Just four years after the first X4 arrived as a marginally more sporty X3, here's its equally baffling replacement. By Tom Goodlad
PICKING A BMW used to be a simple task. A saloon, estate, perhaps a coupe or convertible would do the job. Oh, how times have changed.
Now you can buy a kidney-grilled car in almost every shape and size, and of all those variously shaped and sized cars it’s the X4 that best epitomises modern buying trends. It’s a sportier version of the X3, but is more expensive, less practical and, from some angles, a little more challenging to look at.
This is the second X4, only four years after the first one was launched. In that short time it’s sold 200,000 globally.
Why’s such a successful car being replaced so soon? Because it’s based on the X3, and a new one of those has recently been launched. The last X4 was based on the previous X3, but was launched later; now they’re in sync.
The X4 forms part of the hugely popular X family that consists of conventional SUVs with odd numbers and sportier, coupe-styled evennumbered cousins. Mercedes does much the same with its GL family.
Longer, wider and lower than the outgoing X4, the new car shares its underpinnings with the X3, as well as the interior, the front styling and most of the engines.
The range will consist of xDrive 2od (the big seller) and a set of M Performance M4oi and M4od models, while an xDrive 3od comes a little later on. You have a choice of Sport, M Sport and M Sport X trims.
Does the X4 live up to those sportier looks, though?
The 2.0-litre diesel unit lurking beneath the X4 2od’s contoured bonnet is a refined and punchy motor. It gets the job done; it’s by no means thrilling, but it’s refined, has plenty of torque in reserve and is matched well to the eightspeed automatic transmission.
As the sportier sibling to the X3, the X4 trades a little ride comfort for a firmer feel. Adaptive damping is available for more cash.
Selecting Sport sharpens up the car’s throttle response and weights up the steering (which is already quicker and more direct than in the X3), but the ride becomes a little more unsettled than you’ll find in the X3, despite the wider track at the rear. On smooth, flowing roads the X4 is impressive, feeling much more manageable than it can in tighter bends. The suspension’s adaptive mode attempts to find the optimal settings for every situation, but you’re best off just leaving it in Comfort. But even then the ride is more fidgety than we’d like on less-than-perfect surfaces.
In reality, many owners will have already decided they like the look of the X4 and the slight ride compromise won’t really matter. In that case we’d advise avoiding the optional big-boy alloys, tempting as they may be if the visuals are your priority.
BMW’s interior quality remains a strong point, with an upmarket feel to all of the controls. The latest version of iDrive infotainment is as slick as ever and there’s a selection of leather trim combinations that you can’t get on the equivalent X3, which goes some way to justifying the X4’s higher price (you’ll need at least £43,000 to enter the range, which is £4k dearer than the cheapest X3).
Inside, it’s solid and high quality, but we can’t help but feel a little more restraint would make for a slightly more pleasant environment, especially when the likes of Audi and Volvo have become masters in this field.
If you’re buying the X4 as a family car, you’ll find a 500-litre boot (only a bit smaller than an X3) and space for four adults, but there’s a caveat. The sloping roofline means you’ll likely hit your head on the way into the back seats, and if you’re over six-foot tall then you better not have a fancy hairdo as it’ll get a restyle from the roof lining. Yes, there’s a fifth seat in the middle, but nobody’s going to want to be there for too long.
The X4 isn’t meant to be a practical family wagon - that’s what the X3 is for, or a £iok-cheaper 3-series Touring. The slight boost to its sportiness is welcome, but it seems odd to pay more for a car that’s both less practical and of questionable visual appeal.
Those grilles, busy dashboard, interior space
Interesting idea, but just go and buy an X3
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