New X4 Driven Getting to grips with the ultimate coupé-SUV. On the road: BMW X4 With the most graceful styling of any coupé-SUV yet, can the new X4 live up to its attractivelooks? We reveal all.
From the front to the A-pillars, it’s identical to the X3, itself a handsome enough machine
Has there ever been a new niche of car – more so than the coupé-SUV – into which a manufacturer has valiantly forged, only to watch as practically everyone else in the business steers well clear? Possibly the convertible people carrier, as so horrifically rendered by the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible of 2005, or the even more risible softtop crossover (Range Rover Evoque Convertible, we’re looking at you…). But, other than these grotesque oddities, it’s the coupé-SUV seed that has fallen on the rockiest of ground.
BMW has tweaked the X3’s Adaptive M Sport suspension to make it better suited to the X4’s sportier profile
LEADING THE WAY
BMW, of course, was the pioneer, launching the E71 X6 in 2008, then following that with the F26 X4 in 2014. The X6 morphed into its F16 second generation in 2015, and now here’s BMW bringing out the second iteration of X4 (codenamed G02), just four years – and 200,000 sales globally – after it first appeared. Indeed, BMW sold more than 235,000 Mk1 X6s, so the top brass of the German company will hardly be feeling they made an erroneous move by trying out the coupé-SUV in the first place. BMW will even boldly say the X2 is a coupé-SUV, of sorts.
But rivals are notable by their absence from this particular market sector. This G02 X4 has just the one direct competitor, despite selling in a class where Porsche, Lexus, Audi, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover are all operating. Oh, sure, Range Rover will try and tell you that a three-door Evoque is a ‘coupé’ (but it’s really not), and both the Macan and F-Pace are rather rakish, sports-orientated SUVs that place the emphasis on driving reward, over and above rear passenger space and outright cargo capacity.
However, that one solitary rival for the X4 is Mercedes’ GLC Coupé, launched in 2016. And it is Mercedes and Mercedes alone that has copied BMW’s formula in the aftermath of the original X6, as its GLE Coupé appeared – again, some considerable time after BMW’s example – in 2015. It, therefore, seems as if the coupé-SUV isn’t popular, either with dyed-in- the-wool petrolheads or automotive manufacturers. This is probably because most car enthusiasts consider the two facets of its personality as mutually exclusive. A coupé should be light, lithe and elegant. An SUV should be big, chunky, dependable – and practical. And never the twain should meet.
LIGHTER AND WIDER
Thus, there are people that this new X4 can never even hope to convince of its merits, despite some tantalising gems in the spec sheet. It is, thanks to lightweight construction techniques using ultra-high-strength and high-strength steel, as well as aluminium, up to 50kg lighter than its predecessor. The rear track is 30mm wider than the old X4’s. It has a lower centre of gravity and lower ride height than the mechanically-similar third-gen X3 (G01), and an aerodynamically-sleeker profile, too. BMW has tweaked the X3’s Adaptive M Sport suspension to make it better suited to the X4’s sportier profile, while the company has also fiddled with the steering to match the X4’s character. On the sportier two M Performance models, there’s also an M Sport differential on the back axle, plus bigger, M Sport brakes to help stop the whole shebang from higher speeds.
In short, BMW wants to make sure you don’t think of the X4 as merely an X3 with less rear headroom. In fact, on the subject of interior space, the X4 has grown in all dimensions barring height (it’s 3mm lower than the old one overall). The designers have added 54mm to the wheelbase, resulting in 27mm more legroom in the rear. The boot has increased by 25 and 30 litres, respectively, with the 40:20:40 split back seats in place or folded down, to peaks of 525 litres and 1,430 litres.
Up front, the new 10.25in iDrive 6 infotainment software system now incorporates Gesture Control and various other ‘of the moment’ technologies, although it’s worth bearing in mind that iDrive7 on a 12.3in display and a new TFT instrument cluster, are being ushered-in via three big product launches between now and early 2019; starting with the X5 Mk4 and culminating in the luxury X7 SUV we drove last month.
In the equipment stakes, BMW UK is planning to sell non-M Performance models in Sport, M Sport and M Sport X grades, with the M40d – the sole M Performance model until a 360hp/369lb ft M40i arrives in the third quarter of this year – gaining a higher standard specification as a result of its £55,000- plus price tag. Equipment includes Professional Nav, BMW Online Services, heated front seats, 20in wheels, Icon Adaptive LED headlights, a digital cockpit (worth it, this one, because the standard instrument cluster array is a strange mix of part-analogue dials framing a smaller TFT screen), Parking Assistant, electric front seats and the Sport automatic transmission.
BMW, on these shores, is also going to kick off with just two of the five launch powertrains available for the X4 – those being the M40d and then the xDrive20d (190hp/295lb ft). The xDrive20i, xDrive30i and xDrive25d variants, all of which are powered by four-cylinder 2.0- litre affairs, are not confirmed as heading here as yet, although that aforementioned M40i and the sole other six-cylinder model in the range – the xDrive30d – should swell BMW UK’s online vehicle configurator from this autumn.
So, what about those looks? Well, pretty damned good, if I’m honest. While there’s a worrying whiff of Mercedes coupé (specifically, the very fastback GLC that the X4 is challenging) about the slim rear light clusters, smoothed-off boot lid and dropped number plate, the overall result is very pleasing and less bulky ‘high-tailgate’ than the outgoing X4. From the front to the A-pillars, it’s identical to the X3, itself a handsome enough machine, while the elegant sweep of the roofline and judgment of proportions in profile really do help the BMW coupé-SUV look great.
Naturally, an M Sport model like this test vehicle, on big wheels and in the new, attractive shade of Flamenco Red metallic, is bound to look its best underneath a blazing sun and polished up to the nines by BMW’s fleet maintenance team. But having gazed upon a lowlier-grade xDrive30i in Sophisto Grey Xirallic and on 19s, I can safely say that all X4s should be reasonably easy on the eye. There’s certainly no reason to hate it on the basis of its appearance alone.
Before we get down to the meat of this review of the M40d, in which we spent much more time, a few more words on the xDrive30i. Some things about it are most likeable – it has a thinner steering wheel than the M Performance X4, which heightens the sensation of feedback from the front wheels, and which is just a more comfortable thing to hold.
The four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine is smooth and quiet and, with 252hp, it’s more than capable of dealing with this particular X4’s 1,740kg frame. Overall, the whole car feels as refined and as premium as a £40,000-plus BMW should do, but there are one or two niggles.
The first, being BMW aficionados, is that this is a ‘30i’-badged petrol Beemer that doesn’t have a straight-six. For all its worthiness and undoubted engineering excellence, the 252hp 2.0-litre simply doesn’t have the charisma or tuneful voice to match one of the company’s old, inline-six petrol engines. So, while you can work the X4 30i hard, you actually feel little inclination to do so after an initial few explorations of its rev range.
The second gripe revolves around the instrument cluster which, on the xDrive30i, was the lower-spec item – and it’s odd. If you look closely, you’ll notice the 0-130mph markings on the speedometer and 1,500-7,000rpm range on the rev counter, are displayed in analogue format. All the digital stuff, including the needles, the top of the speedo and the bottom of the tacho, doesn’t blend particularly neatly with the rest of the cluster. It’s kind of a case of ‘go all-analogue or all-digital’, and nothing in between.
The chassis on the X4 30i also wasn’t quite as impressive as the M40d’s, but it was still game in the handling department and, aside from a letterbox-like view out of the rear window in the interior mirror – a bugbear of all X4s, not just the xDrive30i – the petrol-fuelled coupé-SUV felt a strong addition to the BMW canon.
Which brings us to the M40d. It’s powered by the twin-turbo version of the company’s venerable 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel, meaning healthy outputs of 326hp – 5hp more than the E36 M3 Evo officially delivered, remember – and 502lb ft of torque. Driving all four wheels through the paddle-shift-equipped Steptronic Sport eight-speed automatic, performance is exceptional for a 1,895kg vehicle like this; 0-62mph comes up in 4.9 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph.
That the X4 M40d goes extremely well in a straight line isn’t such a surprise, then, when looking at the on-paper data. It never struggles to pile on a terrific amount of pace, from pretty much anywhere on the rev counter and no matter which gear you’re in. More pleasing is the soundtrack, a barrel-chested, deep six-pot rumble that filters into the cabin at just the right level of volume. In Sport and Sport+ modes, there’s perhaps a touch more artificial augmentation to its note than I would like but, after a while, you soon forget about such things and just enjoy the M40d’s fantastic array of mechanical tunes.
The refinement is also top-notch, especially the noise suppression. Only on the roughest of asphalt surfaces does tyre roar from the large alloys become notable, while the buffeting of wind around the passenger compartment is simply eradicated before it can transmit inside the X4.
The engine is smooth, hushed and tractable at anything below 3,000rpm and the ride quality deserves commendation. Yes, you notice the big wheels at the corners of the car from time to time, and there’s a tautness to the body control with the dampers in Comfort that never quite goes away completely. But, for a high-performance SUV like this, the way the X4 eases over the vast majority of lumps and bumps in the road surface is exceptionally good.
However, it’s the sparkling handling that is my takeaway memory after this initial drive. The traction control has three settings, which affect the rear differential; with the electronics turned on fully, the rear diff’ has no locking function at all. Click the button once to enable the halfway-house and the differential now can apportion some locking force; press and hold the DSC button, just ahead of the drive modes selector switches, for five seconds and the electronics are off, with the M Sport diff’ fully active.
In the former modes, the traction control is well-judged, but can occasionally cut power on corner exit, just when you crave it. So, stick the M40d into the latter mode, because it’s a beautifully progressive operator in such circumstances. The steering is a little too heavily-weighted in Sport+ mode, but it’s informative and accurate, while the body isn’t allowed to loll about on its springs at all with the dampers in their firmest setting. What you can then revel in is the massive amount of mechanical grip the X4 possesses. Its keen front axle and a rear-biased xDrive system allow you to punch the coupé-SUV into mild oversteer as you leave tighter corners; not the huge amount of tyre-smoking opposite lock you’d need in an M2 or M5, of course. But it’ll have you grinning from ear-to-ear when you remember you’re dialling-in corrective steering inputs in an SUV, and not a low-riding performance car.
Overall, my first impressions of the X4 – especially in this superb M40d guise – are highly favourable. It’s handsome, it’s practical, it’s wonderfully well-made, it drives sedately when you need it to and sharply when you want it to, and it has that monster bi-turbo-diesel drivetrain to boot.
At £55,315, the M40d isn’t the cheapest way into sports coupé-SUV ownership, but it surely has to be one of the finest. As such, perhaps it’ll prove to be the vehicle that finally convinces the haters – and other car manufacturers – to give these oft-misunderstood machines a whirl.
TECH SPECS: 2019 BMW X4 M40d
PRICE: X4 range from $42,900, M40d from $55,315
DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder diesel, eight-speed Steptronic Sport auto, xDrive four-wheel drive
ECONOMY: 44.1mpg (20in standard wheels), 42.8mpg (21in optional wheels)
EMISSIONS (CO²): 170g/km (20in standard wheels), 173g/km (21in optional wheels)
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds
MAX POWER: 326hp @ 4,400rpm / DIN nett
MAX TORQUE: 502lb ft @ 1,750-2,750rpm / DIN nett
The engine is smooth, hushed and tractable at anything below 3,000rpm, and the ride quality deserves commendation. There’s a worrying whiff of Mercedes coupé (specifically, the very fastback GLC that the X4 is challenging) about the slim rear light clusters. Drivers can revel in the massive amount of mechanical grip that the impressive new X4 delivers.
It’s the sparkling handling that is my takeaway memory after this initial drive. Perhaps the many talents of this new coupé-SUV will be enough to convince more enthusiast drivers to consider it seriously. Only on the roughest roads does tyre roar become notable, while wind buffeting around the passenger compartment simply isn’t an issue.