Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $87,430 (plus on-roads), $96,550 as-tested.
Engine/trans: 235kW/400Nm 3.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 12.9 l/100km
What do we think of BMW's new X4?
Half-coupe, half-SUV, it's hard not to think of it as 'the compromise car'. Something for drivers who yearn for a sportscar, but life demands an SUV.
Is it then hopelessly impractical?
Think what you will about it, BMW has found a strong business case for the niche X4 - customers want them, pragmatism be damned.
As the X6 has proved (much to the howls of its critics), there’s surprisingly high demand for an SUV with a chopped roof. The addition of a smaller, more affordable version of the X6 therefore makes sense.
Popular or not, we weren’t quite sure whether such a package is as appealing as BMW reckons it is.
So, the proof being "in the eating", we took the X4 xDrive35i, the flagship of the range, for a week-long spin.
Quality: The exterior may be an acquired taste, but the X4’s cabin is a fine-looking habitat.
Trimmed in ivory leather, our tester had cool touches like the 'X4' script embossed into the headrests, and patterned leatherwork running up the centre of each seat.
The M Sport package (standard on the xDrive35i) also brings brushed-alloy cabin trim, as well as a black headliner to offset all of that white leather.
Fit and finish is up to BMW’s usual high standard. Plastics look and feel premium, and there are no rattles whatsoever.
Comfort: One would reasonably assume that an 'SUV' with a low-flying roofline like the X4's would have woeful rear headroom, but that's not exactly the case.
By mounting the seats low (20mm lower than an X3 in the front, 28mm lower in the back) and cleverly shaping the headliner, there’s ample room in the back of an X4 for this 5'8" correspondent.
Even the average six-footer would be okay, though the headliner does start to scrape scalps if you’re above that mark.
Entry and exit is compromised by the smaller rear door apertures and raking roof-line though. Tall passengers will need to duck to avoid braining themselves on the door frame.
Up front, there's as much space as you'd find in an X3. The seats are comfortable, the driving position natural, and the view ahead is good thanks to the X4's elevated ride height.
Over-the-shoulder vision isn't quite so great thanks to the X4's form-over-function roofline, however.
Equipment: The 35i is definitely on the pricier side of the SUV spectrum, but you do at least get a whopping amount of gear as standard.
Luxury staples like front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, bi-xenon dusk sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers, sat-nav and a top-down camera view are all standard on the X4 xDrive35i.
Not only that, but there’s also a powered tailgate, electrically adjustable front seats with memory recall and leather upholstery.
Our car was loaded with options too.
A $2000 head-up display, a $2920 panoramic sunroof, $200 internet capability and $1200 for BMW’s ConnectedDrive technology suite all saw the retail price shoot up, with $9120 of options in total.
Storage: Seats up storage space is 500 litres - exactly the same as the X3. Drop the 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks and you get a near-flat load area with 1400 litres of space.
That’s some 200 litres less than the X3’s seats-down figure, but if you were concerned about the X4’s practical limitations, then these numbers should help convince you otherwise.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The X4 xDrive35i is powered by the same single-turbo 3.0 litre inline six that we know - and love - from the 3 Series (and many, many other BMW models), and it is truly a stellar powertrain.
Producing 235kW at 5800rpm and with a fat 400Nm of torque spread from 1200rpm to 5000rpm, the X4 35i has serious muscle. For context, that’s enough grunt to propel the 1.8-tonne X4 to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds.
It's backed up by BMW's ubiquitous (and equally as impressive) eight-speed automatic, and though there's a bit more driveline drag from the AWD system, the X4 35i has plenty of zip.
Refinement: Besides some road roar from the low-profile tyres, the X4's cabin is relatively quiet when cruising at highway speeds.
Ride and Handling: In the X4's case, the term SUV doesn't equate to "top-heavy family barge". Not in the slightest.
Rather, it slices through corners with great gusto and fantastic grip, the only lowlight being steering that's a little dull and lacking tactile feedback.
But steering feel aside, this is one of BMW's more carlike SUVs. Its sportiness isn't confined to its swoopy, aerodynamic silhouette, but the way it actually handles.
Body roll is well suppressed. The suspension is fairly firm thanks to the 35i’s standard M Sport suspension and huge 20-inch alloys, but the ride isn’t all that uncomfortable in Comfort mode.
The torque-vectoring AWD hardware keeps wheelspin at bay when cornering in damp weather as well, dabbing the brakes on the inside wheel to direct more drive to the outside wheels, which typically have more grip.
The variable-ratio steering rack that also comes with the M Sport pack is a revelation, requiring less arm-twisting to get from lock to lock and making the car feel smaller than it actually is.
Braking: No complaints here. The X4 35i’s brake package is more than capable of hauling up this heavy beast, even on brisk downhill spurts.
ANCAP rating: The BMW X4 has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Dual front, front side and curtain airbags are standard on the X4, as is ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control (switchable) and stability control (also switchable).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service costs: Due to BMW’s use of a conditional servicing programme, servicing costs for the X4 xDrive35i can vary depending on vehicle usage. Consult your local dealership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Porsche Macan S ($86,700) - Porsche’s recently-launched Macan is an entirely new beast for the company, and at $86,700 for the base V6 twin-turbo is the cheapest way into a brand-new petrol-drinking Porsche.
And with 250kW and 460Nm, it easily out-muscles the BMW. If you’re after performance, the Macan is hard to resist.
Size-wise, it’s also very, very close to the X4. Thanks to its more traditional wagon bodystyle, the Macan also boasts a more spacious interior - though seats-up luggage capacity is identical. (see Macan reviews)
Audi RS Q3 ($81,900) - The RS Q3 melds the five-cylinder turbo engine of the TT RS with the compact wagon bodyshell of the Q3, and it’s got more power and more torque than the X4 35i.
Despite the RS badging it’s not quite as engaging a car to drive, though, and it’s half-a-size smaller than the X4. (see Q3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
But ignore those prejudices and the X4 - at least in xDrive35i guise - has plenty of redeeming features.
One is its ability to turn heads. In a sea of boxy SUVs, the slick silhouette of the X4 definitely stands out. Another is its impressive turn of speed and excellent roadholding.
And, as far as being a compromised offering, a car that places aesthetics ahead of functionality… well it’s not as compromised as you might think.
Adult-sized passengers won’t feel hemmed-in if relegated to the back seat, and there’s just as much pram-space in an X4 as there is in an X3. This is a more usable machine than you might imagine.
The only real downside? Price.
$87k is a lot of money, considering the competing model from Porsche is actually a fraction cheaper - though it must be said that the X4’s standard equipment list blitzes the Macan.
Then again, the Macan isn’t quite as eye-catching as the distinctive X4. And, to a great many buyers, having the right kind of 'look' is vital.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW X4 xDrive20i - $69,900
- BMW X4 xDrive20d - $73,400
- BMW X4 xDrive30d - $83,900
- BMW X4 xDrive35i - $87,430