Ten years ago, I stood next to a racetrack, awaiting my turn to take the wheel of an odd-looking crossover from BMW.
Based on the midsize X5, the 2008 X6 luxury crossover felt right at home on the track, but just seemed wrong somehow. Its sloping, coupe-like roofline looked weird and, worse, it slashed cargo space and rear-seat headroom.
Like most of the press in attendance, I was dubious.
“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked a Bimmer rep as a fleet of X6s flew by, engines wailing, tires screaming.
“People who like coupes,” he deadpanned in a tone suggesting the depths of my cluelessness.
Profitable new niche is born
He was right, of course. The X6 was a big hit and spawned a profitable new niche for BMW. In 2014, it launched the X3-based X4 and now gives us the 2018 X2, a subcompact luxury crossover whose sweeping silhouette is dropped onto a chassis it shares with the X1.
The X2 inherits the X1’s eager and playful personality, its platform and its powerplant.
Its cabin mirrors the X1’s in its elegant design and flawless execution. Materials quality is first rate and soft-touch surfaces cover the tiered dashboard, with its attractive textures and decorative stitching.
Outside, the X2 shares nearly none of its sibling’s sheet metal. Its sweeping, coupe-like roofline terminates in a spoiler that underscores the fluidity of the X2’s silhouette. The tapering roof and rising shoulder line perform a pas de deus that draws the eye rearward where they come together at a thick C-pillar.
The X2 is smaller than the X1 — shorter by 3.2 inches and lower by 2.8 inches — but its wheelbase is untouched. This effectively moves the wheels to the corners, tightening the front and rear overhangs and lending the X2 a taut and muscular look.
Smooth and steady surge of torque
Both cars are powered by a 228-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. From a dead stop, a short spell of turbo lag gives way to a smooth and steady surge of torque across a power band that ranges from 1,450 to 4,500 RPM.
The transmission serves up quick, clean shifts, while its wide gear-spread optimizes efficiency. Even at low speeds in stop-and-go driving — conditions that can easily confuse the new multi-gear transmissions — it never hesitated while picking the next gear.
Zero-to-60 comes up in 6.3 seconds.
M SportX package exploits dynamics
On cars equipped with the available M SportX package ($4,650), the transmission is calibrated to deliver shifts that are more aggressive, if somewhat less smooth. The package also brings a sport-tuned suspension, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, sport seats, 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof and a raft of cosmetic upgrades, both inside and out.
The X2 can be had in front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations.
Driving responses can be regulated via a Driving Dynamics Control system, whose three modes — Comfort, Eco Pro and Sport — allow the driver to dial in preferred dynamics. A sport-tuned suspension is available as a stand-alone option and the available Damper Control system allows additional suspension tweaks.
Our tester included the M SportX package, which exploits the X2’s dynamics but also produces a notably firm ride. Similarly, while the sport seats are tremendously supportive, some shoppers will find them too narrow and too firm.
A tough case to make?
The standard features list is long but not exhaustive. It includes such details as LED headlights and foglights; automatic wipers; power liftgate; push-button ignition; driver-seat memory; power-adjustable front seats, with adjustable bolsters and thigh extension; dual-zone automatic climate control and ambient interior lighting.
Standard tech includes Bluetooth, BMW's ConnectedDrive services, iDrive, a 6.5-inch display, and a seven-speaker audio system with HD radio, a CD player and a USB port.
Other key features — Apple CarPlay, keyless entry, heated seats, satellite radio and safety/driver-assist functions — are available as parts of various options packages.
BMW’s new baby rings in at about $2,500 more than its roomier and mechanically identical sibling. That might seem like a tough case to make, but BMW has profited mightily by defying logic before and will likely turn that trick again.
Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i
Vehicle base price: $36,400
Trim level base price: $38,400
As tested: $50,920 (includes destination and handling)
Options included Driver Assistance Package; M SportX Package; park distance control; Apple CarPlay compatibility; wireless charging; Harman Kardon premium audio system; M rear spoiler.
EPA rating: 25 combined/21 city/31 highway
Premium unleaded fuel specified