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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

BMW Reveals X1 Concept

BMW X1 Concept - Front 3/4

MUNICH, Germany — BMW is using the 2008 Paris Auto Show to reveal a concept version of its upcoming X1 compact SUV. The baby brother to the five-year-old X3 is planned to join the lineup in mid-2009. However, there are serious doubts over whether it will be sold in North America because of the continued strength of the single European currency against the weakened U.S. dollar.

BMW is not revealing much about the X1 ahead of the Paris show launch other than its bold appearance. The concept, set to go on public display for the first time on Thursday, is said to closely mirror the production version of BMW's new entry-level SUV, although various details will be toned down slightly before it heads into European showrooms next year. The overall look is borrowed heavily from the larger X5, but BMW's designers have developed new exterior features, including distinctive head- and taillamps, to ensure the X1 gains its own visual appeal.

An early promotional video viewed by Inside Line reveals that BMW is targeting its latest SUV at a much younger audience than its existing models. The sloping tailgate treatment certainly points at a vehicle that places good looks over load-carrying capacity. Dimensionally, the X1 is close to the 3 Series Touring — a Europe-market wagon version of BMW's most successful model — on which the X1 is largely based.

Engine options for the future X1 include a 170-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline and 177-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder common-rail diesel, as well as a 265-hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine and the company's new 245-hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel.

The four-wheel-drive X1 is set to be produced alongside various 1 and 3 Series models at BMW's Leipzig plant in Germany.

Landing it in North America at a competitive price under the prevailing economic conditions is apparently proving impossible. "We would like to see the X1 offered in North America, but at the moment it is a difficult business case to justify," a high-ranking BMW source told Inside Line.

With more than nine months before it rolls into European showrooms, BMW is not talking pricing. The word in Paris, however, is that BMW is preparing to move the X3 upmarket when the second-generation model, set to be built alongside the X5 in South Carolina, arrives in 2010, allowing the X1 to slip neatly into the space that model currently occupies.

What this means to you: It's arguably better-looking than the X3, but the X1 is no certainty for the U.S. market. — Andreas Stahl, Correspondent