marginally and the transmission holds the gears longer, there isn’t too much of a change in throttle map, engine note, or volume. But the eight speed autobox makes its changes so swiftly and fuss-free that there is virtually nothing to be critical of.

Is the X2 as sorted as the 3 Series Touring? No perhaps not. The ride is firmer than the Touring and it feels a bit heavy in a succession of tight bends. The front-wheel-drive based platform isn’t as talkative to the driver as the outgoing 3 Series platform either. But I doubt that X2 buyers will care too much about this.

Like most BMWs though, driver assistance tech is largely relegated to the optional extras list. Blindspot warning, lane departure warning and active cruise control all work as advertised, but will cost you extra as part of an options pack.

On the inside

Compared to the X1, the X2 is available in much more colourful clothes. You can even get it with a bright red interior. As it is supposed to be a sporty looking coupe-inspired SUV, I was delighted with how different the interior was compared to the X1. It’s not a complete overhaul, but enough to feel different in a fun and premium sort of way.

Top quality materials, a lush dashboard, and a roomy centre console are what you can look forward to behind the wheel. Therefore situation BMW normal.

The iDrive infotainment system now has a touch-sensitive screen, but the iDrive hardware controller is still the best in the business; that’s how I made most of my inputs. My fully-loaded test vehicle came with the 8.8 inch touchscreen, and connectivity options now include a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot and available Apple CarPlay. The latter is an optional extra, but unlike many other manufacturers, it even works over Bluetooth sans wires.

The X2’s driving position will fit almost everyone and the higher beltline means that you don’t feel very high off the ground even though you actually are. The M Sport seats are adjustable in every which way, and the aggressive (but also adjustable) lateral bolstering is good for twisty corners as long as you’re not too broad laterally yourself.

Rear room is surprisingly commodious, whether you’re looking at the rear seats or the cargo area. Adults can easily fit comfortably in the second row, and the higher and shallow windows make it feel more like a coupe back there versus a typical SUV.

The cargo area is relatively generous too, with a floor that is lower than the bumper sill so as to be able to add more to its gulp. Unlike the X1, there isn’t a retractable tonneau cover but instead a hard cargo cover tray. It’s nice to be able to stack things on top until you have to fold the rear seats down, in which case there is no place to put the cover. This is fine as long as your cargo isn’t too tall or bulky.

In short, there is scarcely any practicality deficit when you choose the X2 over the X1.

Parting thoughts

In this crowded segment, other premium auto manufacturers offer some sort of X2-equivalent. Jaguar’s E-pace goes head-to-head with the X2 style-wise, but it’s engines and transmission combinations aren’t anywhere close to as sorted. Audi’s Q3 has been refreshed but it doesn’t have the sleek coupe-like looks of the X2. Mercedes-Benz’s GLA is getting a bit long in the tooth now.

Therefore, even at a time when new premium crossovers are cascading onto the market, the X2 makes a case for itself. It’s refined and has a distinctive new style that hardly compromises on interior space or utility.

If you’re looking for something even more sporty and with more power, don’t discount the X2 just yet. BMW has recently announced a new X2 range topper called the X2 M35i. That model will be equipped with its most-powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine ever, producing a whopping 302 horses. Yippy!

Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.
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