BMW first introduced the X4 in 2014, it’s proud to remind us that it was the first manufacturer to produce in this segment. We’re not sure that this segment was ever needed, or was lacking in a market overrun with SUV/crossover type things, though here it is. BMW calls it the sports activity coupe. Doesn’t coupe mean two doors? Semantics, we guess. We’re going to be straight with you, we never drove the first iteration of the X4 and we’ve always been ever so slightly judgmental about them. Off the bat, the X4 is on a prejudiced back foot with us, and we know we’re here to report and be impartial, but the nature of this manufactured segment has always left us scratching our head thinking, ‘but why…’ Now that our admission is out the way let’s get down to business.
The X4 has sold over 200 000 units globally, not shabby for a car that’s in existence out of sheer creativity versus demand. BMW is quick to point out the excelling features of the X4, ‘Enhanced driving dynamics, standout exterior design accentuating the car’s sporting instincts, a further refined premium ambiance in the interior, state-of-the-art driver assistance systems and leading-edge connectivity technologies’. Not exactly selling it short are they. Does it live up to the hype?
The X4 is a middle management meeting of SUV ride height and sedan appearance. BMW South Africa has used the new X4 as a starting point to cut the fat in the engine line-up. It’s available in three models, the xDrive20i, M40i, xDrive20d, the M40d (yes please!) will be joining the line up in Q1 of 2019. The trimming of engines available speaks to economic variables in our market, though that’s a column for another day. Changes to the latest iteration include it being wider, longer, lower and 50 kg lighter than its predecessor with the familiar face we see on associated current BMW X models. Twin exhaust pipes make the rear end that much more phat and depending on model, you’re riding on 18 or 19-inch alloys. Passengers in the rear now get 27 mm of extra leg room, too.
Hopping into the cabin the X4 fulfills its claim of premium ambiance, emitting a Borat-esque ‘very niiiice’ from the driver. Credit where credit is due, BMW knows how to create opulent luxury without going too far in the direction of claustrophobic finishes. It’s mature and refined. The BMW gesture control is a game changer, allowing certain functions to be controlled via hand movements registered by a 3D sensor in the center console. Behind the wheel the X4 starts making sense, and we admit we’ve been prejudiced this whole time. The raised SUV ride height without the dynamic setbacks of the SUV rear quarter on weight and handling is the Goldilocks effect. It’s a sedan that allows the driver to see traffic conditions ahead while still feeling connected like in a sedan.
The entry-level petrol engine, the xDrive20i, is the powered by a 2.0-litre petrol unit producing 135 kW and 290 Nm between 1 350 – 4 250 rpm. The drive delivered as advertised on the box, impressive handling and sporty response. As a daily driver you’ll never need more than the 135 kW, some may argue that it’s under-powered, though the throttle response and 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission are awake enough to perform when required. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is standard across all models which aids the intimation of sporty character on this opening model.
The xDrive20d, which we sadly didn’t get to sample at launch (we were too busy with the M40i) is definitely the bang-for-buck option. Powered by BMW’s phenomenal 2.0-litre diesel engine, it puts out 140 kW and 400 Nm with a claimed fuel consumption of 5.6 l/100 km. This is the model we look forward to testing in the future. With performance SUVs becoming a thing, the M40i has to be able to stand its ground. Does it deliver?
Yes, it does. Powered by a 6-cylinder petrol it provides 265 kW and 500 Nm for your driving pleasure. And what a pleasure it is to drive. The transmission is a Steptronic Sport varietal with Launch Control as standard. The xDrive wizardry on the M Performance models is setup to steer with the rear, as they say in rallying circles, while the standard M Sport differential helps you get out of corners like Sebastian Ogier. Standard features include 20-inch alloys, M Sport brakes, variable sport steering and M Sport suspension, if you have cash to splash you could get the optional Adaptive M suspension, too.
The BMW X4 is well priced in the market and if we want to compare naartjies and clementines it’s an option if you want a premium sports car SUV without you know, the actual SUV. The X4 M40i is offering the same performance stats on paper as another sports car SUV for less money. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we’re talking Porsche Cayenne here. In reality, why would you spend over a million more for something that gives the same feels at half the price.
X4 xDrive 20i: R843 000
X4 M40i: R1 132 800
X4 xDrive 20d: R843 000