There’s More to Niagara than Just the Falls
And the new 2018 BMW X2 makes a great road trip companion
On a dreary, drizzly day we head out in the BMW X2 SUV road tripping to Niagara. The landscape is grey and misty, but hey, we stand out in the Galvanic Gold little crossover.
The gold paint will cost you $895 extra, an option I could nix, but right away I grew to love the $1,000 extra Harman Kardon sound system. Bruno Mars takes the chill off any rainy day.
Our exit out of hometown Hamilton is via the Nikola Tesla expressway. Sounds high tech, but it’s just the same old pothole-filled road that used to be aptly called- Industrial Drive. It’s a good test of the ride feel of the X2. Which is tight, sporty and on the stiff side. To change the response, a toggle through Sport Normal and Eco offers up driving modes a bit softer or thriftier on gas. In addition to potholes, the road surface is rough, the X2 remains acceptably quiet inside.
The base price for my tester is $42,250, options ramp it up to $54,845. The big ticket item is the Premium Package which includes all the stuff you want like heated steering wheel, big sunroof, park distance control and other treats.
Prowling around Niagara is endlessly amusing. First stop is a chug around the little historic enclave called Grimsby Beach. Picture gingerbread houses in colours straight out of a crayon box. In the summer, park your car here and stroll around to fully appreciate the Victorian architecture, the gardens and views of Lake Ontario
Our next destination is the once a year blowout for people who love the book arts. It’s called Wayzgoose and it’s always the last Saturday in April at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery. People who hand make their own books have their creations on display, along with handmade paper, cards, journals, etchings, prints, rubber stamps, printing presses and type. It’s one of my favourite gatherings and also an opportunity to meet artists from all over Ontario and Quebec who are making books by hand. The Grimsby Public Art Gallery is always worth a visit to see thoughtful, intriguing shows.
From paper shopping we headed to see alpacas at the West Niagara Agricultural Centre and Fairgrounds. It is just a sprint up the Niagara Escarpment, and for a brief time we get to push the X2 through some curves. That’s where the fun lives with the X2. Minimal body roll, sharp steering, and an eager 8-speed automatic transmission make carvng though S curves joyful. The turbocharged 2.0 litre engine produces 228 horsepower with 259 lb-ft of torque, a fine match for the size, weight and intent of the X2.
Alpacas are adorable and just slightly hysterical upon close observation. They will stare you straight in the eye in a vacant way and then head off comically to something more interesting. Related to llamas, they are smaller and popular as pets and wool producers.
At the show they are judged for their confirmation(shape) and fibre. A lot of women from farms all over Ontario were showing alpacas, and more than happy to let you get up close and personal with their animals.
The agricultural centre has various shows and events through the season, including square dancing get togethers, and a wonderful fall fair.
The agricultural centre is actually in a little town near Grimsby called Grassie. Not many people have heard of it, but the X2 navigation found it right away via voice command. All the computer/info/entertainment features work easily and intuitively through the, always improving, BMW iDrive system.
The interior decor is typically BMW which reads zero body fat. Slick, sleek and minimalist it is. Seats are clinically good, the steering wheel is just right-grippy and a bit chunky, and the paddle shifters are not wimpy or over done. My only complaint and it’s not easily dismissed, is that visibility from the drivers seat when turning into intersections is compromised by the side mirror and A pillar. For a person of my height 5’4” and with the sort of seat adjustment I make, a lot of the view is blocked. You don’t ride all that high in the X2 so give the seating position a good look when test driving.
Backseat passengers will notice too, that their windows are high up and narrow, but the panoramic sunroof helps in mitigating claustrophobia. The seatbacks adjust in the rear, which helps to accommodate people of different sizes and shapes.
On most road trips to Niagara I make pit stops at garden centres to get things I can’t find in Hamilton. A favourite is The Watering Can on King Street in Vineland. Their plant material is excellent, with exotic treasures like tropicals, that make the garden instantly lush. Cargo space when the X2’s backseat is folded down is more than 50 cubic feet. Load in height is about mid-thigh for me, so a plant safari is on the checklist.
Any trip in Niagara should take in a winery with some good food. In the vicinity of our meander is the very nice Red Stone Winery in Beamsville with good food and an excellent patio. The modern design of the winery/restaurant is an artful contrast to the leafy grapevines that stretch as far as the eye can see.
So the BMW X2 is a fine chariot for exploring, in fact it best shows off its sporty driving pedigree out in the country where the roads are smoother and curvier than the city. All in all it was a golden trip on a day with no sun.
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