BMW is up to it again, turning crossover wagons into odd-looking coupes. We test a new model based on the X3, the X4 35d.
Base price: $129,900.
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre turbo diesel six, 230kW/630Nm, 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 5.2 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4671mm long, 1624mm high, 2810mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 500-1400 litres, fuel tank 67 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 245/50 tyres.
We like: Sharper handling to go with the styling, loadspace surprisingly practical.
We don’t like: Desperately needs rear wiper, some safety tech like blind-spot warning and lane monitoring still optional.
How it rates: 7
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? You might think BMW’s crossover-cum-coupe, the X6, is a bit of a head-scratcher. But it’s also been successful enough in a global sense for the Munich maker to start applying the same treatment to its smaller sports-utility models.
So where BMW took the X5 and turned it into a sportier and sleeker machine to create the X6, the company has now taken the mid-sized X3 and turned it into a pseudo-coupe called the X4.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Should you be tempted to take the X4 less than seriously, the flagship X4 35d on test here has some serious performance credentials. With a two-stage turbocharged six-cylinder diesel engine and the Sport version of BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission, it rockets to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds.
It’s true that there is less difference between the X4 and X3 than there is between the larger X6 and X5 models. The X4 is 36mm lower than the X3, but the sheet metal is identical from the A-pillar forwards and the basic chassis architecture is the same.
However, the X4 is still a sharper drive thanks to a slightly stiffer state of suspension tune with Dynamic Damper Control, Variable Sport Steering and Performance Control, a form of torque vectoring that brakes the inside-rear wheel to send more power to the outside during hard cornering. It’s not quite the full torque vectoring tech of the X6, which has a special differential that can actively apply power to the outside, but it certainly spices up the X4’s handling.
Of course, there is nothing in the X4’s mechanical package that can’t be fitted to the X3. You can have the same steering, suspension and Performance Control setup in the X3 as part of the M Sport option package, or even as separate items.
What is unique to the X4 driving experience is the seating position, which is 20mm lower front and rear. This puts the driver closer to the road, in keeping with the X4’s sportier aspirations.
The drop in seat height has no bearing on ground clearance, by the way: it’s the same as an equivalent X3 on sports suspension.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? It’s futile to criticise the X4’s reduced rear headroom, as that’s the coupe ethos: you sacrifice some space for exterior styling. Suffice to say it’s a bit tight for tall adults and not ideal for children either, as the low seat and high waistline mean poor visibility.
The X4 is still pretty practical in other ways, though. A power tailgate is standard and the luggage capacity is 500 litres, which is equivalent to a large sedan. You also get the same 40/20/40-split seat in the rear as other BMW wagons, so you can easily mix and match passenger and load-carrying capacity.
The big issue in living with the X4 might not be space but rearward visibility. The high boot and tiny rear window mean you resort to the reversing camera during almost any manoeuvre; luckily, BMW’s trick 360-degree display is standard.
But points off for the lack of a wiper on the rear window. Presumably it’s due to some conceptual nonsense about this being a coupe, but the reality is that it’s a huge annoyance in wet weather.
The X4’s dashboard is stock X3 and works well, with BMW’s signature centre-console screen and iDrive controller.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? No point discussing the highs and lows of the SUV-coupe (or Sports Activity Coupe as BMW insists on calling these things) body shape: the appeal of such a thing is already proven. Mercedes-Benz is even weighing into this idiosyncratic segment with an X6 rival called the GLE coupe.
The X4 succeeds in bringing some character to what is arguably one of BMW’s more prosaic (if popular) models, the X3. You’ll know whether you like the X4 by looking at it – simple as that. No discussion needed. The real question is whether it represents good value compared with the X3 on which it’s based. BMW New Zealand has been crafty here as well, by keeping some space between the two: the flagship X3 is the 30d, which sells for $116,400 but doesn’t have anywhere near the performance of the X4 35d (there’s 40kW/70Nm between them for a start).
Given the X4’s superior speed and cornering ability, not to mention that fact that the M Sport package comes as standard (it’s $5000 extra on the X3), the X4 looks pretty good on paper.
- Blind spot warning: $1300
- Lane guidance: $1300
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Intelligent headlights: Bi-xenon
- Parking radar: Yes with 360-degree camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: $2000
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: No/yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40
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