What’s hot: Brilliant performance and handling, unique style.
What’s not: Unique look has its detractors, some practicality compromises.
X-FACTOR: In-your-face muscled lines, huge grunt and AWD grip; that’s what its buyers - mostly male - will love about the X4.
Vehicle style: Medium sports AWD crossover
Price: X4 xDrive30d $83,900; X4 xDrive35i $87,430
30d - 190kW/560Nm 3.0 diesel in-line six / 8spd sports auto
35i - 225kW/400Nm 3.0 petrol in-line six / 8spd sports auto
Fuel consumption listed:
30d listed: 5.9 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
35i listed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 11.3 l/100km
That’s an astonishing performance for a chopped, flattened, pumped-up niche product like the X6.
And that’s why there’s now a pumped little bro’ to the X6 in BMW showrooms - the slightly more svelte, only slightly, but thunderously quick X4.
On steroids, peptides, pizza-injection, or whatever it is, the new X4 has the raised on-road stance of a brick in a boxing-glove.
Its X3 origins are almost completely hidden in its pumped guards, fat rubber, raked roofline and aggressive snout.
We drove two of the models that go on sale in BMW showrooms later this week: the $87,430 top dog X4 xDrive35i and its slightly cheaper diesel stablemate, the $83,900 X4 xDrive30d.
Each looks fat; if you miss the sport crossover intent in the 19-inch rims and thick rubber, you’ll see it in the ‘xLine exterior’ dress-up kit, the LED taillights and bi-Xenon headlights.
The first is a rocketship; the second, with more grunt than piggery, is a sledgehammer. So, gentlemen, choose your weapon.
- Multifunction Sport leather steering wheel with gear shift paddles
- Fully electric leather sport seats with memory and lumbar support
- Split-fold 40:20:40 rear seats
- iDrive controller with colour screen-display and sat-nav Professional
- Park distance control and rear view camera
- Auto climate-control air-con
- Extended Bluetooth connectivity and hi-fidelity audio
- ECall and Teleservices
- Automatic ‘kick’ opening tailgate and anti-dazzle mirror
- Rain-sensing wipers
In the up-specced models we drove, the leather seats are impeccably trimmed with a typical BMW ‘full-hide’ grained feel.
Comfortable to a fault, electrically adjustable and scalloped nicely for press-on driving, they also came with smart ‘X’ embossing and red-highlight stitching.
The outboard rear seats too are well-shaped and with room for long legs, even with the front seats fully back.
Compared to the X3, the X4 has had 36mm shaved from the roof, a more steeply raked windscreen and that uncompromising flattened sloping back.
To return the lost headroom, the front seats are set 20mm lower, the rears 15mm lower. That allows even a ‘six-footer’ to sit in the back. It’s true, we tried it.
But it also means that while sitting somewhat higher than the common crush of hatches, sedans and other lesser mortals, a bit of that ‘command’ seating position that comes with the X3 is lost.
The rear seats fold flat individually, lifting cargo capacity from 500 litres to 1400 litres, or the centre can be folded for skis or a surfboard.
The effect, under that flattened roof, is a surprisingly spacious and usable load area.
And, should you be approaching the car with hands full, the liftback boot can be opened with a well-placed kick under the bumper.
Otherwise, as the feature list above shows, each is fully featured with the ‘must haves’ across the range. There is also a long options list of dress-up kit and premium features.
The dash and controls are lifted from the X3, distinguished by the feature differences between the models.
It’s a smart interior, dripping in quality - natch - but the dash styling is a little ‘slabby’ and perhaps not quite ‘in keeping’ at this premium price point.
The metal highlights are smart, instruments clear and easily-read and the controls well laid-out and navigated.
ON THE ROAD
- X4 xDrive30d: 190kW/560Nm turbo diesel 3.0 litre in-line six
0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds
- X4 xDrive35i: 225kW/400Nm turbo petrol 3.0 litre inline-six
0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds
- 8-spd steptronic sport transmission
- Variable Sport Steering
- Dynamic damper control
- 19-inch Alloy wheels
Well, yes, each of these twins is a weapon. Fast, certainly, but much more than merely fast.
It is the way each harnesses the bristling performance under the bonnet and nails it to the road, the superb handling and the intensely satisfying feel at the wheel, that makes them so special.
But each is quite different in personality - and it’s the masterful but quite different powerhouses that define the characters of each.
The bigger testicles hang on the diesel-engined XDrive30d. At any speed, those 500Nm are waiting like a raised hammer.
Nail them to the firewall and it’s little short of assault and battery.
It’s a tad slower than its petrol twin off the line - the X4 xDrive30d bolts the regulation 0-100km/h dash in 5.8 seconds, the 35i in 5.5 seconds - but very fast once moving.
Changing down when cornering, should you choose to muck around with the paddles in Sport mode, is an unnecessary formality. There is so much low-down torque that it’s best to let the 8-speed transmission sort out what it wants to do.
It will change down pre-emptively if you set up for a slower corner, and pull like a train out the other side.
It’s such a well-calibrated transmission it is near impossible to wrong-foot it.
If the diesel 30d is a hammer, the petrol turbo six-cylinder X4 xDrive35i is the sprinter.
This BMW 3.0 litre straight six is simply a marvellous engine. It will intoxicate you in whichever BMW model you find it in.
But where the diesel does its best work in the mid-speeds, the 35i is best at the top end of the rev counter. It’s faster than the diesel; crack the whip and it will lift out of a corner or overtake with amazing ferocity.
We’d like a bit more aural accompaniment when it stretches its lungs, but it certainly feels more the refined sports thoroughbred than the hammering diesel.
Strangely though, for that ever-present and effortless torque, it’s the diesel 30d that has the more on-road appeal.
The X4 has been sprung off the X3 platform, so there is nothing wrong with the way the chassis and all-wheel-drive system works.
Also nothing wrong with the variable electromechanical sport power-steering. It feels very direct, with just two turns lock-to-lock.
But so that it’s not ‘twitchy’ just away from the dead-ahead, the speed of the rack increases (the teeth are wider spaced further out), increasing response while reducing steering movement as lock is wound on.
It really works well; it’s better tuned in the X4 than our memory of the hi-po X5s (for instance). The result is that each of these power twins can be placed with razor accuracy in a corner.
And, for a car with such a high-striding stance, body control when cornering is superb.
Rattling each down some tight roads in the Tweed hinterlands in Northern NSW, besides being enormous fun, showed just how well the torque vectoring of the AWD system below works.
The BMW Performance Control sends power to the outer wheels when cornering, and subtly brakes the inner wheels. The result is a ‘stuck like glue’ feel which simply negates the high stance and higher centre of gravity.
It might be half-SUV, but each of these twins corners like a sportscar. Only Audi’s brilliant SQ5 can pull the same trick.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Aside from (very loosely) Jeep’s Cherokee SRT8, the competition is an all-German affair. And the X4 30d, in particular, suddenly looks a bit of a bargain.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We’re getting used to being astonished by the masterful cars from the Bavarian gruntmeisters.
Add these two, the x4 xDrive30d and x4 xDrive35i to the rapidly growing list of sublime handling, supremely enjoyable rocketships from BMW.
Sure, the niche style of the X4 is not for everyone. A colleague described it as looking like it was wearing platform soles.
But there is absolutely no argument as to how well the X4 drives and the intense satisfaction each of these models tested provide at the wheel.
We liked the diesel 30d best - goes like hell, and hardly drinks at all - but, aside from the fuel consumption and the slightly more responsive in-line turbo six in the 35i, there is little to separate them.
And strangely, the squashed roof makes sense. After all, BMW had the platform, the chassis, the drivetrains and the technology, all sitting there in the X3.
So why not spin another model off it that satisfies those drivers who want some of the SUV character, but don’t want to look like they’re driving the family bus?
And, in the case of these twins, with cracking performance and handling. Great cars.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW X4 xDrive20i - $69,900
- BMW X4 xDrive20d - $73,400
- BMW X4 xDrive30d - $83,900
- BMW X4 xDrive35i - $87,900