BMW uses a sport differential in front, a first for the brand, with the X2's all-wheel-drive system.
Quite a few of BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicles in the past few years have met with some controversy, but the X2 has arguably taken it the worst. A vehicle that’s only slightly different from the excellent X1 (reviewed here), the X2 arrived in 2018 as an appearance-focused alternative. We sampled it in standard xDrive28i model and liked it, though still continued to question its overall existence.
Digressing from that, because according to BMW there’s a buyer for everything they produce, the X2 is a decent alternative to the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s GLA 250 (reviewed here) and other subcompact crossovers. It’s more style-focused and slightly less practical than the X1, and BMW claims it has a more coupé-like roofline. The C-pillar has a BMW roundel on it, which is a nontraditional look that BMW says pays homage to their classic coupés. Overall we’re fans of how the X2 looks, and the metallic black paint on our tester looked smashing during golden hour and against the suset.
This is the 2019 BMW X2 M35i xDrive, a version of the standard X2 that has been massaged by BMW’s performance division. It still has a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder like the xDrive28i (reviewed here), but it has been completely reworked and is good for 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque, numbers that just a few years ago were reserved for BMWs with six cylinders or more. The M35i has more response, sharp reflexes, and even a launch control function that will cause your subcompact crossover to set off with urgency.
There’s no dual-clutch transmission paired up with this motor, but instead an eight-speed automatic that gives lightning-quick gear changes and ensures you are always in the perfect part of the powerband. The X2 feels good and razor sharp to drive, with adequate, though firm ride quality and quick steering. The performance suspension in the M35i rides 10mm lower than the standard model, and is also noticeably stiffer. Our passengers did complain about the harsh ride, and the Pirelli P-Zero tires don’t help in this regard.
BMW uses a sport differential in front, a first for the brand, with the standard all-wheel-drive system. This means the perfect amount of grip is sent to the front wheels on demand, imperceptible to the driver. There is a considerable amount of turbo lag off the line, but once it gets going, the X2 M35i feels quick on its feet. Some synthetic noise is piped in, but simply put – the sound is not good. It feels artificial and, well, synthetic. BMW four-cylinders usually sound good on acceleration, so a bit of tweaking in this regard could work wonders.
On the inside, the X2 is everything you’d expect from a current BMW product. The interior is well laid out, though a step behind the current offerings from the new X3 (reviewed here), X5 and X7. The iDrive system is extremely easy to use and supports wireless Apple CarPlay, though connectivity in this manner was spotty at times. As more and more vehicles become connected and further integrated into “the cloud”, it’s refreshing to jump into what’s effectively a previous-generation product and experience a vehicle that’s focused on the drive more than the technology.
For the two occupants up front, the X2’s interior is absolutely spacious enough. The lower roofline doesn’t seem to compromise headroom at all, even with the panoramic sunroof equipped on our test vehicle (we expect a very high take rate on this option). The rear seats are tight as expected, but if carrying rear passengers is an occasional event, you’ll get by just fine. The front seats are comfortable and it was very easy to get a great driving position – materials also feel premium and build quality is top notch.
BMW Canada prices the X2 to start at $44,345, and the M35i model stickers at $49,200. This test vehicle had a series of options, including a $5,650 Premium Package Enhanced (panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heads-up display, and more). It also added a series of standalone options including premium wheels, wireless charging, and gorgeous red leather sport seats. The sticker pushed $56,650, which puts it in the same wheelhouse as the much faster yet harsher Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 (reviewed here).
While there are many similarities between the X2 M35i and GLA 45, the two couldn’t be any more different. The GLA 45 focuses on sheer performance and compromises interior space and more importantly, ride quality. It’s essentially a hot hatch, while the X2 at least makes an attempt to be a crossover. At 9.8L/100km with a hilariously addictive exhaust note, the M35i is definitely a bit of fun, too.
The main conversation point with this vehicle is the new powerplant, which will inevitably make its way into MINI products in the very near future. I personally can’t wait to drive a John Cooper Works MINI with 300 horsepower under the hood. On its own, the 2019 BMW X2 M35i makes for a fun crossover for those wanting a do-anything German compact with a bit of practicality to it.