BMW X4: The baby X6
By Jens Meiners, BIMMERPOST Correspondent
May 22, 2014
While others, such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz, are busy bringing their first generation of SUV-based coupes to market, BMW is launching the second round. Just a few months before the next generation of the X6 will be unveiled, the BMW X4
comes to market - as a sporty derivative of the X3.
Ever since the X4 concept was launched at the Shanghai auto show last year, it was clear what the Bavarians were up to. From the characteristic, sloping roofline to the double shoulders, the X4 provides a convincing evolution of the X6 theme - which, coincidentally, will be shared with the next-gen X6. What we didn't know last year was that the X4 concept accurately previewed the mid-term facelift of the X3. In fact, the hood, front fenders, and headlights are identical, and only the bumpers are differentiated between the X3 and the X4. Except for the M Sport package: Here, even the front fascia is identical.
Inside, both the X3 and the X4 are identical as well; they share the same dashboard, seats, and door trim. The X4 offers fold-down rear seats and between 17.7 and 49.4 cubic feet of luggage room. That's less spacious than the X3 - and at first glance, it seems that this SUV coupe offers only disadvantages when compared to its less flamboyantly styled sister model.
But that is not entirely true. In fact, both front and rear passenger sit lower than in the X3, and BMW says the body is "mounted" a full 1.5 inches lower. The steel suspension with a five-link rear axle has been modified, and the body is altogether stiffer than the X3's. The lower center of gravity and added stiffness are a clear advantage on twisty roads - and on the track (if anyone cares to take an SUV there). Like the X3, the X4 is fitted with "Performance Control," distributing power seamlessly between the rear wheels. 245 tires on 18-inch wheels are standard on the 28i; the 35i gets 19-inch wheels.
On curvy roads, body roll is kept to a minimum, and the variable-effort electromechanical power steering operated with exemplary precision - although the effort in the "Sport" and "Sport Plus" setting seems artificially high. Except for the higher seating position, the X4 has far more in common with, say, a 3-series, than with a classic SUV. Similar things, of course, can be said about the Audi Q5 or the VW Tiguan - but we feel the X4 takes dynamics to yet another level.
What the X4 is lacking, however, is anything approaching the sheer force of Audi's supercharged V-6 in the SQ5. The current top-of-the-line engine is the N55 3.0-liter i-6 engine, rated at 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. It is joined by the N20 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower, turbocharged four, which produces up to 260 lb-ft of torque. The only available transmission is the ZF 8HP eight-speed, torque-converter style automatic. The X4 xDrive 35i reaches 60 mph in 5.2 seconds; the entry-level X4 xDrive 28i takes 6 seconds. We'd always prefer the 35i, just because any BMW improves so much with the sound and feel of a true straight-six engine.
There are three distinct trim levels for the X4: The very businesslike base trim; the xLine, which combines a rugged exterior with luxurious interior fittings; and M Sport, which adds a heavy dose of visual Garching flavor to this SUV. The X4 xDrive 28i will set you back by $44,700; the xDrive 35i comes in at $48,000 (see 2015 price/order guide
). That's $4,400 or $2,900 over an identically powered X3. If there were not so much visual commonality between the sister models, the step might be a bit easier.