SANTA MONICA, California - This coastal city seemed like the perfect place to take the 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i because few places in L.A. County better embody the concept of "lifestyle marketing"-appealing to consumers by associating with a certain way of living. It's a town densely packed with picturesque neighborhoods and Instagram-ready restaurants, murals, and art installations. BMW's all-new compact crossover is meant to appeal to buyers in a similar way, banking on its quirky differentness and sheer force of brand power.

I experienced this firsthand during my week with the X2 and although no one stopped me to ask questions, I did notice a lot of other drivers eyeballing my ride. Our tester wore Galvanic Gold Metallic paint, a $550 option, and stood out in a way most other compact crossovers cannot. It has concept car looks, especially with the BMW roundels mounted to the C-pillars.

Power comes from a turbocharged two-liter engine making 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. There's some turbo lag to be had but power delivery is otherwise smooth and shifts are handled quickly. BMW claims a 6.3-second 0-60 acceleration time for cars in this configurations.

Our tester came equipped with the $4,650 M SportX package which also includes such as goodies the sport-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission, keyless entry, a panoramic moonroof, lumbar support, 19-in. alloy wheels, front sport seats, gloss-black window trim, power-folding mirrors, a remote garage opener, an M steering wheel, stylish aluminum and gray interior trim, an anthracite headliner, and one year of full access to satellite radio and BMW apps.

The X2's M SportX package delivers a lot of goodies that would benefit most drivers and it even adds some zest to the way it drives, especially when enhanced with the $400 M Sport suspension, which lowers the ride height and offers a comfort and sport setting. In this form, ride quality is taut but not stiff, and the crossover coped well with L.A.'s varied road surfaces. It also had a $150 M rear spoiler.

I realized how low it rides when I rolled up next to a Camry at a stoplight and noticed that my doorsill was level with that of the mid-sized Toyota. It tickles me to know there's a car that's an incognito premium hatchback on the market masquerading as a stylish compact crossover.



Before I hit the trendy streets of Santa Monica however, I tested the X2 xDrive28i during the BMW Group Test Fest. We drove it for four hard laps on the southern circuit at Thermal Raceway, a combination motorsports park and country club near Palm Springs. Even at the limit, the compact crossover handles predictably and behaves more like a rear-wheel drive car than a front-wheel drive crossover. The vented single-piston caliper disk brakes seem to be well-matched with the 3,662 lb ute and I didn't detect any fading during our time on track.

I was also tasked with hauling three M5 tires back to our El Segundo Office. With the back seats are flipped down, the X2 easily swallowed the rubber with room to spare for my luggage. The rear BMW badge is actually the trigger to open the power-operated hatch, allowing for cleaner packaging without necessitating an indentation for a handhold.

For my trip to Santa Monica, I stuffed the X2 full of people over the weekend to see how it'd cope with a day on the town. Once seated, the average-height rear occupants were comfortable and happy with the soft, cream-coloreds leather. However ingress and egress proved to be more difficult due to the compromised door portals created by to the X2's sloping roofline. The same was true for rear headroom

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