30 Oct 2018

BMW X4 xDrive30i 2018 new car review

Is BMW's coupe-style SUV worth the look?
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Swoopy-coupe SUVs might not be all the rage but there’s an increasing appetite for lopping the top off a wagon and making a niche. 

Despite its swept-back looks, the X4 is no try hard, harking from some of the best heritage in the market - its pioneering big-sibling the X6.

Now in its second-generation, the X4 is the four-door coupe-style SUV – or Sports Activity Vehicle according to BMW – version of the third-gen X3 that’s built on an all-new platform. It promises better ride comfort, better dynamic performance and a host of new tech bits. It’s also bigger in nearly every dimension, so it should be a more practical car than the first-gen product.

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Vehicle Style: Prestige medium SUV
Price: $83,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre petrol turbo 4cyl | eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.8 l/100km Tested: 10.0 l/100km

OVERVIEW

It has grown precisely 81mm longer and 37mm wider, with a 54mm longer wheelbase and compared to the BMW X3, the X4 has a broader, more muscular look. You’ll give up some space inside but not much convenience, as the X4 still has a big boot and practical proportions upfront.

From the outside its raked roof and flared haunches give the overall impression that the X4 is more willing to tackle a twisting mountain pass than its upright sister, which it is. Based on the same platform as the new X3, the X4’s chassis is honed for better dynamic ability via a lower centre of gravity, firmer ride and, in this model, adaptive dampers as standard that is a cost-option on the equivalent X3.

The range starts with the base xDrive 20i petrol and 20d diesel before hitting the more powerful and better-equipped 30i and 30d. All come with the M Sport styling pack as standard, but the 30i and 30d get much more fruit than the basic duo.

Standard inclusions are a larger 10.25-inch infotainment screen with sat navigation but not Apple CarPlay (a $623 option yet uniquely cordless), digital radio, six-speaker sound system, reversing camera, wireless phone charging, colour head-up display, 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, full leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear mirrors, three-zone climate control and an automatic tailgate.

Further additions include adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping system with active steering assist, adaptive LED headlights, automated park assist and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Pricing for the 30i starts from $83,900 plus on-road costs which is $7000 more than the entry-level 20i.

All variants are all-wheel-drive (xDrive) and use an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission mated to the engine, however, the 30i employs a ‘sports tuned’ version of the same transmission compared to the standard 20i unit.

The xDrive 30i is also more powerful, using a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol motor to produce 185kW at 6500rpm and 350Nm from 1450-4800rpm. BMW claims the 1678kg machine will kick from 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds and drink a combined fuel consumption of 7.8l/100km.  

THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5

Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start, tri-zone climate control, active cruise control, leather trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, automatic on/off headlights/wipers, auto up/down high-beam and auto-dimming rear-view mirror
Infotainment: 10.25-inch colour screen with Bluetooth and USB input, cost-option Apple CarPlay wireless app connectivity, digital radio, satellite navigation and six-speaker audio
Cargo Volume: 525 litres

All BMW models have an air of familiarity between them thanks to copy-and-paste styling but the X4, like all the new breed of BMW, is finally bringing enhancements to challenge key German rivals.  

A lot of that centres around modern technology such as the infotainment system and driver’s display which needs to be big, crisp, glossy and packed full of features. BMW’s iDrive system is, and it beats the competition on Apple CarPlay integration that’s wireless and brilliant for cord-free connectivity, but it doesn’t have Android Auto support and CarPlay is a $623 cost-option here.

The displays are well placed and integrate nicely with the cabin ergonomics via BMW’s iDrive system that uses a solid-feeling rotary controller to navigate menus, and it sits right where the hand naturally rests. Additions such as the cost-option gesture control feel more like a gimmick and the ‘natural voice’ navigation is good but since the introduction of Mercedes' MBUX system, it has just as quickly felt dated in comparison to the three-pointed star's immediacy (though MBUX is not yet available on the X4's rival, the GLC, until its next update).

But even without Apple CarPlay and an astute assistant, the BMW iDrive ecosystem is smart to use and has smart app tiles that update continuously from being connected to the internet. Common music libraries like Spotify and Pandora have their own app in the infotainment and while not as common in Australia, community review driven sites such as Yelp are helpful for finding a good local restaurant.

Aside from technology, the cabin is well presented with the dash focusing on the driver. The seats are soft and hugging with good quality leather trim throughout, perfectly suited to long trips. The rear seats are a bit squished from the raked roof design and, of course, the X3 that the X4 is based on is more practical – it has more back seat room, more headspace and a bigger boot – so it is the pragmatic choice for a family.

But the X4 has a surprising amount of usable space and the boot is big at 525-litres large (1430L with the seats snapped down) with a compromised but not unusable back seat. It's also well catered for in the back with third-zone climate control and USB ports for charging devices.  

ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5

Engine: 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre petrol 4cyl
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
Suspension: Multi-link independent front and rear
Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering

The X4’s sacrifices in SUV practicality compared to the X3 are not just made up for by a sportier look but it drives well too. The ride is firmer so the body feels sharper to move when changing direction quickly and adaptive dampers come as standard to offset the stiff ride around town. Hit comfort mode and they help the flash 20-inch alloy wheels soak up all of those poorly-maintained roads as best as they can.

Unfortunately, the automatic transmission isn’t as helpful in downtown situations despite being billed as the sportier ‘box. There’s a bit of hesitation on throttle input from a standstill and it can become unnerving in time-critical situations where instant acceleration is needed to avoid moving traffic. Putting the car into sports mode removes most of the laziness but it isn’t the best the solution.

The engine is otherwise a smooth unit and has plenty of grunt to move along easily and quietly - road noise is really well damped. When it’s able to open the legs up the 2.0-litre four-pot needs to rev high to produce peak power but that 350Nm of torque is delivered in full early on, and it helps shift the almost 1700kg body pretty quickly – BMW claims a 0-100km/h of 6.3 seconds.

The steering is improved from the previous generation too, with a good feeling that’s not ruined by artificial weight and the X4 turns into corners with surprising composure for a big beast. There’s plenty of grip for doing what SUVs weren’t originally meant to but the engine feels a little out of balance when pushing hard and is something the $26,000 more expensive xDrive 40i makes up for with a larger six-cylinder turbo motor.

SAFETY

ANCAP Rating: The BMW X4 has yet to be tested by ANCAP.

Safety Features: Eight airbags, all-wheel-drive, traction and stability control ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, hill-start assist, low-speed AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning with steering assist.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres

Servicing: Servicing requirements are stipulated by condition-based monitoring that determines if the vehicle requires maintenance.

BMW offers Basic and Plus versions of its Service Inclusive Package that cover four-years/80,000km servicing.

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe is the closest competitor for looks to the brawny, muscular stance of the BMW X4. It offers the sporty look in spades and inside – despite an older design – it still looks great. Like the X4 it is more dynamic than the conventional sibling but is a touch slower in GLC 250 spec compared to the xDrive 30i.

Despite having a more conventional SUV shape, the Porsche Macan handles and responds with the precision Porsche is renowned for. Its age means it misses out on some of the tech the Beemer enjoys and it isn’t as packed full of gear.

The Audi Q5 is the most upright looking of these but it is a slick unit inside, with a great infotainment and digital driver display system and a cohesive driveline that blends comfort and dynamic ability well.  

  • Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe
  • Porsche Macan
  • Audi Q5

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5

The new X4 is a better-looking machine than before and its tech updates make it a strong competitor to an aging field of mainly not-quite coupes. And that is its strongest point – there’s nothing much that has the feel of the X4’s presence on the road. The 30i on test is a better engine than the entry-point 20i model but as a performance coupe it doesn’t feel finished, leaving space for the M40i to own that gap. Otherwise, it’s a slick alternative to the usual Toorak tractor, and doesn’t kill the boot trying!

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