With so many options to choose from in the SUV sector, creating a unique product is a challenge, which explains the coupe-SUV approach of the BMW X4. Compared to the conventional X3 on which it is based, the X4 trades some practicality for a more distinctive exterior design and increased driving pleasure.
Some aspects are a definite success; the X4 is one of the best-driving SUVs at any price and it delivers a strong premium feel. But the added expense and reduced practicality make it feel like an indulgence next to its more practical and almost as capable X3 stablemate.
13 Feb, 2019
The BMW X4 sets out to mix the design elements of an SUV with those of a coupe, and more than most cars only a potential owner can decide if it has been a success. The lower half of the body carries the bulk and toughness expected from an SUV, with the curved roofline of a coupe sitting on top of it. Anyone looking for something more conventional should find the X3 to their liking, but at the very least the X4 offers distinction in a crowded vehicle segment. Underneath the X4 lies the same platform as used in the X3, with the only significant changes being a wider rear track to increase cornering ability.
Inside the X4 is an unquestionable success, combining attractive design with quality materials to great effect. The interior is another element that is largely carried over from the X3, but in this instance that is good news; the layout is attractive but understated, easy to understand and adds to the sporty feel of the car. Where fitted, the leather is of a high quality, and the vast majority of the plastics in the cabin are soft and pleasing to touch.[gallery:7]
X4 M Sport models and above benefit from a part-digital instrument display, although the crisply-designed analogue set-up in the Sport model is still attractive and easy to read. A full digital display is an option on X4 models and standard on the M40d and M40i.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All X4 models come with satellite navigation and a DAB radio as standard. Sport models have a 6.5-inch display, but M Sport versions and above are fitted with BMW Professional Navigation which increases the screen size to 10.25-inches and includes a touchscreen facility to back up the i-Drive controller.
However you control the system, it responds quickly and accurately, and the display uses clear and attractive graphics. Gesture Control is also available as an option, allowing you to use hand movements to make basic inputs, although this system is still relatively new and limited in its scope. The system can be specified with Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto is not available.
Creating a car that handles with composure and a sense of fun is a challenge for manufacturers, but to do so from the starting point of a tall and relatively heavy SUV is even more taxing. Remarkably, the X4 is a sure-footed SUV that makes it easy to forget its size and shape from behind the wheel. While it’s based on the X3, it feels a little more sporty. That’s partly down to the view from the driver’s seat, but the X4 also has stiffer suspension and a wider rear track. The result is that the X4 handles with remarkable composure, and rarely feels like a tall vehicle considering the way it behaves through corners.
Despite the sporty handling, the X4 is a comfortable car to travel in. Even in M Sport guise the ride remains composed and avoids feeling too firm. Only the occasional large bump causes any discomfort in the cabin, but the optional adaptive dampers give even greater comfort when in their softest setting, so they’re a worthwhile upgrade. That gives the X4 the ability to cope with broken urban roads, motorways and challenging B-roads with equal ease, and even though the X4 is designed to provide a sporty driving experience, it retains good off-road ability too.
The eight-speed automatic transmission, available as an option on xDrive20d models and standard across the rest of the range, is excellent in the X4. It shifts smoothly and quickly when in automatic mode, and the seperate drive modes means the gearbox changes its shift points depending on the setting for better performance or economy. Manual shifting is also possible, either by the paddles on the back of the steering wheel or by using the gearlever for full control.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The 2.0-litre diesel unit found in the xDrive20d is likely to be the most popular choice, and it performs very well in a variety of circumstances. Although it is not as quiet as the equivalent four-cylinder Audi engine, it still offers good refinement, and balances decent performance, with a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds, with impressive fuel consumption of 52.3mpg combined.[gallery:2]
Moving up to the xDrive30d brings the additional performance of the six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel unit, with the further benefit of it being significantly smoother than the four-cylinder diesel. It turns the X4 into a genuine performance car yet only results in a small penalty in terms of increased fuel consumption. The M40d model is quicker still, with the twin-turbocharged unit pushing the X4 from 0-62mph in only 4.8 seconds and delivering rapid response to the driver’s inputs.
The only petrol engine currently available is the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged unit in the M40i model, and is also biased towards performance. Its six-cylinder configuration means the engine is smooth even at high revs and provides impressive acceleration, although it is no faster from 0-62mph than the M40d model but has higher fuel consumption.
A high-performance BMW X4M is set to arrive later in 2019, powered by an uprated twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six with as much as 506bhp.
As the X4 is likely to be used as a family car, safety remains a priority, and this is reflected in the generous provision of safety systems. Autonomous emergency braking is fitted as standard across the range, and this can be supplemented with the optional fitment of active cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.
The optional Dynamic Safety system makes pre-emptive safety measures such as tightening the seatbelts if it determines that a crash is imminent, and can apply the brakes if an accident occurs. Euro NCAP is yet to test the BMW X4, and it’s more likely that the X3 will be tested first. In fact, the likeliest outcome is that the X4 will be covered by the X3’s score, as it’s essentially a body variation of that model like an estate compared to a hatchback.
In terms of reliability, both the X4 and X3 are too new to have featured in the 2018 Driver Power survey, so it is hard to draw any firm conclusions. However the brand as a whole had mixed results in the survey, finishing 21st place overall out of 26 brands and behind both Mercedes and Audi. Over 25% of owners reported a fault with their car in the first year of ownership, while both build quality and exterior design failed to receive much praise. Running costs, practicality and infotainment were plus points for survey respondents, but it remains to be seen how newer models like the X4 perform.
The X4 comes with a standard BMW warranty which is for three years from the date of first registration and unlimited mileage, which is the same as offered by Mercedes but superior to that of Audi, which is limited to 60,000 miles within the first three years.
Another significant factor in running costs of the X4 will be servicing and parts replacement. The BMW Service Inclusive cover is available for the X4 at a price of around £400, which should provide a saving, although this only covers a basic service and does not reduce the cost of consumable parts outside of the service schedule.
Anyone choosing the X4 over the X3 is making a conscious decision to sacrifice some practicality in favour of a sportier drive and more dynamic-looking exterior. But even allowing for that it still performs well in this respect. It is designed to seat four adults in comfort and can accommodate a fifth in a narrow seat for shorter journeys.
From the driver’s seat the view out is good, helped by the height of the body, although the view to the rear is somewhat reduced by the shallowness of the tailgate window. Oddment storage inside the cabin is impressive, with a generous glovebox, door pockets and a large central storage area between the seats. An optional extended storage pack is also available that adds features such as extra storage areas, 12v and USB sockets and the facility for securing loads in the boot.
As is common with premium German, products there is little difference between the X4 and rivals in terms of exterior dimensions. At 4,752mm in length, the X4 is longer than both the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and BMW X3, but only by a matter of 20mm in the case of the Mercedes. The same goes for height and width, but the differences between the X4 and X3 are more clear, with the former being longer, lower and wider than its stablemate despite riding on the same platform with an identical wheelbase.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Those sitting in the front are well catered for, with excellent head and legroom and a broad range of adjustment – supportive sports seats are fitted as standard on M Sport models and above. Those in the rear can also enjoy generous legroom, sufficient to sit taller adults in the rear. Where the X4 lags behind the X3 is in rear headroom, with those of six feet in height likely to find their heads making contact with the roof lining. The centre rear seat is also best used for shorter journeys, as it is narrower and lacks any kind of side bolstering. The transmission tunnel also eats into legroom for the central passenger.[gallery:12]
From the outside it is hard to believe that the X4 offers much luggage space, but there’s 525 litres with the rear seats in place, and up to 1,430 litres with them folded. The rear bench can be split 40:20:40 for maximum flexibility and the powered tailgate is also a useful addition. In terms of volume the X4 is close to offering the load capacity of the X3, but the shape of the tailgate and the steeply-raked window means bulkier items will not fit and loading the vehicle is more of a challenge thanks to the smaller aperture.
The X4 can be specified with a towing package which includes an electrically folding tow bar and the addition of trailer stability control to the standard Dynamic Stability Control system. The maximum trailer load is 2,000kg depending on the engine, and although those wishing to tow might choose a different BMW model, it may be a useful option for some.
Despite the physical size and weight of the X4, as well as its impressive acceleration, most of the models in the range deliver impressive fuel consumption and emissions performance. The xDrive20d model is capable of over 50mpg when driven with restraint, but can still deliver brisk performance, while both versions of the 3.0-litre diesel can also manage over 40mpg, with similarly reasonable emissions performance.
The M40i model is inevitably the most thirsty, with an official combined figure of only 31.4mpg that will likely result in actual mid-20s in everyday driving conditions. The official emissions figure of 205g/km also means that the M40i will be costly in terms of Vehicle Excise Duty too. This is compounded by the fact that all BMW X4s are priced in excess of £40,000 which attracts an annual surcharge of £310 on top of the VED cost for the first five years you pay road tax.[gallery:8]
The least-expensive X4 xDrive20d model is in group 32 for insurance, which is broadly in line with its key rivals, but will result in above average premiums for most drivers and is also higher than the equivalent X3 model. The rest of the X4 range is rated between group 41 for the xDrive30d models, group 43 for the M40i and group 45 for the M40d, so insurance premiums will be a significant ongoing cost if you choose the higher-output models.
BMWs typically hold their value well compared to premium rivals, and premium SUVs are the new cars that tend to have the best residual values anywhere in the market. Helped by its relative scarcity, the X4 is expected to retain approximately 56 per cent of its value after three years, with the diesel models generally performing better than the M40i petrol.