This is the new BMW X4 and you can bet that a shopping mall parking lot near you will be busy with them very soon.
Engine: 3.0L Turbo Inline Six Cylinder makes 300 hp, 300 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19/27/22 City / Highway / Combined
Base price: $48,950 deliv. Incl.
Base price (CAD): $57,768 (Ontario)
As tested: $62,375 deliv. Incl.
0-60 Time: 5.4 seconds (est.)
Truthfully, I had doubts from the outset about the X4. It has less cargo capacity than the X3 on which it is based but – paradoxically – it is also more expensive. What’s even more perplexing is the fact that this is one among an extensive list of products from BMW that share architecture and engines. BMW, it seems, is masterfully capitalizing on economies of scale and people can’t seem to get enough.
While the X4 is a new nameplate for BMW, the idea behind its existence is old hat to Munich’s best and brightest. They started docking the X5’s tail years ago to create the X6. Since then it went on to sell more than 250,000 times, so yeah… it’s a hit.
Now they’re doing the same thing to the X3 by giving it a coupe-ish roofline to similar ends. So what are the primary differences?
Another Coupe Styled Compact Crossover
Well, the roof is a little more than two inches lower, it gets a different front fascia and it has tapered tail like you would find on the X6. In fact, the only exterior cosmetic pieces the X3 and X4 share are the hood and headlights.
You do give up some headroom, but not as much as you might think because the seats are also situated lower in the chassis than they would be with the X3. Unfortunately you do give up more than a third of the cargo space that comes with an X3.
Aside from that, this is pretty much just an X3 as far as the interior is concerned. The dashboard is the same and the materials are also unchanged. Leather seats come with a $1,450 upcharge that I would struggle with given how coarse the material feels. Then again the alternative is “SensaTec” faux leather, so maybe this is still the best option.
BMW will equip the X4 with pretty much every option you can imagine including adaptive dampers for $1,000, a “technology” package for $3,150 that adds navigation, a head-up display, real-time traffic updates and access to BMW’s infotainment apps. There’s also a “driver assistance” package that adds blind spot monitoring, accidental lane departure warnings to prevent you from drifting into danger, a bird’s eye view camera system for parking and speed limit information. Of course, that is only some of the optional equipment BMW offers.
Even if the leather is less than supple, the cabin is tastefully designed and easy to live with. The newest version of iDrive is straightforward to use with a relatively simple interface and a large control dial near the cup holders to navigate from menu to menu.
The model I drove carries an MSRP of $62,375 and basically comes with everything BMW will throw at you. For perspective, that’s $13,425 more expensive than an unequipped version of the xDrive35i, or $15,925 more than the base version of a comparable X3.
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Oh Brother, Why Bother?
By now you’re probably asking “Luke, why the heck would anyone want to buy one of these?” After all, the meat and potatoes of it is that it’s more expensive and less practical than an X3 bar none. But then again, the same argument could apply to, say, a Civic coupe, couldn’t it?
And apart from being stylistically different, the fact that you sit lower does lend the car a mildly sportier feel, not to mention the stiffer suspension that comes with the available M sport package. And that’s a good thing, because it’s also got quite an engine.
Peak boost hits at 1,200 RPM and sticks around until five grand and that means the X4 never feels slow, especially not in sport and sport plus mode where the powertrain and chassis are tuned to be more responsive. It’s also really comfortable over rough pavement.
BMW gets its eight-speed automatic from ZF and that’s a good thing because they make spectacular stuff. The shifts are almost imperceptibly smooth under acceleration although they aren’t quite as nice at low speeds and the fact remains that this is still far behind Porsche’s seven-speed PDK.
Come on, Macan You Really Say That?
Now I’m aware that BMW is using an eight-speed automatic and Porsche’s is a seven-speed dual clutch, but I bring it up for a reason.
Believe it or not, the X4 and Macan are similar in several respects. They have comparable curb weights, they overlap in pricing, they’re the exact same length and they have the same cargo capacity.
Heck for the Porsche’s extra power it’s only two tenths of a second quicker to 60 MPH.
Yes the Macan has a higher price fully loaded, but it still raises an important question: Is the X4 really worth Porsche money?
It’s a lot of fun to drive and I must say, BMW’s electric steering is really starting to shine. As cornering load increases it progressively stiffer and it just feels good. Just like the X3, the X4 handles its weight admirably
Now, it doesn’t come with quite the mess of optional equipment that Porsche will sell you, but the important stuff is here.
Assuming space and practicality aren’t your top priorities, the X4 is quick, it’s comfortable and it can do 9/10ths of what its most direct competitors can for a smaller price tag and that’s hard to argue with even if the notion of a coupe crossover mash-up is a little silly.