BMW X1 M35i: 296bhp M lite SUV with all the trimmings | CAR Magazine

BMW X1 M35i: 296bhp M lite SUV with all the trimmings

Published: 27 June 2023 Updated: 28 June 2023

►  M Performance X1, 0-62 in 5.4sec
►  Trick 2.0-litre four makes 295lb ft
►  Design borrows full M-car detailing

What does it mean when one of the best-looking BMW’s we’ve seen in a while is the M Performance variant of the latest X1 SUV? Perhaps it’s the added height and bulk, but the new BMW X1 M35i xDrive carries those massive nostrils and enlarged air intakes remarkably well.

The result is a handsome and purposefully rugged-looking machine that somehow just steers away from being overly aggressive. M Performance – rather than fully fledged BMW M car – to a tee? The stats and details are all very promising, that’s for sure.

What’s under the bonnet of the BMW X1 M35i?

Disappointment at the death of the old 3.0-litre straight-six turbo – the motor that held the ’35i’ moniker at BMW prior to the latest round of M135i and M235i variants – may just be held at bay by the extent to which the X1 M35i’s new 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder has been training for the job here.

UK buyers get the 296bhp version, which will see off 0-62mph in 5.4sec and hit the usual 155mph limiter with probable ease; for some reason the USA and ‘other select markets’ get 313bhp.

BMW X1 M35i xDrive - side view, driving
BMW X1 M35i xDrive – side view, driving.

One of BMW’s new generation of modular engines, interesting particulars about the 2.0 start with the use of the Miller cycle (famous from Toyota’s eco models…), before moving swiftly on to redesigned intake ports and combustion chambers, revised camshaft timing, new ignition system, changes to the exhaust gas routing and updates to the injection process.

For the M35i, this includes dual injection to support the M TwinPower Turbo tech, which features ‘indirect charge air cooling’ as well. M has also installed a ‘new, extremely robust crankshaft drive’, optimised the oil supply for the pistons and borrowed some internal parts from the latest six-cylinder engines.

Then there’s VANOS variable camshaft timing complete with upgraded oil supply for the actuator (…) and Valvetronic fully variable valve timing.

Exactly how M is this X1?

The motor breathes out through an exhaust system that features twin tail pipes on either side – a characteristic usually reserved for fully-blown M models, here it’s deployed to signify the M35i is the ‘finest engine’ in the X1 model range. Similarly, this X1 gets a double-bar front grille design previously held back for top-dog M cars.

BMW X1 M35i xDrive - grille
Horizontal double-bar grille is usually reserved for full-fat M models.

Maximum power is made between 5750 and 6500rpm – giving drivers something of a peak to aim for than an overwhelming plateau, which should add to the pleasure of wringing the X1 M35i out. Though with 295lb ft 2000-4500rpm it’s hardly going to feel gutless at any point.

The chassis is presumably up to the challenge?

No fear. The Adaptive M suspension has mechanically adjustable shock absorbers with frequency selective damping. Which in theory means it will ride out minor bumps without disturbing occupants too much while still delivering sporty control in extremes.

Sitting 15mm lower than the rest of the X1 range ought to help. You get 19-inch alloy wheels with tyres 20mm wider than the previous version. 20s are optional. In another M Performance first, you can also level-up to M Compound brakes featuring internally vented steel discs bolted to aluminium bells; spot these via the grey calipers.

Four-wheel drive is standard, but again there’s an upgrade. The X1 M35i features a mechanical front limited slip differential, incorporated into the Steptronic seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

BMW X1 M35i xDrive - Boost paddle
Left-hand paddleshifter doubles as Boost mode controller.

BMW promises the gearbox has an ‘ultra-sharp shift action’, though more intriguing is the way the left-hand shift paddle doubles as the control for the M Sport Boost function. Pull on it for ‘at least one second’ and it switches the chassis and powertrain into their ‘sportiest setting’ for maximum response. Wonder why BMW chose not to use a separate button?

On top of this, BMW has integrated the traction control into the engine management system, which is said to make ‘corrective inputs’ 10 times faster. It calls the process ‘near-actuator wheel slip limitation’, and says it improves traction and stability in slippery conditions, under hard acceleration and in the corners.

Also potentially a bit of a fun sponge, if the slightly lacklustre M135i is anything to go by.

What’s the interior like?

UK buyers get Veganza upholstery as standard – which is a vegan artificial leather. M Sport seats are on the options list, complete with illuminated M logo…

The X1 M35i is also one of the first BMWs to get the new Operating System 9 infotainment software; keeping in mind BMW Operating System 8 only came in with the iX and i4, the firm is moving faster and faster in this area.

BMW X1 M35i xDrive - interior, dashboard, steering wheel, BMW Curved Display
It’s all very modern BMW inside the X1 M35i.

The new version has ‘a broader offering of digital content for information and entertainment, shorter function update cycles and improved access to a host of specific online services.’ It’s displayed on the now familiar BMW Curved Display, the infotainment screen butting-up against the digital instrument cluster.

As part of this package, there’s also a latest generation iDrive system with QuickSelect – which makes accessing key functions faster by allowing you to go directly to them from the home screen rather than passing through a sub menu.

A head-up display is optional.

How much does the BMW X1 M35i cost?

UK buyers will have to fork over £45,995 to get their mitts on the most powerful X1 in the brochure, which doesn’t actually feel like bad value given the extent of the enhancements. You get plenty of standard kit as well.

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first