I’m barreling down the longest straight at The Thermal Club’s South Palm Circuit at over 100 mph, and I’m thinking this isn’t right. The 2018 BMW X2 isn’t made for a racetrack—it’s especially not exciting after driving several laps in the new M5—but I think BMW is trying to make a point here.
The X2 is based on the X1. Both ride a front-wheel-drive architecture shared with Mini. While the X1 is dull, the X2 aims higher. It’s better looking for sure, but it’s also sportier. It’s what the X1 would be if BMW had injected some BMW into it. Thus, the racetrack.
More road than track
The X2 doesn’t have the robust performance equipment to handle track duty. The brake discs are vented, but BMW doesn’t even list a diameter for them in its press kit and they come with single-piston floating calipers front and rear. The X2 isn’t stacked with a bunch of auxiliary coolers, either. But I’m only out here for a few laps, and with new M5s, as well as an M2, an M3, and a 340i to drive, the X2s aren’t getting so much exercise that the brakes will give up the ghost.
If I recalibrate my butt after experiencing the violent thrust of the 600-horsepower M5, the X2’s acceleration is satisfyingly quick. The traction of the all-wheel-drive system teams with the B46 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo-4 to launch the X2 from 0-60 in a sprightly 6.3 seconds.
The turbo-4 makes the same 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as in the X1, and sends its power through the same Aisin 8-speed automatic transmission to the same Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The X2 I’m in has the M Sport X equipment, which includes a sport version of that transmission that offers faster shifts and steering wheel shift paddles. Out here on the track I’m not bothering with the paddles because the Sport mode is doing a fine job of keeping the gear as low as possible for max power output.
The X2 offers three suspensions versus two in the X1, and they are all sportier than the X1’s suspensions. Every version for the X2 has more negative camber to put more tire on the road in corners, different caster settings, stiffer bushings, and firmer springs and dampers that create quicker reactions.
Buyers can choose from a base suspension, the sporty M Sport X suspension with even firmer settings, and the variable dampers, which are part of the Handling package that is unique to X2. Both the M Sport X suspension and Handling package feature a 0.4-inch lower ride height.
The X2 turns in sharply, reacting quicker than the X1. The steering is fairly direct, but even with the M Sport X suspension the ride height is tall enough to create some lean in high-speed corners.
The handling is neutral, too, and that’s partly thanks to the AWD system. When approaching a corner, the X2 looks at steering input, yaw angle, and throttle position, and shifts torque to the rear axle proactively if it detects the driver is having a bit of fun through the twisties. It does this instead of letting the front axle lose grip first, and that helps give the X2 a rear-drive and neutral character when pushed hard through corners.
It’s a moderately enjoyable experience on the track, but I get a greater appreciation for the handling, steering, and power of the X2 later on a street run to Box Canyon Road. When the road turns twisty, the X2 gets into a nice flow: brake, turn in, hold it steady, power out, and charge to the next corner. The X2 responds well to this kind of driving, providing some welcome feedback through the steering wheel, delivering enough power to keep it interesting, and staying flat enough to inspire confidence.