Future Cars

Deep Dive: All-New BMW XCite Is a Renegade of Funk

BMW gets weird with coming 1 Series Sport Cross.

XCite. Is that a type of chewing gum or adult lubricant? No, it’s the code name BMW chose for its all-new lifestyle vehicle. Google it, and you’ll see that XCite made headlines twice in Bavarian newspapers in the Regensburg and Dingolfing areas, where BMW has two large assembly plants.

What is XCite? It’s a vehicle known internally as NEC, short for new entry crossover, which will straddle two segments. It will be neither a 1 Series in off-road garb nor a downsized X1, but it will likely be badged the 1 Series Sport Cross when it hits the market. Its sheetmetal will be designed from scratch and its interior will be totally bespoke. It is safe to expect two body styles: a five-door hatch in 2018 and a three-door variant a year later. XCite will be available with three- and four-cylinder engines and with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

XCite is better described as BMW’s answer to hard-to-classify but highly successful crackerjacks such as the Citroën C4 Cactus and the Nissan Juke. According to a senior BMW engineer, it will look as different from the X1 as the Range Rover Evoque does from the Freelander/LR2. Although BMW’s design freeze is still several months away, most proposals are quite progressive and polarizing, sources say. We expect to see a compact greenhouse on top of a muscular body; a wide stance; a long nose, long roof, and wide track; and an edgy mix of M Sport and X-line styling elements.

The XCite kicks off a new vehicle concept, design concept, and marketing concept for BMW. It will be a class-shifting model. A surprise-and-delight effort. A taboo-breaking in-between product. An internal paper lists a variety of the XCite’s attributes: avant-garde, different, urban, unconventional, young, aggressive, wide, low, courageous, anti-establishment, consciously compromised, disrespectful, sensitive, and sensible. That’s another way of saying stunning proportions can be more important than rear headroom, big wheels may overshadow big engines, and presence is an integral part of prestige.

While we like XCite better for the name, when it goes on sale in 2018 in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia (but not China, where status is far more important than style), expect the 1 Series Sport Cross moniker to be applied instead. The base price will likely come in below $30,000, somewhere between a 1 Series and an X1, and BMW plans to build 250,000 units over the life of the crossover.

The BMW 1 Series Sport Cross’ profit margins will no doubt be relatively slim, its cannibalization effect difficult to predict, and its return-on-investment probably not huge. But the funky crossover might indeed work wonders for the BMW brand, which could do with a bit more swagger, sparkle, and sex appeal.

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