BMW invented the segment, and while others are slowly catching up with their first attempts, the Bavarians are already launching the second generation of their second SUV Coupe: The X4. This car is to the X3 what the X6 is to the X5: A less practical and more expensive derivative with a sloping, coupe-like roofline.
The first X4 has brought BMW much joy in terms of sales figures, but it was aethetically challenged. Something of an afterthought, it was engineered for a “half-cycle” – and resembled a smaller, folded-paper version of an X6. The new car, on the other hand, was planned from the outset. And thus BMW was able to give it more of its own character. One example? The wider rear track, which was tough to integrate into the platform – but it is an important component of the new X4’s character, and an element to distance it from the X3.
“The X4 is a trendsetter, and therefore we have emphasised its athleticism”, says BMW, and adds: “The design is now unique and not derived from the X3”. That, of course, is literally a half-truth: The front end is virtually indistinguishable, but the rear end is far removed from the X3, and it also looks a lot different from the X6. “Wider, lowr, better aerodynamics.” Wheel sizes are between 18 and 21 inches; 19- and 20-inch wheels are the best compromise, which the 21-inch wheels make the X4 look like it stands on stilts (although we suspect that this particular look will prove wildly popular with certain demographics).
Despite the muscular, coupe-like appearance, there is plenty of room not just up front, but also in the rear. Adults will do just fine on the rear seats, even on long trips. And the interior is exquisitely, if somewhat conservatively, finished – with the exception of the scratch-prone finish on some plastic parts.
Time to get behind the wheel, and we think BMW is emphasising the sporting pretensions of the X4 perhaps a bit too much. The front seats offer exaggerated levels of lateral support, and in “Sport” mode, the steering is ultra-heavy to the point of annoyance. A “sport suspension” is standard, but the stability control system acts with great zeal: We would have preferred less intervention – actually even if it would mean more understeer, not to mention the always welcome oversteer.
The X4 comes with a plethora of engine choices, but the two most attractive ones have six cylinders, assembled in one line; they wear the “M Performance” badge and are called “40i” and “40d” – which, in automotive “newspeak”, denotes 3.0 litre of displacement. The turbodiesel, which we also recently sampled in other BMW models, is an absolutely perfect powerplant: “Sovereign” comes to mind, and ultra-efficient on top of it.
The petrol engine doesn’t quite match the diesel’s excellence; it is similarly quick and sounds better, but is far less efficient. The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic matches the engines perfectly, with the exception of the too-busy “Sport” mode.
On its German home market, prices for the X4 start at EUR 49,700, without options and powered by a 184-horsepower petrol four-banger. Both the 326-horsepower M40d and the 354-horsepower M40i will set you back EUR 70,900. That’s not cheap, but a fair price for this characterful and aggressive SUV Coupe, which is ahead of the competition once more.
Text and Photos by Matthias Knoedler