Strip away that natty disguise – have BMW's engineers been taking hallucinogenics? – and you'll see the best photos yet of the new BMW X1. Codenamed E84, the new crossover arrives in mid-2009 and is based on the running gear from today's E90 3-series.
Although plainly a tallboy estate/hatch/SUV crossover, BMW hopes the new X1 will maintain the brand's reputation for sporty handling. CAR Online has heard the X1 will even usher in the first-ever high-performance X product: an X1 20 tii is on the drawing board, as Munich relaunches its tii brand. Read our separate story about the new performance division here.
BMW X1: the lowdown
The X1 is BMW's answer to the Toyota RAV4 and its ilk: an SUV more in tune with the times, with a smaller footprint and some fuel-sipping tech to trim those fuel and tax bills. So expect the E90's Efficient Dynamics goodies, including stop-start and intelligent alternator control.
This car is also significant, as it will form the basis for the 2009 Mini 4x4. You can't help wondering if all these manufacturers piling into the SUV sector might be about to catch a cold... BMW certainly hopes not and is pretty confident the blue and white badge on the snout will secure 60,000 orders a year.
It should be on safe ground, as the X1 will arrive on the market a full year ahead of the Audi Q1 and Mercedes' forthcoming mini-me GLK.
Click 'Next' to read more about our spy photos and scoop
What's under the bonnet of the BMW X1?
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that – bearing in mind those E90 underpinnings – the X1 will have a range of four- and six-cylinder engines, with direction injection and turbocharging. There will be a new ZF eight-speed auto for cleaner running, and quieter cruising.
Will the X1 go off road? If you must. Expect a part-time 4wd system that shuffles torque to the front wheels under duress. But then we all knew that these crossovers don't go off road anyway...
Isn't BMW going 4x4 crazy?
You bet. BMW is developing a wide range of tallboy SUVs that will soon stretch from X1, through X3, possibly an X4 (think an X6 version of X3), plus of course the existing X5 and X6. There's even an X7 in the pipeline to take on the Range Rover.
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