WITH THE MOUNTAINS near Ceres covered in thicker snow than usual, I assembled the family troop and, armed with Google images, suggested a late afternoon trek to the Matroosberg private nature reserve. Considering we had several snow virgins in the ranks, it wasn’t a particularly hard sell. Within minutes (an all-time record) the three ladies and I were on the R312 towards Wellington. It’s a road I know well, is not heavily trafficked and is mostly in tiptop condition; perfect for fast, unobstructed cruising in the X1. Idyllic? Almost, but not quite, as the Beemer has developed an annoying rattle in the rear-view mirror’s light sensor housing. We’d normally go via Gouda and Wolseley, but choosing the shorter Bain’s Kloof pass seemed a masterstroke at first as the girls oohed and aahed at the scenery on the way up. But as anyone who’s driven Bains will tell you, the way down towards Ceres is a tight and twisty rock-lined affair with a jittery road surface quality that punishes any suspension not made from marshmallow and soft toys. Suffice to say, our X1 uses steel for its springs. And not the sort used to make a slinky either, but a firmly tempered steel that helps the BMW corner without spilling your coffee. Naturally, I had the gearbox lever in sport mode and was tip-shifting the heck out of it – backwards for higher gears and forwards for lower ones – as we powered wildly down that rollercoaster till an imminent projectile vomit threat from the back seat brought a rapid halt to proceedings. Apparently Ceres couldn’t come quickly enough.
Soon we were turning onto the dirt road that leads to the reserve, passing by scores of snow-covered hatchback rentals, soft-roaders, bakkies and serious off-road vehicles leaving the farm. Permits purchased, we ventured off towards the foot of the mountain past a parking area full of front-drivers, stopping to properly gauge the depth and potential pitfalls of the river crossing that separated us from the snow. To the surprise of those forced to park and walk, the X1 waded effortlessly through the fast flowing river replete with neat bow wave, its four-wheel drive system continually transferring drive between axles whilst also applying brake pressure to any slipping wheels without a drop of drama. Despite the X1’s comparatively low ride height, our xDrive 28i acquitted itself well over the remainder of the muddied and rock strewn track to where the snow lay thick enough to comfortably build a snowman and have an apparently essential snowball fight.
The fact that the majority of SUVs in South Africa are destined to never leave the Tarmac is the major reason why I’m one of the more vociferous critics of four-wheel drive soft-roader-type SUVs in the topCar office. However, if climate change continues apace, turning our winters into white wonderlands, I’ll have to rethink that viewpoint.