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Wheels of the Week: BMW X1 is here with big-screen smarts

The X1 sDrive18i and sDrive18d were launched in South Africa last week. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried out the tech on board.

The big news from BMW last week was the imminent launch of the electric  iX1 Drive30e, making for a neat rounding out of the Bavarian auto maker’s EV range. However, we will have to be kept in suspense a little longer, settling for the petrol and diesel versions for now. Not that they disappoint, however. Both editions embrace BMW’s ongoing flirtation with the cutting edge of automotive consumer technology.

The X1 sDrive18i and sDrive18d represent the third generation of the X1, first launched in 2009, and both come with seven-speed Steptronic transmission as standard, with double clutch and front-wheel drive.

Pic, Arthur Goldstuck

The headline news, or rather the eye-catching headline regarding the on-board tech, is the gorgeous curved display. First introduced in the BMW iX electric SUV in 2021, it is now being rolled out across all models as part of the new version of iDrive, the BMW in-car communications and entertainment system.  The only complaint here is the bewildering array of naming conventions, which sees iDrive coming in the form of “BMW Live Cockpit Professional Plus”, based on the “BMW Operating System 8”, comprising the “BMW Curved Display” and “BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant”. 

Which is which and what does what? It only matters if you need to keep talking about it.

What really matters is that the central digital screen provides a luxurious 10.25-inch information display, while the control display at the steering wheel has a comfortable screen diagonal of 10.7 inches. iDrive provides touch and voice control, allowing the number of physical buttons to be stripped down.

The user interface is intuitive, and smartphone pairing is a delight. BMW stands out from all other “smart” vehicles available in South Africa for standardising wireless connectivity with both Apple CarPlay. and Android Auto. Most other manufacturers, on most models, still require users to connect their smartphones via cable if they want to access phone apps on their infotainment screens. 

Sadly, Android Auto latter is held back by Google’s lack of attention to improving both functionality and the range of supported apps. Waze via Android Auto is superior to BMW Maps in terms of pure mapping, but does not carry across the full functionality of the phone app, allowing onboard navigation a rare win. 

The choice of audio entertainment across on-board radio and smartphone apps – Spotify is supported via Bluetooth as well as on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – extends to controls being available on the touch-screen as well as the control screen via the steering wheel.

The true smarts of the new X1’s technology reside in the automated driving and parking systems, but standard features include only cruise control with brake function, front-collision warning system., parking assistant including reversing assist camera, and Reversing Assistant.

If you want anything approaching autonomous driving, you have to pay for it, Optional extras include Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function, exit warning function , Head-Up Display, Surround View, Remote 3D View, BMW Drive Recorder and Remote Theft Recorder functions. That is likely to take a car costin around R800,000 closer to the million-rand mark. A review of these functions must await a more comprehensive testing opportunity.

A more niggling optional extra is electric seat adjustment with memory function, which one would expect to be standard in a BMW. Luxury options include lumbar support and massage function. 

Two great new features stand out, however. Most significantly, improvements have been made to occupant protection, evolving the “integrated passive safety” concept by including an “interaction airbag” between the front seats, ie between driver and passenger. 

On a more trival note, but deeply impressive, is a retractable bar across the wireless smartphone charging pad below the central display. It serves two functions: holding the phone in place while charging, and creating a barrier between phone and pad if one wants to keep it there without charging. 

It’s a tiny enhancement, but one that reveals wonderful attention to detail.


BMW provided the following information:

The market launch line-up comprises the new BMW X1 sDrive18i (fuel consumption combined: 6.5 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 148 g/km in WLTP cycle) powered by a 115 kW three-cylinder engine, and the BMW X1 sDrive18d (fuel consumption combined: 5.0 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 132 g/km in WLTP cycle) whose four-cylinder diesel unit generates 110 kW.

Recommended retail price (including VAT and CO2 tax):

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