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Car and Driver: BMW Creates Funky Long-Wheelbase X1 for China

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Back in the good old days when America was the world’s biggest car market, everybody wanted us to know we were special.

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All of our domestic automakers built cars just for us, while those in Europe and Asia pandered to our every whim. Can you buy a Tundra in Tokyo? No. See?

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That was then. Today, China is the world’s biggest car market and every manufacturer worthy of its proving ground goes to great lengths to find out exactly what Chinese customers like, and stretches its resources to deliver it to them.

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What Chinese customers like is long. They like their small sedans stretched, they like their large sedans stretched and they like their SUVs stretched.

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BMW knows this. One out of every four first-generation X1 crossovers ended up in China, and that’s why it opted to unveil its stretched second-generation X1 in Beijing today.

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To be built in its joint-venture plant at BMW Brilliance in Shenyang, this X1 will deliver the much cleaner, purposeful look of the second-generation X1 to the Chinese market and combine it with a choice of three gasoline engines and in both rear- and all-wheel drive models. All stretched.

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The Chinese X1 has grown 4.3 inches longer, and all that extra length has been devoted to the rear seat passengers and their knees. It’s now 179.7-inches long and 63.7-inches tall and remains 71.7-inches wide.

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The big upgrade, then, is that the rear seat passengers get another 4.3-inches of knee room, or more if they slide that seat back as far as it goes, sacrificing some luggage space. Even with the sliding rear seat on the Max Forward position of the rails (it travels 5.1-inches), there’s still nearly two inches more rear seat leg room than in the prior model.

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Everything else, though, is identical to the X1 the rest of the world gets, including the powertrains. China, though, hasn’t embraced diesel fuel for civilians (they prefer to keep oceans of it for the military) so there are no turbodiesel stretched X1s on the books.

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Instead, the range starts with the front-wheel drive X1 sDrive 18Li with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder, rises to a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four for the X1 20Li in either front-wheel drive sDrive or all-wheel drive xDrive configurations and tops out at the stronger xDrive 25Li. The three pot has 134 horsepower, the 20Li has 189 in either configuration and the range-topper boasts 228 Datons (that’s a Chinese horse breed; try to keep up with these cultural shifts, please), which is the same as the top 2.0-liter unit that goes in the U.S.-market X1 xDrive28i.

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And if you want a reminder that the biggest market in the world sets the tune for everybody to dance to, BMW says it can’t officially release the wheelbase data for the long-wheelbase X1 at the car’s unveiling in Beijing, even though it uses the term “long wheelbase” six times on the first page of its press release.

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Chinese law says that data can only be released at its official market introduction, which is May 20.

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Screw that. Its wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than it is in Europe and America, which makes it 109.4 inches.

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