Swapping maximum practicality for extra style, the new 2018 BMW X2 is the latest member of the company’s Sports Activity Coupe family. It joins the X4 and X6 in giving aspirational SUV buyers something sportier looking than a traditional boxy SUV, in much the same way as traditional coupes do in comparison to sedans.
Now, along comes the X2. If the trend holds, BMW will move no more than 4,400 of these X1-derivatives off of dealership lots. However, having now driven it in the desert near Palm Springs, Calif., something tells me the X2 might actually be the first SAC to achieve something resembling popularity.
Why do I think the new 2018 BMW X2 has a shot at sales stardom? Because it looks good, and it is priced within reach of the Millennials who are likely to consider it.
Wisely in my view, BMW departs from the SAC design standards with the X2, ditching the fastback looks of the X4 and X6 for a roofline that remains rakish but is more conventional at the same time. And that new BMW roundel affixed to the rear roof pillar really gives the X2 some panache, hearkening back as it does to the classic 3.0 CS of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I mean, this little detail is just flat-out cool.
Additionally, BMW tweaks certain design elements with the X2, such as the twin-kidney grille, which on this little crossover is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. Standard equipment includes LED headlights and taillights, and dual 3.5-inch round exhaust outlets that punctuate the X2’s stubby rear end.
Naturally, given that it is a crossover SUV, the X2 gets a bunch of body cladding for a more rugged look. Add the M Sport X trim, which BMW claims is inspired by rally racing, and the cladding is a lighter Frozen Gray and the side skirts are painted to match the body. Wheels range in size from 18 to 20 inches in diameter, and around back a pair of round 3.5-inch exhaust outlet protrude from each corner.
Inside, soft-touch materials, exposed stitching, and trim in high-gloss black, aluminum, or wood await. Standard ambient cabin lighting comes in six different colors, and the X2 features sophisticated black panel instrumentation. The M Sport X adds unique hexagonal aluminum interior trim with pearl gloss accents, and contour lighting for the door panels.
Prices start at $37,395 for the X2 sDrive28i with front-wheel drive and no options (includes destination charge of $995). Or, you can pay $53,670 for the X2 xDrive28i with Premium trim, the M Sport X Package, and all of the extras. My Sunset Orange test vehicle tallied up to $50,920, lacking only leather seats, 20-inch wheels, suspension upgrades, a space-saver spare tire, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability.
I’ll admit it. I had no idea that my test car’s seats were SensaTec leatherette rather than the optional leather. This is a good thing if you’re looking to save $1,450 on a new X2.
Up front, the standard 10-way power adjustable sport seats are comfortable, but several times when getting in I bumped my butt into the center door support. Granted, this could be due my larger size, but there is no denying that the X2 is a small vehicle. Rear seat legroom is tight for adults if taller people are sitting up front, but the seat itself is supportive.
Once you’re settled in, you face a layered dashboard with a black upper portion that helps to cut down on sun glare. Like the exterior, the interior exhibits a greater sense of style than might be expected at the X2’s opening price, and in my test vehicle’s Oyster-colored cabin the high-contrast décor and quality materials help you to feel like you’re getting what you paid for. The available panoramic sunroof helps to make what could feel like a cramped environment feel more expansive.
If you’re familiar with BMWs, you’ll quickly acclimate to the X2’s controls. If you’re not, then there is a learning curve. However, the addition of a touchscreen infotainment display certainly helps to reduce frustration.
Storage space is decent, and the X2 holds 21.6 cu.-ft. of cargo behind its rear seat. Fold it down, and you’ve got 50.1 cu.-ft. of room with which to work.
BMW includes the latest version of its iDrive infotainment system in the new X2. Called iDrive 6.0, the system includes a 6.5-inch or an 8.8-inch touchscreen display, which goes a long way toward making the system easy to use.
Personally, I prefer to use the knob and shortcut buttons on the center console, but this is reflective of years of experience using iDrive. If you’re new to BMW, you’ll appreciate the touchscreen. And if you’re a member of the target demographic, you’ll probably use the voice recognition system to execute lots of commands.
At the same time, Apple CarPlay runs an extra $300. This year. Starting in 2019, Apple CarPlay will be free but you’ll need to pay a monthly or annual subscription to it. Android Auto is not offered for the X2.
The subscription model also applies to BMW ConnectedDrive Services. Many of them are free for the first four years, and highlights include real-time traffic information, automatic collision notification, SOS emergency request, on-street parking data, remote smartphone access to certain vehicle functions, and concierge services. A Wi-Fi hotspot is also available at extra cost after the initial 3-month/3-gig trial period expires.
A full-color head-up display is optional for the X2, but as is true in other BMW models it washes out when you’re wearing polarized sunglasses. This is a drag, especially when you’re using the navigation system to find your way to a place you’ve never been. Getting upcoming turn instructions projected right onto the windshield really cuts down on distraction, but if you can’t see them, they’re useless.
A Driving Assistance Package ($700) installs forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, city-speed automatic emergency braking, a lane departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlights, and more. To this you can also add an adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go traffic management capability for an extra grand.
BMW bases the X2 on the entry-level X1 model. They all come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower between 5,000 rpm and 6,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,450 rpm to 4,500 rpm. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard, and with the M Sport X Package it gains a Sport mode and paddle shifters. Automatic engine stop/start technology aims to improve fuel economy.
Versions of the X2 wearing the sDrive28i designation are front-wheel drive, while the xDrive28i variants feature all-wheel drive. The xDrive system powers the X2’s front wheels until driving behavior or wheel slippage requires that power be sent to the rear wheels. Should you venture off-road, know that the X2 supplies just 7.2 inches of ground clearance.
Drivers can select between EcoPro, Comfort, and Sport driving modes. Set the X2 up properly and by BMW’s stopwatch the sDrive28i runs to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds while the xDrive28i gets to the same speed in 6.3 seconds. In order to haul the X2 down from speed, BMW fits the crossover with 4-wheel vented-disc brakes with brake drying and brake fade compensation.
Compared to the X1 on which it is based, the X2 benefits from sportier chassis tuning for more engaging driving dynamics. Optional upgrades include an M Sport suspension, or you could just install the Dynamic Handling Package ($600) for a dynamic damper control suspension and M Sport steering. You can also swap out the standard all-season tires for performance rubber, and don’t forget about wheel upgrades.
My test sample wore the 19-inch wheels that come with the M Sport X Package, with the all-seasons ditched in favor of stickier rubber. It also had the M Sport suspension. Missing was the Dynamic Handling Package, and I really think my particular X2 could have benefitted from it.
Box Canyon Road east of Palm Springs is a fun drive, but when you don’t know it well, it can be harrowing. Some curves that should have warning signs don’t, most of them aren’t banked, and a few of them contain blind decreasing radius corners for extra sphincter tightening. Hustling the enjoyable X2 along, on a couple of occasions I wished for a better hand of components than I was dealt.
With that said, I have no doubt that on my usual testing loop, a road I know better than the lines on my own face, the X2 xDrive28i would prove to be a willing and able companion. Acceleration is brisk, the transmission snaps off rapid shifts, the steering is precise and well weighted, and the suspension capably manages roll and body motions. Plus, the xDrive AWD system continually spreads the power around to the wheels with the best grip, transforming the X2 into a tenacious canyon carver.
I’ve got three complaints. First, the brake pedal could stand from some improvement in terms of modulation. Second, the X2 is quite loud due to road noise, though to be fair much of the prescribed driving route was composed of rougher aggregate pavement. Third, I averaged just over 21 mpg during my driving, falling short of the EPA estimate of 25 mpg in combined driving.
Vibrant paint colors, appealing design, lots of useful technology, engaging driving dynamics, an affordable price of entry, and just enough interior room for four adults and their belongings should make the new 2018 BMW X2 the most successful of the company’s even-numbered SUVs.
No doubt, aspirational younger customers will find the lease-special X2 sDrive28i compelling, and some might even choose a few options, such as xDrive or the attention-getting Galvanic Gold paint seen on the vehicles in the photo above.
I also think that empty nesters will find the more expensive, upgraded versions of the X2 appealing because this crossover offers style, luxury, all-weather capability, extra utility, and enough room for a trio of grandchildren in the back seat.
Either way, my bet is that BMW’s alternative approach to its Sports Activity Coupe design ethos will produce unexpectedly strong demand for the new X2.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it using the “Join the Conversation” buttons below, and thank you for visiting Daily News Autos.