2014 BMW X4 Review

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After pulling off one of the bravest moves in the motoring world by creating the ungainly X6, BMW is at it again with a downsized version of the coupe-SUV. The BMW X4 is the German manufacturer’s latest controversial-stirrer in its quest to fill up every possible niche it could find.

Dubbed the Sports Activity Coupe (SAC), it combines the attributes of an SUV – high ground clearance and practicality – with the stance of a coupe – sleek looks and sloping roof.

The X6’s unexpected success is the reason for the birth of the X4. Based on the same platform and drivetrain as the X3 SUV, the X4 range opens with the entry level xDrive20i and xDrive20d priced at $69,430 and $73,400 excluding on-roads respectively.

The xDrive30d sits in the middle of the lineup with a sticker of $83,900, while the $87,430 xDrive35i claims the top position.

We recently spent some time with the middle child, the xDrive30d.

Styling

The first X6 was loved because of its unconventional styling. So, naturally, BMW revisited the formula with the X4. But it didn’t quite work this time around.

Merging an elongated profile and low slung roofline with a high riding position works on the X6 because of its size, something the smaller X4 doesn’t quite have. Where the former looks imposing and muscular, the X4 looks undernourished and restrained.

Its proportions are off the mark too, especially when viewed from the rear three quarter angle. Despite being longer than the X3 on which it is based, the X4 hasn’t got the length for the sloping roofline to flow gently to the tail.

Overall however, the X4 looks unique enough to stand out from the crowd of boxy SUVs ploughing our roads today.

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Despite its coupe-ish looks, you still climb to get into the X4, rather than sink into it like getting into an actual coupe. But once on board the coupe-like sitting position feels sporty (and weird at the same time due to its high ride height).

The interior is almost identical to that of the X3. This means a driver-oriented and uncluttered layout typical of a BMW. It boasts high-gloss black panels for the automatic climate control and dashes of aluminium trim above the glove box, centre console and doors for a classy look.

Our test car has been fitted with the Ivory leather upholstery with red stitching and ‘X’ embossment on the front seat headrests. They look sumptuous and help lift cabin ambient, though keeping them clean is a challenge.

Score: 7.0/10

Space and Practicality

The X4 is less practical than the X3, but that’s to be expected due to its coupe-like shape. It is 21mm longer than the X3 at 4671mm and 51mm lower at 1624mm, but the 2810mm wheelbase is the same as its SUV counterpart.

While legroom is generous for front and rear passengers, the lower height means headroom is slightly compromised compared to the X3, especially for rear passengers.

Unlike the larger X6, which remains a four-seater unless the three-seat rear bench option is ticked, the X4 can carry five as standard, though the middle rear seat is raised and narrow, which can be uncomfortable for an adult.

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Like all high-riding SUVs, the driver and front passenger gets a commanding view of the road ahead, perched on ultra-supportive and comfortable leather sports seats. Rear seat passengers (except for the middle) will also welcome the equally supportive rear pews.

The 500 litres of boot space is 50 litres down on the X3. It is deep and square but vertical space is hampered by the sloping roof, which also makes access for rear passengers a bit awkward. Drop the rear seats and this space expands to 1440 litres.

Score: 7.5/10

Performance

The BMW X4 range consists of both petrol and diesel offerings.

Kicking off the line-up is the 2.0 turbo four-cylinder petrol producing 135kW and 270Nm powering the X4 xDrive20i.

Next up is the 2.0-litre turbo diesel in the xDrive20d with 140kW and 400Nm, followed by a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo diesel developing 190kW and 560Nm that propels the xDrive30d.

The xDrive35i is the most powerful, motivated by a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol rated at 225kW and 400Nm.

All engines are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission – sports automatic in the case of the xDrive30d and xDrive35i – and full-time all-wheel-drive system.

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The X4 xDrive30d we have on test here is one of the smoothest diesels we have come across, with the badge being probably the only tell-tale sign that it chews on diesel fuel.

Power delivery is strong from the get go, thanks to all 560Nm available from just 1,500rpm and hangs around until 3,000rpm. It’s a versatile unit, eager in urban traffic while effortlessly laidback in country roads.

From a standing start, the xDrive30d sprints to 100km/h in a hot-hatch beating 5.8 seconds, while capable of slurping just 5.9L/100km of diesel fuel in the combined cycle. On test however, our best effort for the century sprint was 6.1 seconds, and covering almost 600km of travel with roughly 60/40 urban to freeway split, the trip computer returned 7.2L/100km reading.

We find the ZF eight-speed automatic with flappy paddles work particularly well with the meaty 3.0 six-pot diesel in the 30d, and the rear-wheel-biased AWD system, which is capable of distributing 100 percent of torque to either axle, maintains good traction on most surfaces.

All X4 models are equipped as standard auto stop/start that shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a temporary stop. We find the system too sensitive, as even the slightest application of brake pedal will cause the engine to shut down when coming to a halt, which can be annoying when you are just trying to inch forward in traffic. However, the system is quick to fire up the moment the brake pedal is released for a smooth takeoff.

Score: 8.5/10

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Ride and Handling

Despite having a slightly stiffer suspension setup than the BMW X3, the X4 is still a very comfortable grand tourer, with excellent road holding thanks to its low centre of gravity. Its slimline silhouette cuts through the air with less drag compared to an SUV, which results in less wind noise.

The trade-off for the saloon-like ride quality is a compromise in dynamics compared to sharper rivals like the Porsche Macan.

This is not to say the X4 isn’t capable of handling the bends. In fact it grips tenaciously with strong resistance to understeer and torque vectoring (Performance Control in BMW speak) works brilliantly to keep the 1.8 tonne SAC in the driver’s intended line of travel, but the body feels aloft and disconnected from the underpinnings. Factor in the weight and the X4 just rolls too much for our liking.

The optional M Sport suspension with variable setting, which tightens things up for better handling, is something to consider if you wish to drive your X4 sportily.

The range gets variable-ratio sports steering as standard. It quickens the steering for enthusiastic driving as well as parking. While it’s direct and precise, it’s still lacking feedback on how much lateral load the front tyres are under.

Offroad, the X4’s all-wheel-drive system maintains good traction on most gravel and sand tracks, only submitting to the trickiest and overly slippery surfaces. Coupled with the strong low down torque of BMW’s current crop of engines, the X4 is surprisingly not afraid to get dirty.

Score: 7.5/10

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Equipment and Safety

The BMW X4 costs between $9000 and $10,500 over the equivalent X3. But in terms of equipment, the X4 is not a case of paying more for less. Standard equipment fitted across the X4 range that are optional on base X3 variants are Variable Sports Steering and Performance Control (torque vectoring) which distributes power and braking to individual wheels while cornering.

The xDrive20i and xDrive20d gets 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, so are bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, reverse camera, powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and leather upholstery with power operated front seats.

The standard infotainment system incorporates an 8.8-inch screen with 20GB hard drive, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and Navigation Professional, which includes Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI).

The xDrive30d adds Dynamic Damper Control, 360 degree surround view camera and nine-speaker premium audio.

Standard in the top-spec xDrive 35i are 20-inch M alloy wheels and M aerodynamic package, keyless entry and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

All X4 variants come with the assurance of maximum five star ANCAP safety rating.

Score: 8.0/10

Verdict

Our Score: 3.7/5

The BMW X4 appeals to those who are willing to accept a trade-off in space for unique style, though its awkward exterior proportions may divide opinions.

As a sporty SUV, the X4 delivers better performance than the cheaper X3, but only slightly.

While it may seem like BMW can now rest easy with yet another niche segment filled, the X4 has just found its biggest worry – the better looking and more versatile Porsche Macan, which is coming ever closer to the X4’s party.

Price (Excl. on-roads):X4 xDrive20i – $69,430
X4 xDrive20d – $73,400
X4 xDrive30d – $83,900 (Tested)
X4 xDrive35i – $87,430
Warranty:3 years/100,000km
Service Interval:Variable
Engine:2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol:

135kW @ 5,000-6,250rpm, 270Nm @ 1,250-4,500rpm, constant all-wheel drive (xDrive20i)

2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel:

140kW @ 4,000rpm, 400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm, constant all-wheel drive (xDrive20d)

3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder turbo-diesel:

190kW @ 4,000rpm, 560Nm @ 1,500-3,000rpm, constant all-wheel drive (xDrive30d)

3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder turbo-petrol:

225kW @ 5,800-6,400rpm, 400Nm @ 1,200-5,000rpm, constant all-wheel drive (xDrive35i)

Transmission:8-speed automatic
0 – 100km/h (seconds):xDrive20i – Claimed 8.1
xDrive20d – Claimed: 8.0
xDrive30d – Claimed: 5.8 (Tested: 6.1)
xDrive35i – Claimed: 5.5
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):xDrive20i – Claimed: 7.2
xDrive20d – Claimed: 5.2
xDrive30d – Claimed: 5.9 (Tested: 7.2)
xDrive35i – Claimed: 8.3
Body:5-door sports SUV
Safety:5-star ANCAP
Dimensions: L/W/H/W-B (mm):4,671/1,881/1,624/2,810
Kerb Weight (kg):xDrive20i: 1,725
xDrive20d: 1,745
xDrive30d: 1,820
xDrive35i: 1,815
Towing Capacity (kg):xDrive20i – Braked: 2,400/Unbraked: 750
xDrive20d – Braked: 2,400/Unbraked: 750
xDrive28i – Braked: 2,400/Unbraked: 750
xDrive30d – Braked: 2,400/Unbraked: 750

Competitors: Porsche Macan, Range Rover Evoque

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