BMW X4 first drive
There are certain areas of the car market that are growing, and growing quickly. Chief amongst these are electric vehicles, four-door coupes, and SUVs. To combine all three would hit the sweet spot for practically guaranteed sales, but until now, we will have to settle for two out of three - in this case the BMW X4. A coupe-styled SUV, the X4 is BMW's take on making the popular X3 less practical - or more to the point, more stylish. NGC tests the new version to see how it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
Two engine options are available at launch, and both are diesels. The top-of-the-range M40d delivers performance-biased thrills, but the 20d is going to shift far more units, offering 190 hp from its 2.0 litre turbocharged diesel engine. In the X4 xDrive20d M Sport X tested, thatâ€™s good for a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds and a top speed of 132mph. Itâ€™s a very good engine, pulling nicely in just about any of the eight speeds found in the automatic gearbox, which changes ratios extremely fast and with admirable smoothness. No doubt this is aided by a hefty 400 Nm of torque available, helping make light work of shifting the X4 along. Grip is excellent thanks to four-wheel drive, and the X4 proves a refined car to drive just about anywhere, whether thatâ€™s around town, on the open road, or on the motorway. The brakes are very BMW, meaning superb and with plenty of feel. The set-up is found in a good few BMWs available and works well in just about all of them, with the X4 being no exception. Itâ€™s not the most exciting powertrain available, but it is one of the best in its class.
There are a number of potential pitfalls when taking a tall car and attempting to make it sporty. Few SUVs offer a good driving experience when compared to a conventional estate for example, with the Porsche Macan one of that small number of successful names. Itâ€™s one of the models in BMWâ€™s sights for this new X4, and the Porsche lines up against the Mercedes Benz GLC-Class Coupe as the key players in the coupe-SUV market. BMW has tried to shift the X4 away from its more conventional and practical X3 stablemate by stiffening the suspension and increasing the width of the rear track. As such, the X4 is surprisingly good to drive in a hurry, with sharp turn in and little body roll, even when pushing on. The steering is well damped, which removes some of the feedback available. Therefore, those wanting a truly sporty SUV should continue to look at the Macan for driving thrills. The BMW X4 does very nicely though, offering an engaging drive, and a refined one in most conditions. The stiffer suspension means the X4 isnâ€™t as comfortable as an X3, or the Mercedes for that matter, but it only jolts over the harshest of imperfections in the road surface, and will keep occupants happy for the majority of their time in the BMW.
The X4 seems to split opinion, with some liking the looks, and others not. I fall loosely into the latter camp, finding the styling a little too lumpen at the front, and neither rounded nor sharp enough at the rear from too many angles. The side profile isnâ€™t too bad, and I like the new style rear lights if focusing in on those. But overall, I think its rivals and the X3 look better. Design is all a matter of personal opinion though, and others that Iâ€™ve spoken to like the raked roof line and overall styling. How that design translates to the interior depends on what aspect of the interior you are looking at. The front seats are unaffected in terms of space, with occupants comfortably off for head, leg, and shoulder room. In the rear seats, taller passengers will feel the difference the sloping roofline makes, with six-footers and over brushing the roof with their hair or head. The leg space is pretty good though, and shoulder room plenty good enough for two adults to sit in the rear in comfort. Further back still and the boot is a good size, with little impact to practicality from the styling. Obviously those situations when the boot is filled above the window line will see the loader cursing the X4 compared to the boxier X3, but thatâ€™s the choice buyers will have to make. Most of the time, the boot is more than practical enough for a familyâ€™s needs.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As interiors go, the BMW X4â€™s is a good one. The red and black leather interior of the test car jarred a little for me, but thatâ€™s easily correctable by picking the right trim or options. Looking past that, the materials used are top notch, and everything feels beautifully made. The driver benefits from a driving position that can be made just right, and the dials and controls et al are all focused on the person behind the wheel, increasing the sense that BMW has tailored the X4 to the most important person in the car. Digital dials look good and work well, and BMWâ€™s iDrive system remains one of the best on the market. It uses a standard 6.5-inch screen or the upgraded 10.3-inch system, and stands on top of the dash. Able to be used as a touchscreen set-up or by using the iDrive dial and buttons, the versatility and control available to users is comfortably amongst the class leaders. The rest of the controls fall nicely to hand and feel solidly put together. Overall, the X4â€™s interior lacks the cleanliness of style from some rivalâ€™s offerings, but it does a good job and makes sure all the fundamentals work well. Visibility isnâ€™t great out back because of the large rear pillars, though parking sensors and a reversing camera limit much of this inconvenience.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
This first drive didnâ€™t give me the opportunity to test out the X4â€™s fuel economy properly, so until a longer test takes place, we shall have to work with the official figures for now. BMW quotes a combined figure of 50.4 MPG and CO2 emissions are rated at 146 g/km. During the drive, I reckon a low 40s MPG looked about fair, with a variety of driving styles. Using a more frugal driving style, a figure of around 45 MPG should be achievable. To tax, the X4 tested will cost Â£205 for the first year, included in the carâ€™s OTR. Thereafter, it will cost Â£450 for years two to six since the model costs more than Â£40,000 new.
BMW has used its EfficientLightweight principles in the design and manufacturing of the X4. Increased use of aluminium alongside high-strength steels means that around 50kg is saved over the previous version, while an improvement in aerodynamics has seen drag reduced by about 10%. This has been achieved by a more slippery shape in general, plus the use of active air flaps and â€˜Air Curtainsâ€™ controlling airflow better. The latest generation of the xDrive all-wheel drive system is lighter than before too. Engine auto stop/start and brake energy recuperation are fitted as standard, as is Driving Experience Control. This allows the driver to select between Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro set-ups, with the latter improving the efficiency of the gearbox, reducing the impact of systems such as air conditioning, and lessening throttle response. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 53.
The level of standard equipment is very good, including much of what a buyer might want even in entry-level Sport trim. This features 18-inch alloys, M Sport suspension, adaptive LED headlights, park assist, automatic wipers, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB, and USB connectivity, and air conditioning. M Sport models add 19-inch alloys, the larger BMW Professional Navigation 10.3-inch touchscreen system, M Sport aerodynamic styling, M Sport multi-function steering wheel, and front sports seats, amongst other items. M Sport X tested included much of the same, but with a bit more rugged styling to proceedings. Added as options were a head-up display, display key - a key fob with touchscreen controls - enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, Digital Cockpit, and WiFi hotspot. Also added was an M Sport Plus package with 20-inch alloys, upgraded brakes, sun protection glass, and Harman/Kardon stereo, while adaptive suspension, electric front seats with driver memory, Apple CarPlay integration, Driving Assistance Plus, and Parking Assistance Plus were also fitted. These options added more than Â£8,000 to the cost of the car, so the best advice is pick wisely.
The BMW X4 is a very accomplished machine, proving both quick and comfortable in equal measure. The interior is excellent, and itâ€™s practical enough for a family. Running costs are pretty good too, but personally, Iâ€™m put off by the styling and reduced sloping roofline. In the market for a sporty SUV, Iâ€™d pick the Porsche Macan, but there are a number of people who will look past the design and pick the X4 - and those that do will be getting a fine car indeed.
Model tested: BMW X4 xDrive20d M Sport X
Body-style: Coupe SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre twin-turbo diesel / 146 g/km
Trim grades: Sport, M Sport, M Sport X
On-road price: X4 range from £42,900. Price as tested £48,145 (£56,755 with options)
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars