Whose sidewall are you on?

Finding a supporter in the rally against run-flats


HAVE you ever had one of those ‘vindicated’ moments where you’ve pumped your arms in a V, and screamed, “I told you so!” into the face of the nearest person, regardless of whether they had any idea what you were suddenly so triumphant about? No, me neither. But I did come close recently.

See, this relates to the X1’s urban ride; specifically, how it deals with ruts, expansion joints and sharp edges on its 19-inch runflat Dunlop rubber. I’d rate it as okay – much better than the Renault Koleos I ran prior to this car – but not great. There’s a bit too much hollow-sounding thunking and thudding, which can intrude on the serenity provided by the slick, quiet powertrain. I suspect the stiff, highly reinforced sidewalls of the run-flat rubber are the primary culprit, based on previous experience, probably not aided by the low profile dictated by the 19-inch diameter.

Anyway, only hours after pondering how the X1 would ride on conventional rubber – maybe 18s, rather than 19s – I found myself having dinner with Hyundai dynamics honcho Albert Biermann (see profile in July Wheels) and the subject of run-flats came up.

Biermann’s last job was boss of BMW’s M Division where, contrary to elsewhere across the range, run-flats were not fitted. “Why was this?” I asked the 61-year-old German.

He fixed me with his piercing blue eyes and answered, “I really don’t like run-flats. The way they impact the ride; they make spring and damper tuning a nightmare.”

I didn’t pull my shirt over my head and do a victory dance around the restaurant. That would have been ridiculous and undignified.

But I did reach out, grasped his hand and whispered, “You’re a beautiful man.” Which may have creeped him out just a bit.

BMW argues that the safety and convenience factors outweigh any ‘perceived’ ride compromises on the mainstream models, and a fatality on Sydney’s Warringah Freeway in May would vindicate the company’s position that changing tyres on a dark, busy road can be potentially deadly.

But the X1’s dynamics are otherwise so agreeable – it has alert, nicely weighted steering, controls roll well, and has sweet front-to-rear balance when loaded up through fast corners – that it seems a shame that the ride is compromised for the sake of a comparatively rare event like a puncture.

Ride quality on our shabby Aussie roads is something you’re acutely aware of on every outing, where as a puncture … well, when was the last time you had one?

If I owned this X1, I’d cash in the 19s, buy a set of 18s, and fit conventional rubber. I’d carry a goo-inflation kit in the metro area, throw a space-saver in the boot for trips away, and know that BMW’s roadside assistance would be there to bail me out if I was in a spot.

A strategy firmly endorsed, incidentally, by a bloke who knows a thing or two about BMWs.


Run-flats have the potential to save a tyre change, but are they partly responsible for the slightly lumpy ride?


A head-up display used to sound like a pretty exotic thing, as if there was a bit of fighter-jet tech in your road car. These days you can get it in something as affordable as a Mazda 2, and given the proliferation of speed cameras, I rate the one fitted to the X1 as essential, rather than optional. Its only downside is that it can’t be viewed with polarised sunglasses, so I’ve taken to wearing my non-polarised Elton John numbers when driving. Honky Cat, oh yeah.

BMW X1 xDrive25i

Date acquired: April 2017 Price as tested: $63,390 This month: 469km @ 11.7L/100km Overall: 814km @ 11.9L/100km