2010 BMW X1

BMW has kicked off a top-secret project to add yet another member to its family of X-badged crossover SUVs. In addition to the X5, the just-freshened X3 (below right), and a two-door X6 due in 2008, work has begun on the pint-size X1, planned for 2010.

The compact SUV market might seem an unlikely place for a premium German marque, but BMW won't be alone. Audi will be there with the Volkswagen Tiguan-derived Q3, as will Mercedes-Benz with its GLK.

All three are aimed at young families, active singles, well-to-do female customers, and empty nesters. These groups all share the desire to sit up high, to surround themselves with lots of active and passive safety equipment, and to own a premium product with a versatile interior. They are less interested in size and high-performance engines. They're also value-focused, which is why the X1 will be priced about the same as a loaded Toyota RAV4.

At roughly 170 inches long, the X1 combines the footprint of the 1-series with packaging similar to that of the X3. The large wheels and the suspension come from the X3. The underbody, the drivetrain, and the electronics will be taken from the 1-series. The X1's more carlike DNA is reflected in its target weight of 3400 pounds, significantly lighter than the X3. The X1 is principally a four-seater, but since the rear chairs slide and fold, an optional fifth seat could be integrated. BMW may offer a variety of opening and see-through roof treatments. Like the X3, the X1 should sell more than 100,000 units per year.

Will that satisfy BMW's X craving? Apparently not. An X4, a two-door closely related to the X1 and the X3, is in the works. So is the X7--a stretched X5 sporting six seats, an air suspension, and an optional V-12--which is poised to take on the Range Rover.

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