Engine: 2.0L I-4 turbo/3.0L I-6 turbo
Output: 252 hp, 258 lb-ft/355 hp, 365 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
US Est. Fuel Economy (MPG): 22/29/235 (M40i); 20/27/23 (M40i)
CAN Est. Fuel Economy (L/100 km): Not yet rated
US Base Price: $51,445 (xDrive30i); $61,445 (M40i) (includes $995 destination fee)
CAN Base Price: $55,480 (xDrive30i); $68,480 (M40i) (includes $2,480 destination fee)
Is that the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? Pretty much, right?
Well, then why is it that so many people (from internet trolls to automotive writers, if there’s really much of a gap between those two breeds) just love to pile on the new coupe utility segment and eviscerate them because “they’re ugly” or because “it’s everything wrong with the automotive industry these days?”
Well, they’re wrong (OK, maybe not about the ugly part). It’s actually everything right with the automotive industry these days. An automotive company’s mission isn’t to make you buy what the informed minority deem acceptable or superior, it’s to make a profit selling cars. In order to sell cars, a company has to make cars that people actually buy, and people are buying more and more coupe-styled crossovers, a segment BMW ushered in with its X6 and expanded with its smaller X4 and subcompact X2. Acura made a sad attempt to join with the unloved ZDX, but Mercedes has been more successful with its GLE and GLC Coupes, and now Land Rover, Porsche, and others are looking to get in on the action.
BMW sold more than 200,000 X4s globally since its launch, so a new generation was warranted. For 2018, BMW completely overhauled the X3, and now the 2019 BMW X4 inherits the new platform and engines with a redesign of its coupe-like styling to keep it fresh amid an onslaught of new competitors.
It’s What’s Outside That Counts
BMW does not hesitate to point out that the X4 is essentially a styling exercise, and because it is overlaid on an extremely capable platform, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the styling changes from the previous generation are pretty subtle, even if you’re looking at the two generations side by side, but the twin-kidney grille gets bigger, the lighting elements and intakes all get tweaked and the roofline gets a slight bulge for better rear headroom and entry. Basically, if you liked it before, you’ll probably still like it again, but it won’t likely move the needle for any coupe utility haters.
ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW M4 Review
There are four new colors to choose from, nine colors in all, wheels from 18 to 21 inches and a few different themes for the finishing touches, basic xLine with matte aluminum trim, M Sport with a body kit, black trim and painted calipers, and M Sport X with the best of both worlds and trim accents in “Frozen Gray.” OK, it sounds silly, but it looks cool, and there’s also a more bronze-y Cerium Gray finish for the grille and body accents if you order the M40i. BMW also gave the details some consideration, with larger storage ahead of the shifter.
The interior design is a more drastic change, the gauge cluster can be fully digital and complemented by a head-up display, and the center stack takes on new shapes that stretch across the dash, and the main 10-inch screen perched above the dash. Like the exterior, the interior also carries over some distinction depending on the trim, with a variety of M Sport upgrades around the cabin with that package, my favorite being “Aluminum Rhombicle dark” trim. Inside and out, it’s more modern and stays ahead of the curve, and the quality is on par with anything in the segment, except for the leather, where everyone is still chasing Land Rover. If off-the-rack interiors don’t do it for you, the X4 can now be ordered with bespoke treatments from BMW Individual service that opens up a wide range of materials and colors you can add.
Looks Aren’t Everything
While the X4 looks good inside and out, it still has to drive like a BMW to live up to the reputation of the ultimate driving brand. Engine options are the same as you can get in about a half dozen other BMW models, with the xDrive30i powered by the brand’s 2.0L TwinPower single turbo dialed up to produce 253 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It may lack some of the soulful character of BMW’s signature straight-sixes of days gone by, but it’s got the power to get the job done, hitting 60 mph in six seconds flat. The M40i is still packing one of those signature straight sixes, in this generation turbocharged to 355 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, which is essentially overkill in a crossover this size.
ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW X2 Review
Both come with standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is an excellent one, whether looking for smooth shifts in Comfort mode or blasting through a series of curves in the M40i with the drive mode in Sport+.
With its coupe design, we were tempted to think that it is the more dynamic sibling of the X3, but the engineers we spoke to were quick to downplay any significant gap from its more boxy sibling. Mechanical changes are minor, with just a slightly wider track at the rear and revised suspension settings for slightly more neutral behavior in cornering, but the greatest gains are over the previous generation thanks to the new platform and damper technologies that both models share.
BMW is proud that the new X4 is up to 110 pounds lighter than its predecessor, but not here in North America, where the 4,146-pound xDrive30i is 16 lbs heavier than the 2018 xDrive28i, while the M40i’s 4,323-lb curb weight is almost 100 lbs porkier than its predecessor. Still, we’ll take them at their word when they tell us it features a stronger, more rigid chassis, and the center of gravity is even lower, with 50/50 weight distribution and wheels from 18 to 21 inches, so the X4’s handling is improved, but it’s still within the realm expected from a small crossover.
It’s fully competent and fun on back roads winding through hill country, but a bit silly to throw it around on a track even if it does carry itself respectably with the M Sport suspension, holding lines and responding to inputs smartly, various tricks like the all-wheel-drive shifting torque and a locking differential on the rear axle to help it put power down out of corners. Although it’s nobody’s first choice for a track car, BMW engineers sweated the details refining the steering and balance so that you always feel in control, which carries over into everyday driving and simply being comfortable behind the wheel in any situation.
More importantly, with new damper technology, the ride is composed and comfortable even when it has such impressive limits dynamically, but especially with the adaptive damping set to Comfort. Rough roads are quietly and smoothly dealt with so you can enjoy your conversation or the music of your choice and the groceries in the trunk don’t get flung all over the place (unless you take corners like you are on a track). And since you’re not always carving up backroads, BMW has added a whole slew of driving aids, the most useful likely to be adaptive cruise, which worked smoothly in our brief exposure, and 360-degree parking cameras and sensors that make parking a breeze.
One common criticism of coupe styling on CUVs is that it sacrifices practicality, which is true by the numbers, but often negligible or irrelevant in terms of daily livability. The 2019 BMW X4 has grown longer and wider and now lists trunk space at 18.5 cu-ft (525 L), with up to a maximum of 50.5 (1,430 L). It sounds much less impressive than the X3’s 28.7 and 62.7 (813/1,775 L), but the trunk is wide and square, and unless you’re moving furniture, you can fit all the typical stuff in life like groceries, strollers (even big ones). It might come up short if you’re loading up for a camping trip, but a small crossover like the X3 would be a tight squeeze for that as well, and both can easily accommodate a roof rack on the roof rails for that extra cargo. Owners will also appreciate that the rear seats split 40/20/40, so you can drop the middle section for a pass-through for longer items like a ladder or skis if you don’t want to go the roof rack route.
For passengers, the X4 has plenty of space, the front seats seeming like they belong to a larger car, and the seats themselves amazingly supportive and adjustable in almost every possible way. Rear seat passengers should be fine too, with almost an extra inch of legroom over the outgoing model, although headroom remains just about the same and the two outboard positions are nicely contoured from some support. Let’s just not talk about the fifth seat. Interestingly, the moonroof doesn’t cut into headroom in the X4, so with that option, it’s only about an inch less than the headroom in the X3.
While the X4 gives up some space and practicality to boxier crossovers, it is loaded with tech and conveniences that BMW has developed. On the driving side, steering assist joins the adaptive cruise, and it not only corrects for crossing over lane lines, but also detects possible blind spot collisions and will save your bacon and body panels if your attention wanders, and as is typical rear cross traffic alert can help you when backing out of tight parking spots in crowded lots.
ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW X3 Review
The head-up display is huge and in full color, and gesture controls allow you to change volume or stations or pick up calls with a wave of your hand. And let’s not overlook how great iDrive is, with clear menus and split-screen functionality, plus clever shortcut buttons that can save radio stations, phone numbers or even navigation functions, and the knob that controls it even has handwriting recognition that lets you scribble in the first letters of a contact or destination.
Then again, those options get pricey, and because the X4 starts at over $50K in xDrive30i and over $60K for the M40i ($55,480 for the xDrive30i and $68,480 for the M40i in Canada), it pays to be smart when selecting options. Those prices are essentially a couple thousand more than the equivalent X3 across the board, so you pay a premium for the style and reduced practicality.
The Verdict: 2019 BMW X4 Review
While selling cars is the goal for BMW, what’s the appeal for a consumer? Basically, it’s all about the looks, and flaunting those looks. The 2018 BMW X4 is an X3 with a different skin, something a little more emphatic than a body kit, but virtually all of the practicality and only subtle differences in character. Especially for those that might want to stand out a bit from the crossover crowd, cutting a different profile makes quite a statement and the X4 is an excellent vehicle in any trim, with different powertrains and options to fit your needs if the style speaks to you.
Discuss this article on our BMW X4 Forum