By Wayne Gorrett
It might sit in a largely self-created niche, but the new BMW X4 is a much better car than many my side of the business would have you believe.
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This is the new BMW permanent all-wheel-drive X4, which by-and-large, is a ‘mini-me’ of the rather bullish X6. However, for this particular niche-filler, the boffins at BMW have got the visual aesthetic just about spot on because it actually looks the business!
Last week I was at the UK media launch of the new X4 at Sheepgrove Organic Farm, Lambourn, Berkshire for one of the UK media’s first drives.
The PR release states that ‘the new BMW X4 combines the hallmark features of the BMW X family with the sporting elegance of a classical coupé, resulting in BMW’s first Sports Activity Coupé (SAC) for the premium mid-size segment.’ If I’m honest, that’s a pretty good summation.
Drivers familiar with the X3 will feel right at home in the X4, as it’s much the same car but has undergone some streamlining. You would have to look very hard to spot the differences, but the X3 and X4 share bonnets, front bumper and grille, front wings, forward doors and of course the now-familiar dashboard layout. Everything else behind the A-pillars has received the ‘couped-up’ treatment.
Fortunately, the X4 is less in-your-face than the X6 behemoth and all the visual pieces come together very well. With an aggressive nose, it’s two style lines along the shoulder and over the rear flanks and a roof line sweeping down to a raked, electric tailgate, it all culminates in an elegant four-door coupé-cum-SUV.
The X4 has been lowered slightly over the X3 and consequently the reduced centre of gravity enhances the driving dynamics. Additional driving enhancements derive from technical recalibration to the dampers, bushings, steering and springs all result in a much more engaging drive. The welcome introduction of torque-vectoring increases driver confidence as it powers through the corners.
The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission – as enjoyed on much of the Jaguar Land Rover line-up – is a delight and showed zero ‘hunter-gatherer’ tendencies, being always in the right gear at the right time.
In the UK, we’re offered a choice of three Euro6 diesel engines, as BMW says no petrol derivatives are planned for the foreseeable future.
The launch range of X4 models comprises three trim-lines – SE, xLine and M Sport – across six models. Prices start from £36,595 for the X4 xDrive20d SE manual and peak at £48,995 for the automatic xDrive35d M Sport, which stomps a significant £5,500 on the toes of the Porsche Macan S Diesel (£43,300).
The only models available at the BMW X4 UK media launch were several xDrive30d M Sport variants, which is only available with automatic transmission. External enhancements for this trim level included 20-inch alloys, while on the inside the car had been upgraded with the interior comfort package, the BMW Professional Media package, heads-up display and a few other toys. On the road, this model would set you back £45,453 at a basic level and a staggering £55,248 once you’ve raided the options list, as fitted to the test car.
By way of a perspective, I mention that the top-spec Porsche Macan Turbo requires only a further £4,050 to secure ownership.
Mind you, the 3-litre X4 is quick, galloping effortlessly to 62mph in 5.8 seconds, peaking at 148mph. The publicity says the oil-burner will return a combined 47.9mpg while emitting 156g of CO2 per km.
BMW’s ‘xDrive’ label does of course indicate permanent all-wheel drive and all models benefit from torque vectoring, which distributes the drive-line thrust across and between axles to maximise surface traction and maintain mid-bend dynamic trajectory. The X4 is a car well kitted with sporting hardware and dressed with great looks to go with it.
The X4’s thick-rimmed steering wheel is very well weighted, direct and accurate. On the road, placing this car at an enthusiastically rushed apex, is as easy as handling an urban tootle at 30mph. Forward and side visibility is excellent although its shallow, oddly arched rear window reveals little of those you’ve left behind. Not that it really matters. Power delivery is decidedly well-mannered and its 258hp and 560Nm of very usable torque is a sheer delight. In short, it’s fast, agile and satisfyingly accurate. It’s not quite as sportingly responsive as the aforementioned Porsche Macan – even when deploying the paddle shifters – but it’s more dynamic than most SUVs.
Inside, a lower rear roof line is a negative result of the coupé repackaging. Rear headroom will challenge those taller than 5ft 8in and the shorter-than-expected rear seats are over an inch closer to the floor, much reducing the kind of forward visibility enjoyed by most ‘theatre-seating’ family wagons. In addition, rear passengers are unable to place their feet under the seat in front. Children should be fine with it but don’t expect much gratification from rear-placed grown-ups after a long journey.
A further victim of the coupé re-styling is the boot, which loses 36 litres of capacity to the X3. Still, at 500 litres, boot space remains generous enough for family getaways. With the split-folding rear bench lowered, capacity swells to 1,400 litres. However, the sharply raked rear window and high loading lip makes the space less useful than conventionally shaped SUVs.
* Excellent to drive, very comfortable up front, smart interior.
* Coupé-like re-styling ‘fits’ this car better than other X offerings from BMW.
* Delivery of power from the twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 diesel is seamless and the 8-speed automatic is a gem.
The BMW X4 looks good, is comfortable, spacious up front, drives dynamically very well, is as efficient as an SUV of this gravitas can be. So, what’s not to like?
* No petrol-engined variant in the launch line-up – or planned for the foreseeable future.
* Rear visibility through the tailgate is compromised by coupé-like styling.
* Rear space is not that good for adults.
* Practicality as a family SUV is questionable.
* Wind noise around the mirrors and A-pillar.
* Coupé re-styling shaves 36 litres off the X3 boot space to 500 litres.
BMW expects to sell around 2,000 units of the X4 a year in the coming three years. Popularity of its other X models has been huge so it’s not rocket science to determine BMW’s success with this latest addition to the X range. It looks great, is comfortable, spacious, drives well and is as efficient as an SUV of this gravitas can be.
For car buyers on a medium-sized budget it’s unlikely to suit. However, now that George recently announced that we’re officially out of the recession, drivers enjoying more flexibility in their budget would be well advised to have a good look around the new
It might sit all cosy in its self-created niche, but the BMW X4 is a much better car than most in my side of the business will have you to believe.
The X4 is available to order now and has been in UK showrooms since mid-July.