The fresh-faced, second-generation BMW X1 was recently launched in Australia and though the launch event near Coffs Harbour included a drive loop of around 400km through the surrounding countryside, it just wasn't enough. This all-new baby BMW needed an even bigger dose of fresh air.
The solution? A road trip to Sydney, including a few choice detours to hunt for fresh local produce along the way.
Waking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a blissful nights sleep at Sapphire Beach, I hit the bitumen in the xDrive25i eager to put some kilometres behind under its tyres.
BMW iDrive system is quick and easy to get around. Using the rotary dial and touchpad, it didn't take long to plug in the destination. Home was around 540km away or six hours behind the wheel if we stuck to the highway.
Thing is, Coffs Harbour to Sydney can be a bit of a boring run if you follow the nav and head straight down the Pacific Highway. For us at CarAdvice though - being the curious, explorative, adventurous types that we are - the plan was to take a few tourist drives and see what lay hidden around the corner of a windy country road.
The new BMW X1 was designed by Sydney-born Calvin Luk, who has been based in Munich with the German carmaker for seven years. Visually, it's a very different car than it used to be and during the launch I was lucky enough to have him talk me through his vision and how the design came to life. For all the details watch the video and read the story here.
The new SUV is shorter than its predecessor by 15mm in total length, 90mm less in the wheelbase, but it is 23mm wider and 53mm higher.
The improved claimed combined fuel consumption of 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres can be attributed in part to the more aerodynamic body shape, and I was eager to test that figure out.
But despite the obvious exterior styling changes, the biggest difference is how those new dimensions have altered the cabin.
There is a huge amount of headroom, even with the sunroof and BMW claims that the X1 has class-leading cargo capacity at 505-litres, or 1550-litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats down.
Though its natural competitors would be the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA or Lexus NX, the BMW trumps them all when it comes to cargo space. The NX comes close; it might be taller, wider and longer, but its five litres short on both cargo volumes.
Technically the X1 falls under the small SUV banner, but its closer in interior size to some of those in the medium segment. The Kia Sportage, for example, differs by just 1mm in length, but while it offers 564 litres with the rear seats in play, there are only 1353 litres available with the rear seats folded.
The plan was to find as much fresh, local produce as possible between Sapphire Beach and Sydney and fill the cavernous boot of the X1. So with luggage loaded up, I made a quick stop at the petrol station to fill up and reset the trip metre, then as the sky darkened and light rain started to fall I headed off.
Barely a few minutes down the road the iconic Big Banana beckoned. Sadly I was there a bit early and it wasn't yet open - no fresh bananas made their way into the boot at this point, and no breakfast banana smoothie to soothe my grumbling tummy, either. However, a radio station had sent their cruiser driver out to give away local milk, so with a bottle of that rolling around it was back on the open road.
The clouds were hot on my heels as I headed out of town. A quick stop at a roadway fruit and vegetable store yielded a box full of goodies including potatoes, bananas and kale. Though the box read Victoria Pears, everything I purchased had been grown in the region and I was assured the box was recycled.
Over the next hour or so the rain settled in. The less-than-ideal weather offered an opportunity to explore the features of the X1.
The list of standard inclusions is impressive by any measure, and the line-up has been simplified and is easy to understand. There's a choice of two-wheel (sDrive) or all-wheel drive (xDrive) and petrol or diesel.
The X1 range - sDrive18d, sDrive20i, xDrive20d and xDrive25i - all have a rear-view camera, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning, park assist, ConnectedDrive, auto tailgate, LED headlights and more. See full pricing and specification details here.
The lane departure warning came in handy as the heavy rain severely hampered visibility at times. There was also a lot of road works happening along the Pacific Highway and the nav's handy real-time traffic information let us know what to expect further up the road as we hit delay after delay.
Taking a turn off the main drag, I was hoping to not only avoid some of the works but also find some hidden gems packed with homegrown produce. The tourist drives offer scenic views and the chance to test out the prowess of the X1 in different scenarios. Winding roads that hug the gorgeous coastline and rougher road surfaces through farming areas, it was refreshing to get off the highway.
The X1 is an enjoyable drive. The xDrive25i has 19-inch alloys with low-profile run-flat tyres and though the ride felt a little firm at times, the comfort of the seats made a big difference. It handled corners with a reassuring sense of stability, without body-roll, and was an all-round sporty feeling drive even without using the paddleshifters or trying to figure out if the variable-ratio sports steering made much of a difference (the point was to enjoy the road trip, not pretend to be a race car driver).
The heads-up system displayed clearly in the windscreen and included navigation information which I found incredibly helpful. There's no point putting a heads-up display in any car unless its done well, and in my opinion the BMW system is one of the best. The biggest complaint I had so far was the tyre and road noise that permeated and echoed around the spacious cabin.
There's a lot to see and do on the way home to Sydney. Coffs Harbour is where the Great Dividing Range meets the Pacific Ocean and as you head south the Hastings River twists its way through the Port Macquarie region.
After finding another roadside produce store, the hunt was on to find the best Hastings River oysters - I'd been told by a local they weren't to be missed. Being on an unfamiliar road at the time, it ended up being harder to find the perfect place to stop for lunch than it had been to find the oysters.
After deciding to head back towards the main highway, I found one of my favourite little places to stop: random stands at the end of long driveways where the true homegrown produce can be found.
The hand-drawn 'happy chook organic' sign had me sold. Though there wasn't much to choose from, I still managed to add eggs, ginger and a few other bits and pieces to the growing stash in the boot of the X1.
Back on the highway I clocked up another couple of hours, passing the halfway mark somewhere around Forster before continuing on.
Fatigue started to kick in, and sure enough I got a notification on the 8.8-inch display that let me know it was time to take a break. I pulled in at the next rest stop to answer the call of nature and assess how my plan to fill the boot was going.
The BMW's use of space inside is impressive, particularly in the second row. Rear passengers are generously catered for when it comes to leg room and head room, and the seats can be slid back to provide even greater spaciousness.
Design-wise the cabin is stylish and sophisticated, with a wide, sweeping dash, cleanly laid out centre stack, floating display and lots of storage. The leather seats are comfortable with supportive lumbar and side cushioning. From the materials used to the fit and finish, it all feels premium and well thought-out.
By now the weather had cleared (or maybe I'd left it far behind) but time was ticking and though I wasn't in a rush, I felt compelled to push on.
With the city of Newcastle looming on the horizon I still had some room in the boot. To fit more in without squashing anything, I'd have to utilise the 40:20:40 split fold rear seats.
The flexible 40:20:40 arrangement makes so much sense in any family car. If you need four seats the middle can fold away and give you extra space as well as full-seat comfort for your rear passengers. A 60:40 design, by contrast, results in two occupants being squished into one side of the cabin, completely ruining the Feng Shui of the interior of any vehicle.
Heading past Newcastle and into the Central Coast region, I headed off the highway and out around Gosford. After taking a few random roads and trusting completely in the sat-nav's ability to guide me back on to the right path, I found what I've been looking for - the last stop before home.
It's a well-stocked but small fruit and veg shop on the side of the road. The rear seats were quickly and easily flipped forward, creating a nice flat space to simply slide the suitcases straight back. Easily space for two more boxes.
Back on the road for the final leg, my stomach was rumbling again and I couldn't wait to cook dinner using the contents of the X1.
Finally the garage door opened and I pulled in, safe and sound.
Upon checking the trip meter, it was interesting to see I'd ended up spending eight-and-a-half hours behind the wheel (though the entire trip took more than 11 hours including all my stops).
Range and fuel economy were really good. Over 592kms the real-world figure over a mix of highway, country, road works and small-town detours, was 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres. Or not even one litre more than BMW's claim for this car.
Perhaps the best test though, is how I felt once I finally unlocked my hip and knee joints enough to fall out of the car at the end of a long drive.
I had zero aches and pains. The 'command' seating position worked a treat, visibility was excellent and there was no need to strain to see mirrors or blind-spots. That combined with the comfortable seats that counteracted the firmer ride, and I arrived home refreshed after a long day on the road and ready to get my 'MasterChef' on.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.
Videography by Christian Barbeitos