Car sales have been slip-sliding away when compared to crossover SUV deliveries lately, with BMW selling less than half of its 3 and 4 Series models than it did a decade ago, and Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class…
Car sales have been slip-sliding away when compared to crossover SUV deliveries lately, with BMW selling less than half of its 3 and 4 Series models than it did a decade ago, and Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class down to a third of its 2010 numbers. Tesla’s all-electric Model 3 is bucking the trend, however, with a total of 12,800 Canadian deliveries in 2021, compared to just 4,348 for the 3 Series, and 3,010 sales of the C-Class.
If the Model 3’s clean sweep of its category in North American markets wasn’t enough, last year it outsold the 3 Series in 28 European countries as well. In fact, with 141,429 deliveries under throughout 2021, Tesla’s entry-level car sold more units in Europe than the Canadian and U.S. markets combined, according to JATO Dynamics. Comparatively, the 3 Series only found 116,250 European buyers during the same period,
Back to Canada, the Tesla Model Y compact luxury crossover SUV didn’t fare as well as the Model 3 last year, both in total sales and when compared to rivals, due to just 6,400 examples sold for a sixth-place ranking in the compact luxury crossover SUV segment. Ahead of the Model Y was the Audi Q5 in first with 9,968 deliveries, while the Acura RDX came in second with 7,976 unit-sales. Third was the BMW X3 with 7,506 deliveries, while fourth was taken by Lexus’ NX with 7,283 new Canadian buyers, and finally Mercedes-Benz’ GLC-Class took fifth with 6,887 units sold.
In the U.S., mind you, the Model Y was far and away number one in its class thanks to 161,529 deliveries compared to 86,478 combined BMW X3 and X4 sales (made up of 75,858 X3s and 10,620 X4s), so being that Canada often mirrors American sales in this category, albeit by approximately 10 percent of the volume, it’s likely that Tesla’s compact crossover would have placed much higher if enough units were made available (allocation is often the culprit). Whether or not calendar year 2022 will see a Canadian adoption of this U.S. market trend won’t be known until Tesla’s quarterly numbers start arriving in early April, and even if it’s not on top after Q1, it would be unwise to bet against Tesla being number one in Canada’s compact luxury crossover SUV class by the close of this year.
With a focus on having 25 electrified models in its lineup as early as next year, half of which will be fully electric, BMW is wasting no time putting its plans into action. Before we get too excited,…
With a focus on having 25 electrified models in its lineup as early as next year, half of which will be fully electric, BMW is wasting no time putting its plans into action. Before we get too excited, however, not all of these BEVs will be sold into the Canadian market, evidenced by the German brand’s Chinese-made iX3 crossover SUV only being offered in China and Europe for the immediate future.
The i4, which utilizes the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s four-door liftback body style and starts at $54,990 (not including incentives or destination fees), will be available in two different trims, including the eDrive40 and M50 xDrive. The former uses a single rear-wheel drive (RWD) electric motor good for 335 horsepower, while the latter, which starts at $72,990, combines both front and rear motors for all-wheel drive (AWD) and makes a total of 516 horsepower. Both models come fitted with the same 83.9-kWh battery.
As for performance and range, BMW claims the i4 eDrive40 is capable of 340 km on a single full charge, but not if you’re constantly testing its 5.7-second zero to 100 km/h sprint time, while the M50 xDrive will zip from standstill to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds and can drive for approximately 510 km after completely recharging. That latter number gets the i4 close to the Tesla Model 3’s 576 km maximum range, a car the i4 has clearly in its sights.
Likewise, BMW Canada also offers the X3 xDrive30e PHEV, but unfortunately, as noted above, the iX3 won’t be giving Tesla’s Model Y a run for its money in Canada anytime soon. Moving up a size category, BMW also makes its 389-horsepower X5 xDrive45e PHEV available for 2022, once again offering an electrified alternative not available from Tesla.
The new iX targets Tesla’s Model X directly, however, and while it doesn’t offer gullwing doors for rear passengers, it does provide a similarly mid-sized two-row layout for up to five passengers and their gear. A total of three iX trims are dubbed xDrive40, xDrive50 and M60, each of which incorporate standard front and rear motors for AWD.
To be clear, the iX xDrive50 is the only trim available for 2022, which means the xDrive40 and M60 will arrive later this year as 2023 models. The iX xDrive40, which will start at $79,990, makes 322 horsepower, can sprint to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, and has a range of 340 km, whereas the current $89,990 xDrive50 makes 516 horsepower, can hit 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, and can be driven for up to 521 km before requiring a recharge. Lastly, the 610-horsepower M60 starts at $121,750, can scoot to 100 km/h from standstill in a scant 3.8 seconds, and can cover up to 450 km of ground before recharging.
What’s more, unlike smartphones, tablets, laptops and plenty of EVs that have been on the market over the past few years, BMW’s new BEVs don’t suffer from much if any battery degradation, which means the various claimed range estimates mentioned above will still hold up after years and even a decade’s use. In other words, the batteries in these new BMW EVs are designed to last the life of the vehicle, or more specifically up to 1,500 full charge cycles, which is enough for more than 500,000 km of driving.
CarCostCanada has full pricing and trim information for the 2022 i4 as well as 2022 and 2023 iX models, including all options that you can build out in their car configurator. On top of this, you’ll receive any available information regarding manufacturer rebates, factory financing and lease rate deals (both i4 and iX models currently have in-house financing/lease rates from 4.49 percent), plus you’ll receive dealer invoice pricing that can help you negotiate a better deal on any new vehicle. Find out how the CarCostCanada membership can benefit you, and be sure to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
Speaking of money, BMW Canada is also claiming that both i4 trims are eligible for provincial zero-emission incentives in BC, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, plus the base i4 eDrive40 qualifies for the federal iZEV rebate. Unfortunately, the iX’ higher base price disqualifies it from any provincial or national government rebates.
The new i4 and iX will start arriving at Canadian BMW dealerships next month.
BMW Ultimate – Reserve the BMW iX and i4 now! (0:15):
The Power of Action: Meet The First-Ever BMW iX & BMW i4 | BMW USA (0:06):
The Power of Action: Meet The First-Ever BMW iX & BMW i4 | BMW USA (0:15):
The Power of Action: Meet The First-Ever BMW iX & BMW i4 | BMW USA (0:30):
[ SPACE ] by BMW: BMW iX & i4 | BMW USA (1:12):
Introducing the BMW i4 M50: The All-Electric BMW M | BMW USA (2:54):
The First-Ever BMW i4 | The All-Electric Car | BMW USA (0:44):
The BMW Concept i4: New Electric Car | BMW USA (2:01):
The 2022 BMW i4 Models: BMW Review & Walk-Around | BMW USA (2:07):
Introducing the BMW iX | The All-Electric SAV | BMW USA (1:15):
The Electric Mood of the 2022 BMW iX | BMW USA (3:35):
Creating the BMW iX: Behind the Scenes, Episode 1 | BMW USA (2:11):
Creating the BMW iX: Behind the Scenes, Episode 2 | BMW USA (2:11):
Creating the BMW iX: Behind the Scenes, Episode 3 | BMW USA (2:25):
The All-Electric SAV: 2022 BMW iX Walk Around & Review | BMW USA (2:22):
Pioneer of a New Age: The Panoramic Eclipse Roof: The 2022 BMW iX | BMW USA (0:54):
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: BMW
Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up. Take Lexus for example, or…
Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up.
Take Lexus for example, or for that matter Volvo. The former was selling its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback into North American markets as recently as 2017 (check out our road test), but after seven years of production, plus a couple of down years with nothing in an entry-level segment at all, it was effectively replaced with the UX subcompact crossover SUV. As for Volvo, we need to go all the back to 2013 for the final 300-plus (new) C30s that found Canadian buyers, and then had to wait five additional years for its XC40 subcompact SUV replacement. Likewise, a new C40 electric crossover is expected from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand later this year or early 2022.
See the trend? It wasn’t like the compact B-segment (subcompact luxury) was ever a big deal here in Canada, at least not like it’s been in Europe where Audi’s A1 has been pulling in premium buyers for almost a dozen years, plus its similarly sized A2 before that, and larger A3 even longer, as have BMW’s 1 and 2 Series, not to mention Mercedes’ A-Class, but amongst the few small luxury-branded cars we’ve enjoyed, some are leaving for good, never likely to return.
Still, premium brands need gateway products to entice new customers into the fold, and while small sedans and hatchbacks still attract such buyers to well-established German automakers, luxury buyers are more likely to opt for a subcompact crossover SUV instead. So therefore, while the entry luxury car category won’t likely grow much larger in the coming years, it still has a faithful following that’s passionate about their stylish, low-slung little rides, so let’s see which models are pulling in the most Canadian customers.
Mini Cooper dominates the small luxury car sector
When the words “luxury” and “car” get combined, most probably don’t immediately conjure up images of the cute little Mini hatchback. After all, it was initially Britain’s answer to Germany’s peoples’ car (and the “Suez Crisis” fuel shortage) way back in 1959, a micro hatchback that was as inexpensive to buy as it was efficient to operate. BMW purchased the Mini nameplate as part of its Rover group takeover from British Aerospace and Honda (20-percent) in 1994, and since 2001 has sold a variety of body styles and models, including a compact luxury SUV, dubbed Countryman.
And just in case you don’t understand the logic behind including a brand with pricing that begins where a fully-loaded Kia Rio ends, at $23,490 for a base Cooper 3-Door, consider that most Mini owners don’t purchase stripped-down examples. To that end, a JCW Convertible will set you back more than $60k after all of its extras are tallied up. So, if 60-grand for a subcompact hatchback doesn’t qualify Mini’s Cooper for luxury car status, not to mention sharing underpinnings with some of BMW’s smaller models, it’s difficult to surmise what will.
Mini’s car lineup is powered by three-cylinder and four-cylinder turbocharged engines displacing 1.5 and 2.0 litres respectively. As noted, the 1.5 makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and when installed in the base Cooper 3-Door, hits 100 km/h from standstill in 8.1 seconds with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and manages 8.8 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined with the former if driven more modestly, or 8.4, 6.5 and 7.5 with the latter. Obviously, performance and fuel economy won’t be quite as good in either the 5 Door, Clubman, or Convertible due to weight gains, a reality that affects the other engines in the lineup too.
On that note, the 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in the second-tier Cooper S, and once again comes with both six- and seven-speed transmissions, while the quickest and thriftiest Cooper S 3-Door manages a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds with either gearbox, plus fuel economy ratings of 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.8 combined with the manual, or a respective 8.9, 6.6 and 7.9 with the auto.
The best fuel economy of all, however, comes from Mini’s Cooper SE, which uses a 181 horsepower electric motor (with 199 lb-ft of torque) and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery to drive the front wheels, resulting in “fuel economy” of about 16.9 to 14.9 kWh/ 100 km (according to NEDC). Its 177-km range, makes it only suitable for urban use, however, which means you’ll need to leave it at home for longer road trips… a shame.
The Mini Cooper 3 Door and Convertible only have four seatbelts, which is probably all you’d ever want to try and fit in anyway (especially in the latter), while 5 Door and Clubman models feature seating for five, the latter housing five adults (kind of) being that it’s not only 454 mm (17.9 in) lengthier than the 3 Door and 293 mm (11.5 in) longer than the 5 Door, with a wheelbase that spans an extra 175 mm (6.9 in) and 103 mm (4.0 in) respectively, but also 74 mm (2.9 in) wider, which of course matters even more when stuffing three abreast. At 1,801 mm (70.9 in), the Clubman is also wider than anything in this class save Audi’s A3, while its wheelbase is identical to Acura’s ILX and BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, plus longer than the A3’s and BMW’s diminutive i3, the latter of which is still longer than both 3 and 5 Door Minis.
As you might have imagined, dedicated cargo capacity is most generous in the Clubman too, growing from just 160 litres (6.0 cubic feet) in the Convertible, 211 litres (7.0 cu ft) in the 3 Door, and 278 litres (10 cu ft) in the 5 Door, to 495 litres (17.5 cu ft) in the Clubman, which, in fact, is the same as the Countryman SUV.
As far as sales go, Mini delivered 2,739 examples of its four-model car lineup to Canadians in 2020 (not including the Countryman crossover), and also saw another 2,111 low-slung units leave its dealerships over the first nine months of this year, which makes it look like the brand will surpass last year’s rather poor showing when 2021 comes to an end, but it probably won’t realize as many car sales as in decades past. Prior to 2020, Mini’s worst calendar year on record for car deliveries was 2004 when it only sold 2,800 Cooper hatchbacks, but most other years the brand’s cars ranged between 3,500 and 5,500 Canadian sales.
So far, there’s no serious challenger to Mini’s collective Cooper car line when it comes to sales success in this class, but as mentioned earlier in this report, the real growth in the entry-level luxury sector is happening in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV category, in which Mini’s Countryman sits ninth out of 12 competitors (see the “Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now” story). Mini will likely need to achieve much greater success in that burgeoning category in order to keep funding the niche models in its car lineup, so as not to continue eroding what is currently a diverse offering.
Notably, Mini both expanded and contracted this car line dramatically from 2012 through 2017, with the introductions and then cancellations of the 2012–2015 Cooper Coupe and Cooper Roadster models. The 2013–2016 Cooper Paceman (a three-door crossover coupe based on the Countryman) was its attempt to widen its small SUV offering, a la BMW X2, but slow take-rates for all of these creative offerings have now turned them into modern-day collectables. To be clear, like all Minis these were brilliantly fun niche models that we were admittedly excited about initially, and while all three might now be seen as mistakes that negatively impacted the brand’s bottom line, having eaten up significant R&D money that could’ve gone elsewhere, it’s hard to criticize the brand for thinking outside of the box, or rather two-box design layout, and trying something completely different.
Still, it’s hard to keep a brand that’s as enjoyable to drive as Mini down (even its perennially low Consumer Reports reliability rating can’t do that), and while parent company BMW’s 2 Series is on a roll that could possibly see it pass by the Cooper for overall sales leadership in Canada (read about that below), diehard Mini enthusiasts (and there are many) continue to love what makes these little sprites segment best-sellers.
Mercedes’ A-Class leads sales of traditionally desirable subcompact luxury cars
Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most premium of luxury brands overall, this side of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, the Stuttgart-based automaker’s own Maybach marque, and a bunch of supercar makes like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, and of course Ferrari, so therefore, acquiring a sleek sport sedan or hot hatch bearing the famed three-pointed star will be seen by many as quite the accomplishment. This said, the most affordable way to do so comes by way of the A-Class, made available to Canadian new car buyers as of the 2019 model year.
The A-Class, available in both A 220 4Matic four-door sedan (see our review of the A 220 4Matic here) and A 250 4Matic five-door hatchback (see our review of the A 250 4Matic Hatch here) trims and body styles, plus sportier AMG A 35 versions of each, quickly earned the top-spot in the compact B-segment amongst traditionally desirable brands, thanks to managing 2,355 deliveries amidst a difficult 2020, which saw sales of most models in this category slide south, although 2021 already looks stronger for the entry-level Mercedes model thanks to 1,517 units sold throughout the first three quarters of the year, even though this positive growth now leaves it in the negative when compared to BMW’s increasingly popular 2 Series, which was made available with four doors as of model year 2020 (more on that in a minute).
To be totally fair, CLA-Class numbers should really be included in Mercedes’ overall segment sales, because it’s really the same car as the A-Class under its sleeker, more coupe-like skin, while most three-pointed star competitors, such as the just-covered Mini Cooper and BMW’s 2 Series, lump all of their subcompact body styles under one model name. This said, combining all the 2020 A-Class deliveries with the 1,085 CLAs sold in the same year results in a total of 3,440 B-segment sales for Mercedes, along the number-one position overall. Then again, if we’re looking at total automaker sales, BMW AG’s namesake brand and Mini combined for 3,881 deliveries in 2020 (including 168 i3 EVs), which puts the Bavarian marque on top. Likewise, the German and British brands’ combined Q3 sales of 4,033 units give it an even stronger lead so far in 2021, so Mercedes has some catching up to do.
This shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to a diverse A-Class engine lineup. The base A 220 sedan comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the same engine in the A 250 hatch makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the A 35 in either model, and the little 2.0-litre powerplant puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, making them two of the most exciting cars in their class to drive. What’s more, all A-Class models are some of the easiest to keep in their respective lanes, no matter the weather condition, due to standard 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Paddle-shifters enhance control of a standard 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also includes a standard ECO Start/Stop system to save on fuel, resulting in a 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined rating for the A 220 sedan; a 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined rating for the A 250 hatch; or a respective 10.7, 8.2 and 9.5 for both AMG A 35 models.
The A-Class’ near-longest 2,729 mm (107.4 in) wheelbase means both front and rear seating is comfortable for this small car category, while its fractionally narrower than average 1,796 mm (70.5 in) width (not including mirrors) shouldn’t make much of a difference from side-to-side.
At 243 litres (8.6 cu-ft), the sedan’s trunk is the smallest in the class, however, other than the two aforementioned Mini 3 Door models, but the hatchback’s cargo compartment is larger than average at 370 litres (13.0 cu ft), plus both provide more space when the rear seat is folded forward, made even more convenient with a 40/20/40-divided split.
Due to very few negatives, most A-Class customers are very satisfied with their purchases, as evidenced by the model’s top ranking in the “Compact Luxury Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, while J.D. Power named it runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” segment of its latest 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study (the sportier CLA-Class earned the top position). Last but hardly least, Vincentric placed it on top of the “Luxury Compact” class of its Best Fleet Value in Canada Awards, something it also achieved in the U.S.
Interestingly, none of the cars in this top five list even rated in the “Entry-Luxury-Car” category’s top three for Canadian Black Book’s latest 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, but this is (at least partially) because CBB includes pricier C-segment models, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class that claimed the highest accolades, as entry-level models. Likewise, Lexus’ mid-size ES, which was one of the runners-up, is considered entry-level by CBB too.
Ironically, being that residual values are all about pre-owned cars, with CBB’s awards going to three-year old vehicles, the ES was tied with Lexus’ now discontinued CT 200h. Obviously, Lexus models hold their value very well amongst small luxury cars, but then again, Mercedes does too, so it’s possible we’ll see the A-Class replace the CT for top-three residual value leadership when it’s been on the market long enough to qualify.
Expect major upsurge in Audi A3 sales when redesigned model arrives for 2022
Audi deserves credit for being the first German luxury carmaker to offer a four-door sedan in this compact B-Segment, with the advent of the redesigned 2015 A3 that was also available in higher performance S3 tune, plus as an A3 Cabriolet (Acura’s EL was the first entry-luxury sedan when it arrived in 1997, while the A3 was a five-door hatch from model years 2006 to 2014). An even more potent RS 3 sedan made this class of subcompacts shine in 2018, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Moving into the 2022 model year after technically not providing a 2021 car, the Cabriolet has been discontinued and all-new redesigned A3, S3 and RS 3 sedans are on the way. These should help boost the Ingolstadt-based brand’s future prospects in this waning segment, thanks to sharper styling, a modernized interior, and upgraded performance.
Now in its fourth generation, the new A3 rides on the same MQB platform used for the eighth-generation 2022 Volkswagen Golf (which kind of qualifies for entry-level luxury status on its own, at least in GTI and R trims), making it slightly longer, a bit wider and fractionally taller than the outgoing model, but the sedan’s 2,636 mm (103.8 in) wheelbase doesn’t change, so the extra 40 mm (1.6 in) of length has mostly gone to cargo capacity that’s up 64 litres (2.2 cu ft) to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft), from just 284 litres (10.0 cu ft) in previous years.
Just like its predecessor, the Canadian-spec A4 and S4 will receive one S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox shared between them, plus two different versions of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, although staying true with the times means that a 48-volt mild hybrid system has been added to the mix. While fuel economy will no doubt improve, aided further by coasting capability the shuts the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain off when not needed to maintain speed (i.e. going downhill), the hybrid system will also boost base performance from 184 horsepower to 201, although torque actually inches downward from 222 lb-ft to 221. This should result in a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time than the current car, which is rated at 6.2 seconds, but so far Audi hasn’t announced such numbers for the new model.
The 2022 S3, on the other hand, can dash from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, shaving a tenth from the old car’s sprint time thanks to a move up from 288 horsepower to 306, whereas its electronically-limited top track speed of 250 km/h is identical to the outgoing model.
Lastly, a new RS 3 is on the way, with a reported 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. It catapults from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 290 km/h (180 mph), while the new car’s handling will be improved with a torque-vectoring rear axle dubbed Torque Splitter, which was designed to reduce understeer while maintaining the Quattro AWD system’s legendary high-speed grip.
Identically to the outgoing A3, 2022 Canadian-spec trim levels include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, but the new car now comes standard with Quattro AWD, which has caused base pricing to increase substantially from $34,500 in 2020, to $38,900 (plus freight and fees) this coming year. The S3, which already included Quattro as standard, will now start $47,900. This is actually a decrease of $500 due to base Komfort trim now becoming available (Progressiv was the S3’s previous base trim). Of note, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 A3.
Improvements inside the 2022 A3 include a 10.3-inch version of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard equipment, plus a new 10.1-inch fixed infotainment display at centre, or a 12.3-inch upgrade, instead of the old pop-up unit that, while kind of awesome in its own way, is about as useful as pop-up headlights now that most jurisdictions require us to run with our front lamps on during the day. Therefore, as much as we might miss the main monitor powering up out of the dash during startup, or better yet, disappearing altogether on a night drive, the new larger display is more in keeping with today’s technology-first world, while it also integrates much more advanced high-definition capability along with updated graphics.
AS far as awards go, the outgoing A3 earned runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which was won by BMW’s 2 Series.
Gran Coupe has given BMW’s 2 Series line the shot in the arm it’s always needed
BMW’s 2 Series made the greatest B-segment gains in sales over the past year, mostly due to the aforementioned Gran Coupe. While year-over-year 2 Series deliveries only grew by 13 percent in 2020, up from 1,202 to 1,358 units, sales have already increased by more than 33 percent over the first nine months of 2021, now totaling 1,811 units for a current ranking of third in class. Of course, we need to factor Audi’s lack of 2021 A3, S3 and RS 3 models into any future prognostications, which, as noted earlier, caused their deliveries to almost completely disappear, thus we’ll need to see how well the new A3, and the completely redesigned 2 Series Coupe, fare in the coming year.
Yes, while the four-door variant of this model only gets minor package and standalone options changes for 2022, the two-door coupe has undergone a ground-up redesign, and most should like what they see. For starters, BMW chose a more conventional twin-kidney frontal grille compared to its larger 4 Series counterpart, which can best be described (in the kindest way possible) as controversial.
The “G42”, as it’s known internally, will once again feature rear- and all-wheel drive layouts in the U.S. and other markets, albeit so far only the latter has been announced for Canada. Additionally, no 255-horsepower 230i variant is expected in the land of the almost free either, but instead we’ll only get the 382-horsepower inline-six engine mated to a standard paddle shifter-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission—yes, no six-speed manual is available in either market, at least until we see a new M2 (which, fingers crossed, will hopefully have a DIY gearbox). That’s 47 additional horsepower than the outgoing M240i, incidentally, so despite its torque figure dropping down to 369 lb-ft, it still manages a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, while its top track speed remains limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).
An available adaptive M suspension will make the most of a 51-mm (2-in) longer wheelbase, its track also growing by 54 mm (2.1 in) up front and 31 mm (1.2 in) at the back, with near 50:50 weight distribution for almost ideal balance, so handling should be just as crisp. Overall, the 19-kg (42-lb) heavier, 1,755-kg (3,869-lb) 2 Series coupe grows 88 mm (3.4 in) longer and 66 mm (2.6 in) wider than its predecessor, although its 2.5-mm (1.0-in) height reduction makes for slipperier styling.
The longer wheelbase should aid cabin comfort, particularly in the rear, while those up front will benefit from deeper bolsters when upgrading the seats. Some standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, showing BMW really does have plans to market this 2 Series to folks with more than one friend, while an upgraded iDrive infotainment system boasts up to 10.3 inches of screen space, with new functions including an upgraded voice control system that can distinguish between driver and passenger commands, plus Connected Parking that notifies the driver of a given destination’s parking issues.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is also standard, with the latter providing full Google Maps integration, but iPhone users shouldn’t feel left out, because they can use NFC connectivity for up to five devices. Additionally, a mobile app makes the new 2’s LTE wi-fi function available from further away, providing the ability to check the car’s location or status, lock or unlock its doors as needed, and even access its external cameras for security’s sake.
The 2 Coupe’s new standard audio system provides 10 speakers and 205 watts of power, but audiophiles will want to upgrade to the Harman Kardon Surround Sound system thanks to its 14-speaker, 464-watt output. Additionally, a colour head-up display system has been added to the options list, projecting current speed, speed limit, and even passing restrictions onto the windshield ahead of the driver.
The new 2022 M240i xDrive is expected to show up at Canadian dealers in November, with pricing starting at $56,950, but as noted earlier there hasn’t been any announcement about the rear-wheel drive 230i. In fact, only the all-wheel version is currently offered on BMW Canada’s retail website, and CarCostCanada’s 2022 BMW 2 Series Canada Prices page isn’t showing a RWD version for 2022 either. This may mean the much-loved and considerably more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe won’t be coming north of the 49th.
Likewise, only the M235i xDrive version of the four-door Gran Coupe can currently be seen at CarCostCanada, while the 2022 version of this car isn’t showing up at BMW’s website at all. Instead, the automaker’s new car configurator just allows the 2021 model to be built, with two engine options, the other being the lesser 228i Gran Coupe, which at $38,990 remains the most affordable car in BMW’s Canadian lineup for the time being. If BMW has chosen not to bring its least expensive sedan to Canada, and instead price the most affordable 2 Series at $51,400, expect to see 2 Series sales drop off dramatically moving into the new year.
At least the 2021 2 Series represents good initial value, while all 2 Series trims do well when it comes time to trade in. As noted earlier, it earned the top spot in the “Premium Compact Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and making it an even better bet, the 2 Series took best-in-class honours in the same third-part analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), within its “Small Premium Car” segment. Additionally, it earned a best-in-class score in the same category of the coveted 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) too. That’s a lot of metal in the trophy cabinet, and reason enough to consider a new 2 Series if your budget allows, or a 2021 model while new ones remain available.
Mercedes takes fifth in sales with its sporty CLA four-door coupe
The previously mentioned Mercedes CLA-Class earned a solid fifth place in the compact B-segment, with 1,085 deliveries last year and 1,031 more over three quarters of 2021. Longer, wider and lower than the A-Class sedan, the CLA makes up for its size increase by being powered by the 221-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is also used in the A 250 Hatch. It boasts an identical 258 lb-ft of torque too, but its 75 kg (165lbs) of extra mass means that it’s slightly slower off the line than the hatchback, but its wider track should make up time in the corners.
The gap in off-the-line acceleration narrows to an unnoticeable 0.1 seconds in AMG CLA 35 trim, however, this model using the same 302 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four as found in both AMG-tuned A-Class models, but the even more formidable AMG CLA 45 leaves all of its lesser siblings far behind with a sprint from zero to 100 km/h of only 4.1 seconds, thanks to 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a heavily massaged version of the same 2.0-litre engine. The CLA 45 gets another cog in its dual-clutch gearbox too, totaling eight, aiding its higher top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph), while 4Matic all-wheel drive is once again standard.
For 2022, the CLA 250 4Matic starts at $43,600, while the AMG CLA 35 4Matic can be had from $52,100, and AMG CLA 45 4Matic from $62,900. Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2022 CLA models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,000.
How the rest of the subcompact luxury car field stacks up
Acura’s ILX remains a very competent offering in this class, despite its age (see a recent review of the ILX here). It received the brand’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille as part of a refresh for 2019, and received a boost in sales that year because of it. Deliveries dropped by 58.6 percent in calendar year 2020, with just 774 new buyers compared to 1,871 the year before, but 2021 has seen some strength with 729 down the road as of September 30th, and now with a new 2023 Integra expected to debut soon, Acura’s future in this class is brightening, as is the future of the entire segment that’s soon bolstering its ranks with another new entry. Moving into 2022 it will be last in the class, however, being that BMW’s i3 EV is being discontinued.
On the positive, the ILX achieved runner-up status in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which means the new 2022 ILX, which moves into the new model year without any notable changes, should be just as well built. It continues forward with one, single, high-revving, naturally aspirated 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard paddle-shifters, front-wheel drive, standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps, a twin-display infotainment system inside, and a full assortment of AcuraWatch safety and convenience features including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, much like the rest of the cars in this class.
ILX prices start at $31,400 in base trim for 2022, and move up to $33,900 for the Premium model, plus $35,400 for the Premium A-Spec, and finally $36,800 for the top-line Tech A-Spec. All ILX trims represent very good value in this segment, especially considering the model’s size and performance, while 2021 models are an even better deal, not only because they’re priced slightly lower, but also due to Acura currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are averaging big savings of $6,375.
Finally, a special mention should be given to BMW’s all-electric, or optionally range-extender-enhanced (REx) i3, which despite being an elder statesman in this class, and on its way to pasture, provides one of the most inviting interiors in any class, plus supercar-like carbon-fibre composite construction, all for a 2021 base price of $44,950, or $53,600 with the REx. BMW is also offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 from that list price, plus government rebates are available due to its battery plug-in powertrain. As noted previously in this article, the little Bimmer only sold 168 units last year, while just 111 examples have found home in 2021 so far.
There probably won’t be many if any new compact B-segment cars added to this category in the near future, unless Tesla or one of its EV rivals decides to offer an even smaller four-door sedan than the Model 3, or if Mazda’s 3 sedan and hatch move even further upmarket than their near-luxury top-tier GT has already gone, with higher pricing to match, but we may see alternative body styles of current models remerge, such as an A3 Sportback to counter Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch (see our review of the A 250 4Matic here), being that such layouts very popular in Quebec where European tastes remain dominant. Audi may also want to consider its A1 Sportback, especially if fuel costs keep rising and target entry customers’ expendable incomes are impacted by market instability, while BMW might be wise to consider its five-door 1 Series for the same reasons.
Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury car mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use all the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each car. Also, be sure to find out how CarCostCanada can save you thousands off your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV. It arrived…
There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV.
It arrived for 2018 and hasn’t changed much since, only adding automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and parking sensors as standard equipment for 2019, plus LED headlamps with cornering lights and navigation standard for 2020 (along with the option of a new plug-in hybrid xDrive30e variant), and finally SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto smartphone connectivity (which was never offered previously), lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring as standard for 2021. There have been a few other small details changed along the way, such as paint colours and some minor interior trim bits, but it’s mostly been the exact same SUV for the past five years.
This said, 2022 will bring some significant styling updates as part of a mid-cycle refresh, including a squarer grille to align it more cohesively with BMW’s latest design philosophy, plus new LED headlamps, updated taillights, revised front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, and massaged exhaust tips. All mechanicals remain the same, other than the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e that will be discontinued.
Changes inside will include an updated centre stack and lower console, now featuring a standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as an identically sized infotainment display at centre, with a 12.3-inch option for each. A number of secondary controls have been moved around and modified, making it almost seem like an all-new model, but make no mistake, the crossover you see here is basically the same SUV you’ll be buying next year, other than styling and electronics.
Then again, it may have better interior quality. This will take a personal deep-dive in order to verify, but then again, the current X3 is so well finished inside and out that I’d question BMW’s ability to make it much better. Certainly, they could spend Rolls-Royce dollars and blow us all away, but so far not many competitors can touch BMW’s interior quality in the X3’s $50k price point.
Pricing in this class is all over the map, incidentally, with the cheapest entry being Buick’s Envision at $35,998, if it really does qualify as a true compact luxury SUV competitor. But Cadillac’s XT4 does, of course, and it’s priced a mere $100 higher at $36,098, making the price gap between most affordable and priciest a shocking $27,400. The X3’s more popular competitors’ window stickers come closer to the $50k mid-point, mind you, with the segment’s best-selling rival in 2020 being the $44,505 Acura RDX, followed by the $46,550 Audi Q5 (that includes sales of the sportier $55,400 Q5 Sportback), plus the $49,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC (its sales totals also including the $53,900 GLC Coupe), and finally the $47,100 Lexus NX, putting the X3 in fifth place last year.
The X3 has dropped down to sixth so far in 2021 (it stays fifth when including X4 sales), thanks to Q2 sales of 3,120 units, and Tesla’s Model Y managing 3,200 deliveries, although with perfectly even totals of 1,600 sales per quarter it’s difficult to believe the U.S. tech firm’s numbers. There’s been some shuffling on top too, with 2021 Q2 totals placing the Q5 well into the lead with 5,702 deliveries, followed by the GLC with 3,806, NX with 3,619, and finally last year’s top-selling RDX with just 3,456, but these standings could very well change before the year is out, plus this by no means speaks to each model’s popularity, being that many automakers are having problems producing at full capacity due to chip shortages.
In the US, incidentally, the X3 was number one in 2020 with 59,777 deliveries, followed by the NX with 55,784, RDX with 52,785, GLC with 52,626, and Q5 with 50,435, while the Q5 has jumped right up behind the X3 so far this year thanks to 33,566 unit-sales compared to 36,273 respectively. This said, the Model Y had more than doubled X3 sales as of June’s end, with a total of 76,429 units (and the U.S. division’s numbers appear legit).
Maintaining best-selling status amongst gasoline-powered internal combustion engine offerings (including a PHEV) in the U.S., and top-five in Canada (or fourth including the X4) is impressive no matter what factors have been at play, and this despite a higher-than-average base price. Model Y aside, the Stelvio (at 487 units), Macan (at 2,283), F-Pace (at 1,446), and Velar (at 1,339) sell in much smaller numbers, so the X3 may just be one of the more profitable models in the class.
I, for one, would be willing to pay significantly more for its superb interior, which includes one of the best driving positions and driver’s seats in the category, plus the X3’s impressive driving dynamics. The latter has always been a BMW hallmark, but it’s not necessarily because of engine performance in xDrive30i trim. The 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out a reasonable 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in this base model, which makes it good for spirited 6.3-second sprints from standstill to 100 km/h, and a top track speed of 210 km/h (130 mph), but it’s by no means class-leading when it comes to straight-line performance.
I’ve long known BMW to be conservative with all performance specs, however, and can honestly say it felt quicker off the line than its official claimed time, but either way its eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly overall, plenty quick in Sport mode, was even more engaging when using its steering wheel-mounted paddles, and certainly couldn’t achieve the model’s 10.2 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined fuel economy rating when driving so aggressively.
Now that we’re talking practicalities, I’ve only mentioned how well the X3 handles, without commenting on its excellent ride quality. It truly is a comfortable city conveyance, even with my tester’s uprated 20-inch alloys on 245/45 Pirellis. Likewise, it can eat up highway miles easier than most in this size class, its adaptive cruise control flawless at maintaining a desired speed no matter the weather or topography.
It’s just such moments that the aforementioned near-best-in-class driver’s seat and overall top-notch driving position proved this SUV worthy of its increased price, the tilt and telescopic steering wheel reaching rearward enough to provide ideal comfort and control, despite my long-legged, short-torso body type. The rim of that wheel is wrapped in a very high-grade leather, plus is heatable for keeping fingers warm mid-winter, while the seat leather feels higher in grade than some competitive hides, despite being the most basic in BMW’s line.
The Bavarian automaker provided an attractive leather-like soft-touch synthetic across the entire dash top too, which was beautifully stitched together with contrasting thread. My X3 received the same surfacing for the door uppers, inserts and armrests, albeit these last items were even more padded for added comfort, while the door inlays were finished in a nicely textured aluminum. There was no shortage of aluminized trim elsewhere, not to mention piano black lacquered composite across the lower console, of all places, where it will be more likely to attract dust and scratches (this is not one of my favourite trends), but nonetheless the workmanship is as good as this class gets, and overall solidity and refinement bar none.
All the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, with the only weakness being hard plastic used for the lower door panels, but this is par for the course in the X3’s compact luxury SUV segment. Then again, the entire lower dash is soft synthetic, which is unusually good for this segment, even including the sides of the centre console, making it nicer for larger folk whose knees might otherwise chafe.
The rear compartment is almost as comfortable as up front, with ample room in all directions, plus the same level of fit, finish and materials quality. My well-equipped model provided plenty of back seat toys too, some for warming derrieres, others shading eyes from sunlight, and yet one more for providing additional sun if desired, the latter two achieved via side window sunshades and a big panoramic glass sunroof.
On that note, my tester was upgraded with the $12,100 Ultimate Package, which includes the extra-large sunroof as well as a proximity-sensing entry system, ambient lighting, universal remote, and wireless device charging, these otherwise found in the $4,500 Premium Package Essential upgrade; plus the head-up display, wonderful sounding Harman/Kardon surround audio system, four-way powered lumbar support, heated rear outboard seats, rear sunshades, storage compartment package, and more from the $6,500 Premium Package Enhanced; while ultimately adding adaptive full LED headlights with High Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus with a 360-degree overhead surround monitor, Driving Assistant Plus, BMW Gesture Control, adjustable rear seats, and more.
This package pushed the price of my X3 xDrive30i over $65k, with a few items not mentioned included as well, but take note that BMW is providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives right now, with CarCostCanada members saving an average of $2,181 thanks to learning about the X3’s dealer invoice pricing before negotiation. Find out how the CarCostCanada system can work for you, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store before you start shopping, so you can have all of their critical info at your fingertips when you need it most.
BMW electronics are some of the best available, by the way, with my X3 featuring high-definition displays and bright, colourful graphics that never ceased to delight. As expected, the primary gauges were digital and fully configurable, while the centre display is a nice widescreen tablet-style design featuring a convenient, easy-to-use tile layout.
At the opposite end of the SUV, you may have noticed me mention a storage compartment package when previously listing out options. The upgrade, amongst other items, includes really useful aluminum rails in the cargo compartment for lashing down large items. Of course, the usual tie-down latches can be found in the rearmost cargo compartment’s four corners, plus a small netted stowage area to the left, and best of all, an extremely deep hidden compartment below the rigid cargo floor, along with a spot to lock down the retractable cargo cover when not in use. This is a hefty piece of German handiwork, by the way, and takes a fair bit of strong-armed finesse to remove.
The X3’s dedicated stowage area is reasonably generous for the class, measuring 813 litres (29 cu ft), but keep in mind that it grows to 1,775 litres (62.7 cu ft) when lowering the rear seatbacks via convenient release levers on each sidewall. I’m an even bigger fan of the large centre pass-through provided by the rear seat’s 40/20/40-split configuration, which allows for longer belongings like skis to be stuffed down the middle while both rear passengers enjoy the benefit of those previously mentioned butt warmers.
If an over-engineered cargo cover is all I can find to complain about, it’s obvious that BMW has done a very good job engineering this much-loved SUV. The X3’s overall build quality is excellent, finishing impressive, feature set right up at the top of this category, and overall drivability in a class of few. No wonder it still sells so well after all these years.
Review by Trevor Hofmann
Photos by Karen Tuggay
After doing an exhaustive preview of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan and G82 M4 Coupe that introduced the brand’s polarizing new bucktooth grille design, which BMW quickly followed up by revealing their near…
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a 2020 Gran Coupe available for this review, so instead I’ll point you back to a 2015 BMW 428i xDrive I previously reviewed, and on that note the two cars featured in this road test are actually 2019 models that fell between the cracks, so allow me some creative license as these two were not fundamentally changed from model years 2019 to 2020, and reviewing them now allows the opportunity to point out where aesthetic updates and trim modifications were made.
This last point is fairly easy, with the only changes made from 2019 to 2020 being colour options, the Coupe losing Glacier Silver and Melbourne Red metallics and thus reducing its exterior colour count to two standard solid shades and three metallic options. The same seven interior motifs are available, and there are no changes with its myriad option packages. The Cabriolet loses its alternative black mirror caps in base trim (at least from the factory) and drops the same two hues as the Coupe, but adds a new metallic called Sunset Orange, while swapping Tanzanite Blue for Tanzanite Blue II. Lastly, the Gran Coupe eliminates Glacier Silver too (it didn’t have Melbourne Red), while adding Aventurine Red II Metallic, plus it trades the same two Tanzanite hues while swapping Frozen Silver for Frozen Dark Grey. And that’s it.
My two testers were painted in $895 optional Glacier Silver and Estoril Blue metallics, by the way, the latter getting plenty of looks with the top down thanks to beautifully contrasting Ivory White leather clad interior. It’s hard to believe that BMW no longer offers three of its sportiest models in Germany’s official racing livery, but the brand was never part of the silver arrows era anyway, its chosen colour in motorsport always being white with mostly blue accents. It nevertheless looks good in classic silver, especially with the blackened trim and wheels.
Both testers were near fully loaded, being 440i powered and xDrive controlled. Base 4 Series models come with the 430i powerplant, which denotes BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo-four with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in lively performance albeit par for the course in this class, whereas 440i models receive the automaker’s turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six good for a much more spirited 326 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The only model available without all-wheel drive is the 440i Coupe, but a quick glance at the back of my tester reveals the BMW’s “xDrive” emblem, which meant mine was not one of these rare rear-drive beasts.
Much to my chagrin, BMW didn’t include its wonderful six-speed manual in either car, although it is (was) available in the 440i Coupe (only). Was? Yes, this time of year you’ll need to take whatever you can get, meaning snap up a rear- or all-wheel drive 440i Coupe with a manual if you can find one, because there are obviously no more factory orders for this now updated car, and only M4s will offer manuals hereafter.
Alas, BMW has abandoned both the manual transmission and silver, no less at a time when we should all be considering investing in precious metals. What could be next? I’ll point you to my exhaustive overview of the new M3 and M4 for some of those details, at which point you’ll clearly appreciate that the German brand’s twin-kidney grille remains at large for 2021, or rather larger than life, which, I reiterate, is a good reason any available 2020 models will be hot commodities right about now. Let’s face it, while BMW deserves kudos for bravery, its significant stretch from conservatism hasn’t been universally praised to say the least.
I, for one, happen to love these two cars’ styling, and might even appreciate the outgoing Gran Coupe more. They’re all elegantly balanced designs with classic BMW cues as well as more visual muscle than any predecessors, plus they combine the most impressively crafted interiors, highest levels of technology, and best overall performance offered in any non-M-branded compact BMW ahead of the new 2021 models.
The 440i’s cabin is at a level of quality and refinement above most everything in this class. Along with the expected soft-touch synthetic surfaces normally found in this segment, BMW covered the entire dash-top and door uppers of the Cabriolet in rich, high-quality French-stitched leather, while the door panels received gorgeous white diamond-pattern leather inserts. The Coupe was less opulently attired, preferring a sportier black on black interior with a regular pliable composite dash and a tighter diamond pattern for its leather door inserts. Either way, both 4 Series doors wore premium soft-touch surfaces right to their very bottoms.
Both cars’ seats were exquisitely detailed in perforated hides, the Coupe’s even sporting contrasting light grey piping and stitching, whereas the Cabriolet’s creamy leather was sewn together with black thread. Plenty of satin-finished aluminum and piano black lacquered trim highlighted key areas in both models, while the instrument panel, lower console and doors were enhanced with a tasteful array of glossy dark hardwood in the Cabriolet and ideally suited patterned aluminum inlays for the Coupe. The switchgear in both cabins was once again of the highest quality, BMW cutting zero corners in this respect.
Moving up to 2021 4 Series models will allow for a fully digital primary gauge cluster, which for some will be a worthwhile expense, and while I’ve enjoyed playing around with such devices from other brands, I’d have no issue staying put with the outgoing 4’s mostly analogue dials. They’re classic BMW kit after all, with a small full-colour, high resolution multi-information display at centre, but all infotainment features, such as navigation mapping, audio details, phone queries, car setup functions, parking camera, etcetera are best done from the widescreen display atop the centre stack.
Again, there are more advanced infotainment systems in the industry, particularly in the new 4 Series, but this setup is easy on the eyes, fully featured and responds to inputs more than fast enough. I like BMW’s tile layout that allows finger swiping from function to function or modulation from the console-mounted rotating iDrive controller and surround quick-access buttons. This is well sorted and should be easy for anyone to learn how to use, given some time and practice.
Tooling around town is a wholly different experience depending on which model you purchase. The 440i Cab made for a wonderful winter reprieve, almost causing me to feel as if summer was back and the good times of evening drinks on patio bistros were around the corner. Yes, that thought might seem masochistic to contemplate amid our current health crisis, but personal luxury cars like this 4 Series Coupe and Convertible are ideal for getting away from all the madness, whether during your daily commute or on a weekend retreat. The well-insulated retractable hard-top made it feel coupe-like as well, and it takes barely a moment to lower, plus can be done while on the move.
Getting off the line and ahead of packed traffic is no issue when the “440i” emblem is stamped on the rear deck lid, each car’s ability to shoot forward from standstill smile inducing to say the least. Then again, the 430i Coupe doesn’t give up much forward momentum, scooting from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds compared to the all-wheel drive Coupe’s 4.9 and rear-drive version’s 5.1 seconds. Yes, four-wheel traction matters more than the extra 39 kilos of curb weight, but mass does cut into the 200-kilogram heavier Cabriolet’s performance with less energetic times of 6.4 and 5.4 seconds for the 430i and 440i variants respectively. The Gran Coupe merely adds 0.1 seconds to each all-wheel drive Coupe sprint, resulting in 5.9 and 5.0 seconds from 430i to 440i. All 4 Series models are limited to a 210-km/h (130-mph) top speed.
Likewise, I could feel the Cabriolet’s heft in the corners, but not so much that it became unwieldy. In fact, if I had never driven the Coupe before I’d be wholly satisfied, as its handling is wonderfully predictable and oh-so capable when coursing through serpentine stretches at high speeds. The Coupe is just that much better, its lighter curb weight and stiffer body structure providing a more playful attitude that seems to always want to please.
This side of an M4, the only way to make the 440i Coupe better would’ve been the six-speed manual, but the eight-speed auto was impressive as far as commuter transmissions go, shifting quickly in its sportiest mode, when the steering wheel-mounted paddles came into play, yet smooth all the time.
Likewise, both cars’ suspensions soaked up road imperfections well, and never unsettled my forward trajectory, even when pushing hard over some poorly paved sections of curving backroad. They were a pleasure to drive around town too, their comfortable seats, both featuring extendable lower cushions, wonderfully supportive.
The Cabriolet is about as practical as this class gets in back, which isn’t all that much, but the Coupe offers room enough for two adults and the Gran Coupe more so. The same goes for cargo space that ranges from 220 litres in the Cab to 445 litres in either hard-top car, while all cars get a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a particularly wide and accommodating centre pass-through.
Now that I’m being pragmatic, fuel economy is actually quite good in all of the 4 Series models, the best being the base 430i Coupe and Grand Coupe that share a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.8 combined rating, whereas the 430i Cab is good for a claimed 10.6 city, 7.3 highway and 9.1 combined. The thriftiest six-cylinder 4 Series is the rear-drive automatic 440i Coupe at 11.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 9.4 combined, followed by the both the 440i xDrive auto Coupe and Gran Coupe with ratings of 11.4 city, 7.6 highway and 9.7 combined. The 440i Cab achieves a respective 11.8, 7.9 and 10.0, and lastly the two manually-driven Coupes come in at 12.8, 8.8 and 11.0 for the rear-drive model and 13.0, 8.5 and 11.0 for the xDrive version. All require pricier premium fuel, but that’s par for the course with German luxury vehicles.
Now that I’ve lulled you to sleep, I should wake you up by mentioning that BMW is currently offering up to $10,500 in additional incentives for 2020 4 Series models, one of the most aggressive discounts I’ve ever seen offered by any manufacturer on any car, so you might want to head over to the CarCostCanada 2020 BMW 4 Series Canada Prices page to learn more. You can build each model right down to their 20-plus options and aforementioned colours, plus you can learn about any manufacturer leasing and financing deals, available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that will give you a major edge when negotiating your deal. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download their free app so you can have all of this critical info with you when you’re at the dealership.
I can’t look into the future to guess whether or not the new 2021 4 Series models will eventually be accepted by pre-owned BMW buyers in order to predict their future resale values, because it really will take some time for fans of the brand to make up their collective minds. I don’t even want to think too far ahead regarding my own future tastes, but I can say for sure this most recent 4 Series design has weathered the test of time well. I see it as a future classic, and would be more inclined to pick one of these sure bets up instead of risking my investment on its unorthodox replacement. All I can say is, get one while you can.
Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer…
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer back in ’96 (that eventually became Canada’s top seller) was selling his pre-owned E34 M5. The car was gorgeous, wickedly fast and semi-exotic, or at least as exotic as a four-door sport sedan could get.
I ended up working for that BMW dealership almost every day during the slow months in my seasonal business, because I was already a customer. I’d previously owned a wonderful ’74 Bavaria 3.0S and a bulletproof ‘82 528e, and was driving a little 325e while working there, so appreciated taking home whatever they’d give me on the pre-owned lot; a little green E36 325is being a regular that summer. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered my then-wife a brand new ‘96 325i Cabriolet with the factory aluminum hardtop. After missing out on the E34 M5 that went for silly money (or so I thought at the time), I settled for a similarly sleek ’89 E34 525i that was at least a step up in performance from my old, boxy Eta engine-powered 3 and 5 (albeit nowhere near as reliable).
I know I’m not alone when it comes to unfulfilled dreams, particularly with respect to the cars we enthusiasts initially wanted and the ones we settled for, that list a lot longer and more painful than I want to delve into right now, but at least after becoming an automotive pundit I earned the opportunity to drive some of the best cars ever made, some of which wore BMW roundels. Certainly, the various weeks spent with numerous M5s or an even better four days in Bavaria’s fabulous Z8 don’t quite measure up to the Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Ford GT, Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti, etcetera I’ve driven over the years (although the Z8 was one of the prettiest of them all), but truth be told I’d choose the M5 to drive every day.
BMW’s quintessential sport sedan has been a go-to conveyance for well-heeled commuters for three dozen years, with engine output having increased from 256 horsepower in the North American-spec E28 version to a stellar 617 in this year’s Competition model. The regular 2020 M5 makes do with “just” 600, which is good for a 3.4-second blast from standstill to 100 km/h, while the Competition knocks another 0.1 seconds off the clock.
Of course, if all that any of us wanted were straight-line performance we’d buy an old Fox-bodied Mustang, stuff a 5.2-litre crate engine into it and hit the strip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The M5 has become legendary for how it bends its sizeable four-door body through curves, initially for being first this side of a Maserati Quattroporte and a few other exotics to do so, and second for being comparably affordable.
Times have changed and you can now get into a four-door Maserati for less than an M5, but I’ll delve into such minutia in a moment or two. For now, after noting the base M5’s 176 horsepower and 1.3-second to 100 km/h advantage, while admitting Maserati will soon ante up with a more potent Ghibli Trofeo that’s 20 hp shy of the entry-level M5 before even getting out of the gates, and without getting thrust into the deep comparison void that obviously includes AMG-Mercedes’ E63 S, Audi’s RS 6 (oddly only available as an Avant wagon), Cadillac’s CT6-V and Lexus’ GS F (although the American and Japanese entrants will soon be ranked alongside other discontinued super sedans such as Jaguar’s XF RS), I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Bimmer is the most capable of its class members in the corners too.
It feels lighter and more agile when pushed hard, more E39-like than the F10’s somewhat cumbersome road manners, the carbon fibre roof and other nips and tucks slicing a critical 45 kilos (100 lbs) or so from its predecessor’s curb weight. All-wheel drive keeps all the aforementioned power at bay, and the eight-speed transmitting torque to the wheels shifts much quicker than any conventional automatic should.
A bright red “M2” button on the right-side steering wheel spoke triggers Sport+ mode, which eliminates a bevy of safety features in its default setting, resulting in lickety-split launches and even some power-induced oversteer when the car’s rear drive-biased underpinnings are coaxed beyond containment. Of course, such shenanigans should only be attempted on a track, particularly when having designs to attain the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) terminal velocity.
Out on the road, preferably a rural one that winds and undulates like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, get ready to dust off slower moving traffic as if it’s floating in stasis. Passing power borders on the ridiculous, with braking force so strong you’ll hardly need to worry about fast-approaching curves. The rate this car can gobble up tarmac is hard to fathom until experiencing it first hand, and that it does so comfortably is even more amazing. Of course, it hardly rides on BMW’s most cosseting suspension setup, yet while firm it’s far from unpleasant.
The cabin is a cocoon silent too, other than the ideal amount of combined engine and exhaust note, a critical ingredient for petrolheads buying into this high-powered class. This quiet demeanor will be especially appreciated during everyday driving when you’re more likely to leave its sport modes off and turn the 1,400-watt, 16-speaker, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround audio system up, and believe me the sound quality is almost as awe-inspiring as the driving experience.
More on that just-noted M2 button, it’s combined with an M1 button on the left-side spoke, both featuring pre-set sport settings with the option of personalizing them for your specific driving taste. I tend to like a combination of suspension compliance and engine/transmission eagerness, so to speak, the latter for obvious reasons and the former to overcome the poorly kept country backroads that allow me to test a car like this to its maximum (ok, for the record I was nowhere near the M5’s maximum, but out in the boonies I was able to experience much of its capability when safe to do so). I chose to set my M1 button up like that, and added firmer suspension setting to the M2 button, so when the road smoothed out, I could quickly switch over to maximize Gs. I increased shifting speed from D2 to D3 in M2 mode too, turned off the DSC, and more.
The M5’s gauge cluster is perfect for those who want a full digital experience while still maintaining some semblance of analogue design, this due to a set of aluminum rings wrapping the tachometer and speedometer screens. This doesn’t allow the complete takeover of a navigation map, for instance, which is a cool feature offered by other manufacturers, but most should find the large multi-info display at centre large enough for such purposes. No shortage of functions can fill the MID, all scrollable via steering wheel controls, while the system’s graphics and display quality is top notch.
As for the main infotainment touchscreen on top of the centre stack, it was good enough for my needs, although gets better for 2021, growing by more than two inches for a new total of 12.3 inches. And you heard me right, by the way, it is a touchscreen and therefore is as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone, but BMW continues to provide its rotating iDrive controller on the lower console, so spin the dial if you prefer or alternatively tap, swipe and pinch to your heart’s content.
I did my fair share of tapping and pinching elsewhere around the cabin too, my incessant quality checks annoying enough to drive a previous significant other nuts (hence, previous). Suffice to say the M5 offers up one of the nicest interiors in the super sedan segment, with some of the best quality materials available and workmanship that should make anyone proud. I mentioned the Bowers and Wilkins stereo already, so I might as well laud the system’s beautiful drilled aluminum speaker grilles first, as they’re lovely. The plenty of other metalwork throughout the interior, some accents made from brushed aluminum and others from bright, while glossy carbon fibre could be found in key locations, as could exquisitely stitched leathers.
The front seats are gorgeous and wholly comfortable, with more support than any other BMW product I’ve tested, and at least as much as its competitors. They boast complete adjustability including extendable lower cushions, while the driving position was superb thanks to a generous supply of steering column reach. Those in back should be comfortable enough, as long as they’re seated next to the windows, with the entire rear compartment finished to the same high quality as the front compartment. Lastly, the M5’s trunk is large and accommodating, plus best of all its usefulness can be expanded via 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.
If you like the 2020 M5’s styling you’re not alone, as the car has been a relative hit. This said the 2021 M5 will undergo some visual surgery, squaring off a slightly enlarged grille, modifying the headlights and tail lamps, plus tweaking some other design details as well. Most should be ok with the changes, but those happy with the 2020 might want to snap one up while they can. This said, BMW isn’t offering any greater deal with the 2020 model, at least not yet, with both 2020 and 2021 models available with up to $1,500 in additional incentives, according to CarCostCanada. Check out the 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page and 2021 BMW M5 Canada Prices page for more info, plus find out how you can access all the available incentives on the M5 and most other cars available on the Canadian market, including rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can access all of this critical decision-making info on the fly.
Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, BMW created a twitterstorm of its own with the online launch of its most iconic performance model. The Munich, Germany-based automaker took the wraps…
Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, BMW created a twitterstorm of its own with the online launch of its most iconic performance model. The Munich, Germany-based automaker took the wraps off an entirely new 2021 M3 sport sedan and M4 coupe on Tuesday, September 22, with the resultant global buzz near palpable.
To merely call them “bold” or “dramatic” would be understating the truth bomb they represent, as the unconventional new designs are at the very least polarizing. Stylistically, the all-new M3 (G80) and M4 (G82) seem to be reaching far back into BMW’s history, pulling frontal design cues from the mid-‘60s 2000 C and 2000 CS sport coupes that rode on the back of the brand’s then New Class architecture, which also included the 1500 and 1600 sedans with similar, albeit smaller grilles. While beautiful from their hood lines and front fenders rearward, plus in fact introducing the beloved Hofmeister kink to the rear quarter windows and eventually resulting in the now iconic and highly collectable E9 range of coupes produced from ‘68 to ‘75, the 3.0 CSi being most notable and the CSL most sought after, earlier examples suffered from a deep, rounded bucktooth-like kidney grille that was never as palatable to the majority of collectors as coupe models that followed or came before.
That latter point in mind, the brand’s head of design, Domagoj Dukec (and company), may have been looking further back to BMW’s 309, 319, 320, 321, 328 and 329 models of the mid-to-late ‘30s and early ‘40s, whose tall radiators come closer to matching the size of the new M offerings. Either way, their choices for historical inspiration may cause some would-be M car buyers to take pause.
After all, previous fifth- and first-generation M3/M4 (F80/F82/F83) and original E30-based M3 aside (the former more aggressively penned than its predecessors and the latter whose coke-bottle hips made it stand out from its slab-sided 318i donor), M3s have always been subtle in their approach to styling, preferring moderate visual cues only enthusiasts would notice over the types of radical lower body cladding, ducts and wings found on pumped up versions of some rivals. Not so anymore.
This said, we do love our beavers in Canada, so the new M3 and M4’s aggressive overbite could become very popular north of the 49th. Along with the largest twin kidney grille design ever offered on a modern-day BMW product (it might even be larger than the aforementioned ‘30s-era models), the two new performance cars provide similarly sleek lines to their predecessors from headlamps to taillights, plus key M design elements elsewhere, such as the front fender engine vents, double-post side mirror housings, carbon fibre roof tops, and aggressive rear diffusers.
If it looks fast it better be fast, right? Fortunately, BMW fans have considerably more straight-line performance to celebrate with these sixth- and second-generation M cars, the respective base, or rather “core” M3 and M4 capable of rocketing from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds before attaining a top speed of 250 km/h, or 290 km/h when the M Driver’s Package is chosen. Even more importantly the core models can blast from 80 to 120 km/h in a mere 4.1 seconds when their standard six-speed manual transmissions are placed in fourth gear.
If that’s not enough, buck up for one of the even more potent M3 and M4 Competition models to see that zero to 100 km/h time drop by 0.3 seconds to a sub-four 3.9-second sprint, while an unfathomable 1.5 seconds gets axed off the two quicker cars’ 80 to 120 km/h passing maneuverability, the feat accomplished in a surprising 2.6 seconds according to BMWblog.com.
All of this speed comes via two versions of a new 3.0-litre TwinPower Turbo S58 inline six-cylinder powerplant, both receiving mono-scroll turbochargers featuring quick-reacting electronically-controlled wastegates as well as highly efficient air-to-water intercooling. Like the outgoing S55 twin-turbo I-6, these are built upon BMW’s well-proven B58 engine architecture introduced in 2015. The base engine used in M3 and M4 core models makes 48 horsepower more than their previous generation for a total of 473 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, while faster Competition versions put out an additional 59 ponies for a total of 503 horsepower, also at 6,250 rpm (redline is 7,200 rpm, which is lofty unless you’re stepping out of a 2007 to 2013 E90/E92/E93 M3 whose glorious V8 spun up to a stratospheric 8,400 rpm).
No doubt, the two M models’ four 100-millimetre tailpipes will be exhilarating to the ears, but BMW has included electrically controlled flaps via an M Sound button in order to reduce sound levels when wanting more comfort than speed, while choosing SPORT or SPORT+ modes results in the opposite effect.
Allowing the engine to rev freely, wire-arc sprayed cylinder liners reduce friction and weight, while a lightweight forged crankshaft lowers rotating mass, both of which are set into a rigid closed-deck engine block. In the inline-six engine’s cylinder head incorporates a 3D-printed core that provides improved coolant flow-through as well as reduced weight.
Torque in core models is the same as with the last iteration at 406 lb-ft between 2,650 and 6,130 rpm (which is a bit higher than the previous model’s minimum max torque range of 1,850 to 5,500 rpm), incidentally, but Competition cars get an increase of 73 lb-ft for a new max of 479 between 2,750 and 5,500 rpm, hence the impressive performance mentioned a moment ago.
As usual the aforementioned six-speed manual gearbox comes standard, complete with a rev-matching Gear Shift Assistant to make any driver seem as if they’re blipping the throttle like a pro while downshifting, but the move up to Competition trim necessitates the brand’s eight-speed M Steptronic automated transmission with Drivelogic. Drivelogic consists of a trio of driving modes including “ROAD”, “SPORT” and “TRACK”, the latter available after also choosing the cars’ M Drive Professional setting. The M Steptronic transmission can be shifted via paddles, of course, while a true manual mode won’t allow any automatic upshifts at all.
As has always been the case, the M3 and M4 come standard with rear-wheel drive, but for the first time ever new Competition models will also be available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system. The rear-wheel biased AWD design transfers torque to the rear wheels under normal conditions, but the system’s Active M Differential will apportion some of that power to the front tires when wheel slip occurs, thus allowing optimal traction while maintaining BMW’s acclaimed RWD feel.
This said, the previously noted sport mode will send more power to the rear wheels more often in order to liven up the driving experience, even allowing for some rear-wheel drift or oversteer, while those who really know what they’re doing can turn off traction control to enjoy full rear-wheel drive. All can be controlled via the two M cars’ M Traction Control system, which provides 10 different settings from almost total intervention to completely unchecked.
If the new cars look longer, lower and leaner than their immediately outgoing predecessors, take note they receive a 45-millimetre longer wheelbase and a slightly wider track, while the standard carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof panel helps to lower their centre of gravity and achieve 50/50 front to rear weight distribution.
Like the transmission, the M3 and M4’s chassis receives three preset settings for optimizing road conditions via an electronically-controlled Adaptive M suspension that includes Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings. Along with a progressively stiffer setup, BMW’s M Servotronic steering system improves its sharpness for better response, aided by 275/40ZR18 front and 285/35 ZR19 rear performance tires on Core and rear-wheel drive Competition trims, and 275/35ZR19 front and 285/30ZR20 rear rubber on the xDrive Competition model.
Of course, braking performance has been improved to match the cars’ engine and suspension upgrades, with six-piston fixed-caliper binders clamping down on 380 mm discs up front, and single-piston floating calipers with 370 mm disks in the rear. Alternatively, M Carbon ceramic brakes with larger 400 mm front and 380 mm rear discs can be had for optimal stopping power. These reduce fade, improve thermal stability and take a lot longer to wear out, not to mention come with gold-painted calipers instead of the usual stock blue, or optional black or red. Either way, an electric “integrated braking” actuator helps improve braking response.
The just noted M Carbon ceramic brakes can reportedly be had as part of an M Race Track Package as well, which also includes light-alloy wheels and lightweight M Carbon front seats. Also mentioned before, the M Drive Professional upgrade, standard with Competition models and optional with Core models, incorporates an M Drift Analyzer that records oversteer and opposite lock incidents, including timed duration, line and drift angle. A driver’s personal results are rated from one star to five, with the latter number meaning you need to keep trying.
The new 2021 M3 and M4 will arrive in Canada this coming spring at $84,300 for the sedan and $85,100 for the coupe, with pricing and details for the upcoming M4 Cabriolet arriving sometime in between. A move up to Competition trim appears to be a surprisingly good deal at just $4,000, and for that reason will likely be the most popular choice.
As for how BMW’s faithful will accept the M3 and M4’s new design direction, it’s a mixed bag. All out praise is rare, but some potential buyers seem to love the new models’ eye-catching styling. Either way, there’s much to be said about standing out from the crowd, and BMW certainly achieves this with their new frontal designs.
Those wanting the performance of a new M3 or M4 yet preferring a subtler look should take note of the sport sedan version wearing all-black (including extra carbon fibre) in a number of images provided for the simultaneous introduction of the two cars’ M Performance Parts catalogue. A red and black M3 is shown too, as well as a white and traditionally M-striped M4 with many of the catalogue’s new OEM parts shown, the massive rear wing and triangular cluster of diffuser-mounted exhaust ports enough to make a Honda Civic R owner blush from inadequacy.
BMW’s X1 was the very first subcompact luxury crossover SUV ever produced, having arrived on the European scene in 2009 as a 2010 model, two years before we saw it as a 2012. Even when it showed up on our shores in April of 2011, nothing else was around to compete against it, unless you consider the near-luxury Mini Countryman as a direct rival, that model having arrived in February of the same year.
Once October 2011 rolled around, the Range Rover Evoque entered the market and a new automotive category was created, but it would take another three years for Audi and Mercedes-Benz to add more variety to North America’s new subcompact luxury SUV segment with their respective Q3 and GLA-Class (unless you count the Buick Encore that arrived in 2013), plus an additional two years for Infiniti to show up with its QX30 (not that many noticed), three more for Jaguar’s E-Pace, Volvo’s XC40 and BMW’s second offering, the sportier X2, and one more for Lexus’ new UX.
More are on the way, including Alfa Romeo’s Tonale for 2022, and possibly something eventually from Acura (long rumoured to be called the CDX), but Infiniti has already cancelled its QX30 so Acura may have been wise to hold out. Then again, aforementioned Buick has done very well with its Encore, and while the brand sits at the lowest end of the premium market in price and prestige, the model’s upcoming second-generation (expected for 2020) could make an even bigger dent in the market.
If we were to consider Buick a true luxury brand the Encore be the sales leader in this category, but with a base price of $28,400 (not even as high as the Mini Countryman’s base of $31,690) it’s not really a contender for premium status. Buick sold 10,637 Encores in 2018 and 8,322 as of October 31, 2019, which represents considerably more buyers than BMW has been able to find with its second-bestselling X1, which found 5,308 buyers in 2018 and 3,753 so far this year. The X1 starts at $41,500, however, so it’s not really a fair comparison. One is a gussied up Chevy Trax that delivers big on fuel economy and reasonably on features, but not so much on performance or refinement, and the other is a leader in all of the above (see 2019 BMW X1 pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can learn about all its packages and individual options in detail, plus find out about valuable rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, BMW currently offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on 2019s and $1,000 on the new 2020 model).
To be fair to Buick, some of the X1’s rivals wouldn’t have initially received high marks in all the just-noted categories. Audi’s first-generation Q3 was a bit weak on performance and refinement, and honestly the original X1 was regularly criticized by pundits for cheaper interior plastics than any other BMW, my first review of this model claiming that Ford’s Escape Titanium “even offers more soft-touch interior surfaces than this X1.” I lauded the X1 for its overall solidity and performance, mind you, both important differentiators expected from premium SUVs.
The X1, now in its second generation and ironically having traded its lovely rear-wheel drive E91 3 Series Touring-platform (arguably its best asset) in for the aforementioned Mini Countryman’s second-gen front-wheel drive-biased UKL2 architecture (hardly a slouch either), today’s entry-level BMW SUV is a wholly different vehicle than its predecessor. It started out as a low, hunkered down, rear-wheel drive-biased AWD five-door crossover, but now it’s grown up into a much more conventionally shaped and sized subcompact luxury SUV, looking a lot more like its larger X3 and X5 siblings. Its considerable sales growth in 2016 and 2017 back up BMW’s decision to take the X1 in this new direction, and while deliveries dipped a bit in 2018 and so far this year, this probably has more to do with BMW’s introduction of the X2 than anything else, while more importantly it’s managed to remain in its number one position (amongst true subcompact luxury SUVs) even without factoring in the X2.
Specifically, the X1’s aforementioned year-to-date Canadian sales of 3,753 units is considerably higher than the second-place GLA’s 3,021 deliveries over the same 10 months, and likewise when compared to Lexus’ new UX that’s already taken third-place way from Audi’s Q3 with 2,374 units against 2,303. As for the success of the also-rans, Volvo’s new XC40 managed 1,690 units, Land Rover’s redesigned Range Rover Evoque secured 1,333 new buyers, BMW’s own X2 attracted 1,159 new owners, and Jaguar’s E-Pace wasn’t last (yet) with 372 customers, while Infiniti’s now discontinued QX30 brought up the rear with 93 deliveries (too bad, because it’s more than decent offering).
BMW shows its dominance even more when combining X1 and X2 sales that reached 4,912 units at the close of October, and that’s even before adding in the 2,082 Countryman (should we call them Countrymen?) SUVs sold over the same three-and-a-third quarters (most of which reach into the mid-$40k range), boosting deliveries to almost 7,000 units (6,994), they almost tally up to everything Mercedes, Lexus and Audi (2, 3 and 4 in the category) can sell combined (7,698 units). Ah, the sweet smell of success.
The smell of my tester was leather thanks to its beautiful milk chocolate brown Mocha Dakota Leather upholstered cabin, the $950 upgrade from base leatherette requisite when opting for its pretty $895 Mediterranean Blue Metallic exterior paint (the satin aluminum silver trim across the front and rear undertrays plus the rocker panels comes standard, while optional Oyster Grey and Black leather interiors are also available with this colour). The open-pore Oak Grain wood inlays with chrome and brush-metal highlights are no-cost bonuses that make the cabin look so upscale (additional woods, brushed aluminum and piano black lacquered inlays can be had too) as are all the high-quality soft-touch composite surfaces that step the X1 up and over most rivals.
To be real, Dakota leather is BMW’s lower grade hide, but Nappa and Merino aren’t offered with the X1. It’s still the real deal, however, but it can be corrected-grain or even formed from the leather split and then coated with synthetic polymer paint, with its surface artificially embossed for a grain effect. What matters is it smells right, looks good and lasts, with the X1’s seat inserts even perforated for breathability. The seats didn’t include forced ventilation or anything so fancy, but the three-way front derriere warmers heated up to therapeutic levels quickly when set to their topmost temperature, adding a coziness to the already comfortable driver’s seat.
The front driver and passenger four-way lumbar support isn’t standard, but rather comes as part of two available packages, the first a $3,500 upgrade dubbed Premium Package Essential that also includes power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless Comfort Access, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, a large panoramic sunroof, a “HiFi” audio system, and an alarm, and the second as-tested $5,900 Premium Package Enhanced including everything above plus a head-up display, a universal remote, satellite radio, navigation, BMW’s semi-autonomous Park Assistant, the BMW ConnectedDrive Services Package, and a powered liftgate.
Both packages are also available with a heatable steering wheel, plus a $1,000 Driving Assistant Plus package that adds approach warning with pedestrian alert and light city braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go plus traffic jam assist, high-beam assist, and speed limit info.
Now that we’re talking upgrades, my tester also included a $950 Sport Performance Package featuring a Sport automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles (worth the upgrade alone), more reactive M Sport Steering, and 19-inch alloy wheels, although my tester was smartly outfitted for this colder season and therefore included a set of 225/50R18 Continental ContiWinterContact tires on special M Sport split five-spoke alloys.
As anyone who’s driven on winter rubber will know, performance on anything but snow or ice is compromised, and therefore my tester’s at-the-limit grip couldn’t possible measure up to the stock wheel and tire combination. This said it proved more agile than the same SUV shod in 17-inch winter tires for my 2016 X1 xDrive28i review, which were smaller due to the older model coming with 18s in base trim.
Not much else seems to have changed since then, however, which obviously (by the aforementioned sales numbers) doesn’t matter to X1 buyers, or for that matter to me. The model’s only engine, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, still makes 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, potent when sidled up beside some of its rivals, like a Lexus UX or the base Mercedes GLA, but nowhere near as energetic as the latter model in 375-horsepower AMG trim, or for that matter top-line versions of the Jaguar E-Pace, Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40, but once again popularity proves this isn’t an issue.
I found it more than adequately powered, especially with Sport mode engaged, which meant the standard ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission responded more immediately to shifts, whether prompted by its paddles or left to its own devices. All-wheel drive is standard, and in the wet improved grip off the line and mid-turn, while the little utility feels poised compared to some in this class, but not as agile as the aforementioned AMG GLA 45, for instance, or its predecessor that was little more than a raised 3 Series wagon. More importantly, today’s X1 is more comfortable than its predecessor and many competitors, whether the powertrain is set to more relaxed Comfort or Eco modes or not, its ride particularly good for such a compact SUV. Eco mode in mind, claimed fuel economy is even decent at 10.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.3 combined.
It’s actually one of the more well-rounded entry-level SUVs in the premium sector, and amongst the most practical. Along with the comfortable front seats, the lower cushions even including adjustable side bolsters and manual thigh extensions, the steering column provided at least four inches of reach that, together with the amply adjustable driver’s seat, allowed my long-legged, shorter-torso five-foot-eight frame to fit in ideally, optimizing both comfort and control (this is often not the case). The aforementioned four-way powered lumbar support aided comfort, especially during long hauls, while the adjustable side bolsters cupped the torso nicely and the thigh extensions added support under the knees. BMW has thought of just about everything to make the X1’s front occupants comfortable.
The rear passenger compartment is more accommodating than you might think for a vehicle in this class too, while the outboard backrests are plenty supportive and centre position not wholly uncomfortable (normally the case with subcompacts). Two is better in back, however, allowing a wide (albeit slightly low) centre armrest with smallish pop-out cupholders to be folded down in between. When positioned behind the driver’s seat, which once again was extended further rearward than for most five-foot-eight folks, allowing approximately four inches ahead of my knees, at least another four to five above my head, plus about four next to my hips and shoulders. I certainly never felt cramped.
Of course the large panoramic sunroof overhead made for a much more open and airy rear passenger experience, while the LED reading lights overhead can add light at night if those in back want to read. There were no seat heaters in back, a bit of a letdown, but on the positive the rear quarters are finished just as nicely as those up front.
The cargo compartment is nicely finished as well, with high-quality carpeting up the sides of each wall, on the cargo floor, of course, which can be removed to expose a large hidden stowage area, plus on the backsides of the ideally 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. If you have any intention of using your future SUV for skiing, or any other type of activity that might have you carrying longer cargo down the centre with passengers in back should consider this more flexible cargo configuration. BMW provides 505 litres (17.8 cubic feet) of dedicated gear-toting space behind those seatbacks, and gives you a convenient set of levers to drop them down, resulting in a sizeable 1,550 litres (54.7 cubic feet) of total capacity.
Back in the driver’s seat, the X1’s primary instrument cluster consists of the usual two analogue dials, although they appear as if floating within a colourful digital background, which looks really nice when lit up at night. Of course that background is a multi-information display at centre, plus warning lights, info about the active cruise control and more around the outer edges.
Propped up at the centre leading edge of the sloping dash-top is a beautiful wide high-definition display with fabulous depth of colour and contrast, and stimulating graphics. Unlike most premium rivals that don’t include touchscreens, BMW’s display is fully capacitive, allowing tap, pinch, and swipe capabilities just like a tablet or smartphone. You can also use the traditional iDrive rotating controller and surrounding buttons on the lower console for quick control. It’s an intelligent system, expected from the brand that initiated modern infotainment way back in the early aughts, while all the functions performed flawlessly including the route guidance that got me to my destinations perfectly each time. The upgraded audio system was very good too, and included a power/volume knob and row of quick-access radio presets just below a set of HVAC vents positioned under the display, and just above a comprehensive dual-zone auto climate control interface. Everything is well laid out, adding to the X1’s all-round goodness.
As is always the case, vehicles don’t become number one in their respective classes by accident, which is why anyone contemplating a small luxury SUV should seriously consider BMW’s X1.