Customers have long chosen lifestyle vehicles over their more conventional counterparts. These cars make statements about their owners – they say they're edgy, different, and willing to embrace some impracticalities in favor of making a statement. BMW has monetized these folks in a way few automakers have managed with its even-numbered range of X crossovers.
The basic idea is that the odd-numbered X cars (X1, X3, and X5) are conventional crossovers in sizes small, medium, and large. The even-numbered cars share most of their bits with those vehicles, but hide them all under sleek, stylish bodies. In the case of the X2 – the lifestyle version of the X1 – that means there's a smart package with quick reflexes, but a price and option strategy that makes it difficult to recommend. You can live this lifestyle if you want to, but be aware of what you're giving up.
The front-wheel-drive X2 starts at $36,400. That means it’s $3,200 more-expensive than the entry-level Volvo XC40 ($33,200), and $2,450 more expensive than the cheapest Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class ($33,950). The all-wheel-drive X2 is even costlier, with BMW charging $38,400 for the model.
At $50,920 as tested – with all-wheel drive and the optional M Sport X design package – the X2 is downright expensive. It’s significantly pricier than its counterparts; Volvo doesn’t even offer an XC40 for more than $46,000. And while the GLA can be optioned north of $56,000, it has a more-advanced safety suite and a range of more options.
The truly disturbing thing about its price, though, is that at nearly $51,000, the X2 doesn’t even have advanced safety features or real leather. For shame.
BMW designers definitely stepped out of their comfort zone when styling the X2. Its distinctive C-pillar – dubbed the Hofmeister kink – is a high point, and the pillar’s centrally placed BMW roundel is a first for the X range. Bold styling carries over to the rest of the body; in the M Sport trim (as tested) a silver plastic finish covers the front fascia, wheel wheels, and portions of the bumper.
Is the X2 conventionally attractive? Not really. The X3 and X5 will probably appeal more to the masses, but the X2 gets brownie points for its uniqueness. It garnered plenty of compliments by onlookers in my week with it. The eye-searing Sunset Orange paint job (a $550 option) probably had something to do with it.
Another really appealing element of the X2 is its low center of gravity – not necessarily something you expect in a crossover, but welcomed here. It sits 2.8 inches lower than the X1, and its roofline is 3.2 inches shorter. It looks stout and aggressive parked next to other crossovers. The X2’s optional 17-inch M-Sport wheels are also more appealing than the rest of the competitive set.
The X2’s cabin isn’t nearly as likable as the exterior. In contrast to its body, the interior of the X2 feels basic and bland. My tester’s two-tone faux-leather Oyster and black trim felt outdated (real leather is a $1,450 option), and the piano-black plastic trim pieces and optional Pearl Gloss Chrome felt cheap. The 10-way power adjustable seats are stiff and uncomfortable, and the gear-shift lever feels like it was pulled out of a bargain bin. It clunkily shifts into position.
There are some redeeming qualities, though. The M steering wheel feels great and has a good, small diameter, and the optional 8.0-inch touchscreen looks pretty atop the dash. The LED interior accent lighting adds an extra element of flair to the cabin, especially at night, and there’s a healthy amount of cargo room compared to its classmates. The X2 has 21.6 cubic feet with all seats in place, and 50.0 cubes with the rear bench folded flat. That bests the XC40 (20.7/47.2), GLA (15.0/42.0), and Infiniti QX30 (19.2/34.0).
BMW was the first to adopt Bluetooth-enabled Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (a $300 option), and in my experience the system worked flawlessly. No more fumbling around with cords, as CarPlay connects seamlessly the second you turn on the vehicle. A wireless charger in the center console (a $500 option) allows you to set your phone and forget it. Better than the usual chore of haphazardly tossing it into a cup holder with a wire attached.
BMW’s iDrive infotainment system works fine, but it’s starting to show its age next to more-modern competitors. The landing screen is customizable and the dial controller scrolls quickly through functions. It’s straightforward and easy to use. The 8.0-inch touchscreen, though sleek and quick to respond, is hard to reach from the driver’s seat.
If I had to choose one word to accurately describe the X2, it would be “nimble.” The quick steering rack and stiff suspension give it a darty personality. The optional xDrive all-wheel-drive trim keeps the X2 firmly stuck to the pavement when cornering. The 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine isn’t hugely powerful, but it’s punchy enough for the class. And the eight-speed automatic performs admirably in any drive setting.
Speaking of drive settings, there are three of them: Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro. In Comfort mode, the X2 acts appropriately – it’s perfectly neutral in both power delivery and handling. In Sport mode, the throttle responds more quickly, the steering gets a smidge heavier, and gears are held longer. And in Eco Pro, throttle response is very sluggish in an effort to improve fuel efficiency. (It’s a bit too sluggish if you ask me).
If I had to knock the X2 in one area, it would be ride comfort. The stiff suspension is harsh over rough roads, and the cabin is also very loud on the highway.
The X2 doesn’t have many standard safety features, which is disappointing for a luxury crossover in this segment. Both the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes-Benz GLA at least offer forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking standard.
BMW offers its Driver Assistance Package as a $700 option, which includes passive features like forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning, as well as one active safety feature: low-speed automatic-front braking, or City Collision Mitigation in BMW speak. Adaptive cruise control is a separate $1,000 option. It was not equipped on the vehicle we tested.
Outward visibility is another issue that plagues the X2. The large C-pillars limit rear visibility, and the gun-slit back window further obscures the view. BMW’s Parking Assistant alleviates some of the stress of parallel parking. Put on your blinker, tap the breaks, and hold down the Parking Assistant button in the center console and the system automatically guides the vehicle into an open spot with no other input required from the driver. It’s super cool. But you’ll have to dish out another $800 for the feature.
An EPA-estimated 21 miles per gallon city, 31 highway, and 25 combined is nothing to write home about. The XC40 with all-wheel drive gets 23 city, 31 highway, and 26 combined, as does the all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz GLA250. But the BMW has a bigger tank than both: its 16.1-gallon fuel hold bests those of the Volvo (14.2 gallons) and Mercedes (14.8 gallons), respectively.
Gallery: 2018 BMW X2: Review
2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i