UK Drive: BMW’s X4 is a niche-filler worth considering
Jack Evans gets behind the latest version of BMW’s SUV-coupe
What is it?
You might think that the SUV segment was as full as it could possibly get, but BMW managed to fill another niche back in 2016 with the X4. Now, the mid-sized ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ has been refreshed for 2018, bringing a new look and upgraded chassis tech.
Slotting neatly in between the X3 and X5, the X4 has been designed to offer a coupe-like design but with the increased ride height which is so beloved by drivers at the moment. Is it a case of all show and no go, though?
The all-new X4 is actually longer than the car it replaces – 81mm moreso, in fact – and is 37mm wider too. It means that the X4 can offer better interior space than the car it replaces, as well as bigger boot. However, a lighter chassis promises improved dynamic capabilities, while lowering the car’s overall weight and therefore improving its efficiency.
The interior is also bolstered by BMW’s latest cabin architecture, with a raft of in-car technology helping to bring it closer into line with the rest of the firm’s range.
What’s under the bonnet?
Our test car came in X4 20d specification, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine for propulsion. It pushes out 187bhp and a healthy 400Nm of torque, which is enough to send it to 60mph in 7.8 seconds and onwards to a 132mph top speed.
In terms of efficiency, BMW claims that the X4 will return 52.3mpg combined while emitting 142g/km CO2. They’re reasonable figures for a car of this size – and they’re the best you’ll get from the X4 line-up of engines, as the 20d is both the most economical and least powerful powertrain available.
If you are after the best X4 performance-wise, then there’s the range-topping M40i to go for; this hits 60mph in 4.6 seconds as well as a 155mph top speed. You will only get 31.4mpg on a good day, however.
What’s it like to drive?
Most SUVs attempt to deliver a semblance of sporty driving, with many failing to deliver. The X4 does well, however, thanks to well-weighted steering and decent cornering ability. Though you might imagine that to achieve this, BMW would have had to make the X4 a lot firmer – and in truth, it has – though it still rides superbly well, absorbing the vast amount of road imperfections.
The engine is smooth and refined, and though certainly not the quickest out of the blocks feels more than punchy enough for all situations. The diesel’s gruff engine note is also kept well isolated from the cabin too, which makes things all the more relaxing. The eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly, while the xDrive all-wheel-drive system means there’s a little added traction in damp conditions.
How does it look?
The first thing you notice about the X4’s design are those grilles. The kidney grilles are a well-known BMW trademark, but the X4’s are almost brutishly large, and they dominate the front of the car. Do they work in terms of styling? In our opinion, they’re perhaps just a little too big – though they are in proportion with the rest of the car’s front end.
BMW has done well to disguise the car’s overall heft too, with flowing lines down the flanks meeting an abrupt rear end design to create a vehicle which looks – dare we say it – quite ‘sporty’. Large alloy wheels only help to improve this effect. The slim lights at the rear look decidedly un-BMW, while the slab of black plastic around the exhaust pipes isn’t the prettiest of additions.
What’s it like inside?
The X4’s cabin mimics that of the 5 Series and 7 Series – and this is a really good thing. Everything is laid out intuitively, with the main controls for heating and ventilation placed within easy reach of the driver. A large central cubby area is ideal for phones of keys, and this is backed up by a decent sized area underneath the armrest. The dials are clear and easy to read, too.
There’s a decent amount of legroom to be found in the back, though the car’s sloping roofline does impede on headroom quite a lot. The boot, meanwhile, comes in at a decent 525 litres in capacity, though it can be increased to 1,430 litres by folding down the rear seats which split 40:20:40.
What’s the spec like?
Prices for the X4 start at £42,900, which bags 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cruise control and parking sensors at both the front and rear of the car as standard. A wealth of safety assistance systems is also fitted on base cars, with automatic stability control, dynamic traction control and hill-start assist all welcome functions.
You’ll have to upgrade to a M Sport model in order to get the fantastic 10.25-inch colour infotainment system as standard, along with larger alloy wheels and a sporty body kit. You certainly won’t be left wanting for kit on the regular X4, but if you fancy some of the standout toys then it’s a better option to choose a higher level of trim.
The X4 may be another niche-filler, but it’s one well worth considering. It may not quite match rivals for rear-seat space, but it does deliver a surprisingly dynamic drive – one which you wouldn’t quite expect from a car in this segment. Its diesel engine is refined and efficient, and the interior is solidly built too. It may be expensive, but the X4 is one to look at if you’re about the pick from the vast swatches of models currently available in the SUV segment.
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