The last time I was at the wheel of a BMW was in 1995. A 17-year-old exchange student without a driver’s licence, living in a small town called Tengling in Germany (population: 100), my schoolmates Axel and Jens thought it would be a hilarious jig to teach me how to do reverse donuts on the subzero icy roads of Bavaria.
And it was. Sehr hilarious. Viel Fun. But I don’t think Axel’s BMW was ever the same after that.
So when BMW lent me one of the brand spanking new X1s for a week and we earmarked it for a drive down to Ruapehu for a ski weekend, I thought I’d better leave my 17-year-old self back in 1995 where she belongs.
It was just as well – the icy roads up to Whakapapa may not be quite the same as the subzero madness of mid-winter Bavarian motoring, but it’s also not a drive along Ponsonby Road, dahlink.
For a large 2WD car (the X1 also comes in 4WD) it handles remarkably well in the slush and snow. I’d rave about the specs but you can geek out about those here.
Reverse donut potential aside, a couple of things struck me about the X1.
Firstly there’s a gender split in how people behave when they first get in the car. Women will coo over the ‘new car smell’ and ‘how pretty it is’ before checking whether or not there’s a mirror on the sunshield. Men, on the other hand, ask ‘What does this do?’ and start pushing every button in sight.
Secondly, the seat heaters provide maximum opportunity for practical jokes on new passengers. You hit the ‘heat’ button (on high – very grunty!) when they’re not looking, and watch them get gradually more confused about why their butt is on fire. (The seat heaters are actually comfortingly toasty after a long day on the slopes.)
Lastly, there’s something slightly disturbing, albeit very cool, about a car that’s smarter than you. The X1 has a rain radar on the windscreen, so if you switch the wipers to automatic, it’ll turn itself off and on and adjust the wiper speed according to how heavy the rain is. Same goes for the lights – if you drive through a tunnel, they’ll suddenly turn on, then off again out the other side.
It’s also got a handy beeping mechanism for when you’re too close to dodgy items when parking – and seems to be able to figure out that traffic is flying past you if you’re reversing out of a driveway.
You can also get other bells and whistles, such as a rear-view camera, headlight washer system, and a panorama glass roof.
Jens and Axel would definitely approve.
*The BMW X1 was designer-wrapped by Vanessa Kim for her label Daniel K for New Zealand Fashion Week. Read more here.