SUVs

2018 BMW X2: Another crossover niche filled

Is BMW’s latest CUV ever-so-slightly different enough from its X1 sibling to warrant a $2,500 price hike?

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Regardless of how you or I feel about the growing class of so-called crossover-coupes, the truth is, these babies sell. With global customers' appetites for all things SUV rapidly growing, even the tiniest amount of white space in an automaker's utility vehicle portfolio is potentially cash left on the table. Enter the BMW X2.

Based on the X1, the X2 is said to embody the same segment-bending traits as its X4 and X6 siblings, with BMW citing unique styling and improved dynamics as the key reasons to buy. But I'm not convinced. I'm not sure the sum of the X2's parts justifies its $2,500 price increase over the just-as-good X1. It kind of just feels like X1, part two.

Between this yellow-over-gray color scheme and the BMW logo in the middle of the C-pillar, there's a lot working against the X2's pretty factor.

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Ugly-ish

The X1 isn't what I'd call pretty, and its metamorphosis into crossover-coupe territory hasn't resulted in a particularly attractive X2. Dimensionally, the X2 is 3.2 inches shorter in overall length, only 0.1 inch wider and 2.8 inches shorter in stature, with the same 7.2-inch ground clearance. Chunky lighting elements prominently sit on the front and rear fascias and the X2's roofline is only marginally more raked than on its X1 sibling. Rather than looking like a windswept, coupe-roofed CUV, this just looks like a rejected X1 design proposal.

And let's talk about that BMW roundel placement smack dab in the middle of the C pillar. The company says it "invokes a design cue much admired on classic BMW coupes such as the 2000 CS and 3.0 CSL," and while, yeah, that's technically true, the link between iconic two-door shapes and a bulbous compact SUV is pretty much lost on me. People I've talked to either seem to love or hate the pillar-badge placement. Consider me firmly in the latter camp.

My test car wears BMW's M Sport X package, which is an X2-exclusive treatment. It combines the semi-aggressive styling attributes of the usual M Sport pack with a bit of chunky X Series flair. The model-specific front fascia eschews the full-width lower grille for a more compact opening below the grille, surrounded by gray trim. Triangular side air intakes sit below small fog lamps. More gray trim adorns the wheel arches and side sills, as well as the rear valance.

Oh, and gray is the only contrasting color available, no matter what primary hue you choose. It works better with earthy tones, that's for sure. Alongside the new-for-X2 Galvanic Gold pictured here, it's, well, not as cohesive.

Open and airy, the X2's cockpit is nicely designed and pleasant to occupy.

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Premium-ish

I generally like the X2's interior -- the design is both upscale and modern, and all switchgear is logically arranged. The raked dash is not only visually appealing, it opens up the cabin and genuinely makes the front compartment feel vast. Additionally, there are plenty of small cubbies here and there for your smartphones and water bottles and other #activelifestyle belongings. Most of the leather and fabrics used through the interior are fine, but upon closer inspection, you'll find hard plastics on the lower door panels, steering column and center console.

As open and airy as the front seats are, back seat riders don't get the same experience. The high, sloping beltline makes for a decidedly small rear glass area, and there's more egregious material on the doors. Rear legroom takes a small hit compared to the X1, while headroom is down by a full 2.4 inches. I'm on the shorter side of average and still have a hard time getting comfortable in the back of the X2. Sorry 'bout your tall friends.

But compromised rear passenger space is part of the price you pay for that crossover-coupe life. Cargo space is another. The X2 has a diminutive 21.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, though if you fold 'em flat, the cargo hold can accommodate as much as 50.1 cubic feet of whatsits. That's a pretty big reduction compared to the 58.7 cubes offered in the X1.

As for onboard tech, every X2 gets a freestanding 6.5-inch color display in the middle of the dash, with BMW's basic iDrive infotainment interface. Selecting the Premium Tier within either the Standard or M Sport X model lines gets you a larger 8.8-inch display with built-in navigation, though perhaps the best part about this upgrade is that BMW now uses touchscreen tech. Yes, you can avoid the rotary iDrive knob altogether and greasy-fingerprint your way through myriad menus and displays. You can option a Wi-Fi hotspot for an additional $500, and while iDrive is compatible with Apple CarPlay, BMW charges an extra $300 (and that could soon change). Android Auto? Not supported.

These 19-inch wheels are standard with the M Sport X package. Not big enough? BMW will sell you 20s for a little more money.

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Sporty-ish

The X2 is pretty nice to drive, with adequate power and a compliant chassis. But it's no different than what you'll experience behind the wheel of an X1.

All X2s use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive available for an extra $2,000. In the case of my AWD test car, BMW estimates a 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds, and fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. All this data is not only perfectly average within the compact premium crossover space, it's identical to that of the X1.

You'll be hard-pressed to find dynamic differences between these SUV siblings, as well. On the desert roads east of Palm Springs, California, the X2 is an enjoyable steer, with plenty of power and excellent composure through turns. The eight-speed transmission upshifts smoothly and quickly, and at the appropriate times. Downshifts, meanwhile, are usually fine, though the transmission occasionally lags in response to immediate throttle kickdown.

The X2 uses the same 2.0-liter turbo-four as the X1, with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

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Riding on 19-inch wheels and fitted with the optional M sport suspension ($400), the X2's ride quality is a bit stiffer than I'd like for these rougher, sun-cracked desert roads. My Detroit-based colleagues will be smart to leave the sport suspension box unchecked on their order forms, but I don't imagine this firmer setup and larger rolling stock will be cause for complaint on the smooth surfaces I'm used to back home in Los Angeles.

My one gripe with the X2's on-road manners is a common trait amongst many BMWs these days: lack of steering feel. Sure, the X2 exhibits quick response to steering inputs, but there's a general sense of numbness through the wheel. Transitioning from Comfort to Sport mode doesn't fix this any, only adding a bit of heft to the overall steering action. BMW used to be known for some of the best through-the-hands feedback of any global automaker. It's not as important in something as mainstream and non-performance-tuned as the X2, but it certainly works to discredit that whole "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline. The X2 is fine to drive -- just like the X1 -- but nothing to write home about.

The X2 isn't as swoopy as BMW's other crossover-coupes, but still has the same compromises in terms of interior space.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Expensive-ish

After a brief initial test, BMW's new X2 doesn't present itself as being any better than its X1 sibling in any measurable way -- perhaps extended seat time will change my opinion. The X1 and X2 offer the same driving experience and the same technology and connectivity. The only differences are found in utility and design, and the X2 is worse off in both areas.

X2 pricing starts at $36,400 for a front-wheel drive sDrive28i model. All-wheel drive adds $2,000, and then hold on tight for the option packages. The big ones to note are the $4,650 M Sport X pack, $2,600 if you want the head-up display and heated seats found in the Premium Package, $875 if you want high-end Harman/Kardon audio and $1,450 if you want real leather seating. There's also the aforementioned $800 for Wi-Fi and CarPlay. The list goes on. All in, a totally loaded X2 xDrive28i costs over $52,500 which is, well, a lot. An X1 with even more equipment is about $1,000 less. And just for kicks, I built a loaded-up Volvo XC40, which tops out a few thousand bucks shy of $50K.

This is a common theme with crossover-coupes: more money for less space. But usually there's the added benefit of rakish lines or a more engaging driving experience. Compared to the X1, the X2 has none of that. It's a fine product in an of itself, but I can't think of a single unique purchase reason that'd make me pony up $2,500 over a perfectly lovely X1. Here's hoping the SUV-hungry masses disagree.


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