The quirky BMW X4 might seem a bit of an indulgence but in xDrive20d guise, it shows its sensible side. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The BMW X4 xDrive20d offers a coupe-like roofline atop the underpinnings of an X3 SUV. Practicality takes a predictable hit but this four-seater can still carry 500-litres in the boot. It returns 54.3mpg with the desirable automatic gearbox and can scuttle to 62mph in 8 seconds. It's not cheap though.
The BMW X4 is an easy car to dislike. Acres of newsprint have been wasted as motoring journalists ranted about the first generation version of its larger stablemate, the X6 and the people who drove them. Some of the spittle-flecked ire had receded when the X4 appeared, but there were still many who just wanted to pour scorn on the idea of a vehicle that offered the driving dynamics of an SUV combined with the interior packaging of a coupe. The X4 confounds the haters though because - shock horror - it's actually pretty good. There's more space inside than you'd give credit for and it drives without too much in the way of compromises. In its X4 xDrive20d guise, it also offers impressively low running costs.
For what is the least powerful engine in the X4 line up, the xDrie20d is no sluggard. The 190PS engine cranks its way to 62mph in 8 seconds and tops out at 132mph.It comes as standard with a sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox but can be optionally specified with an excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission which helps nibble down the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions yet further. The four-cylinder engine isn't the quietest unit of its type we've ever come across and there is some wind noise at speed, which takes the edge off refinement. Tyre and suspension noise isn't overly intrusive though. The ride quality is good and gets better if you fit the optional variable damper control. Handling is extremely good with minimal body roll. The steering is quick and accurate too. It's debatable whether the X4 is a more enjoyable steer than a Range Rover Evoque. Try both and see which you prefer.
Design and Build
Maybe we're mellowing or maybe it just works better with a smaller body, but we don't find the X4 anything like as weird to behold as the X6. There's a cohesion to the shape, a purpose to its stance that escapes its bulky bigger sibling. It's certainly leagues better looking than, say, a 5 Series Gran Turismo and we can see this model proving popular with those who want a BMW but want something a bit less staid and suburban than an X3. That coupe-like roofline reaches its highest point over the front seats before dropping gently down towards the trailing edge of the boot lid. The swage line running along the flanks is split in two. The first section rises from the front wheel arches to the rear door handles, while the second part accentuates the rear wings.
Market and Model
Prices for the X4 xDrive20d open at nearly £37,000 for the SE version in manual guise, with the automatic tacking on another £1,650. The xLine trim opens at just over £38,000 and the range-topping M Sport version will set you back around £40,000, with the auto topping £41,000. Even the SE gets an automatically opening tailgate, Variable Sport Steering, 18-inch light-alloy wheels, front and rear Park Distance Control, Performance Control and Xenon headlights. Inside the BMW X4, 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, a Sport leather steering wheel, Heated front seats and BMW Business Media package are all standard. The plusher xLine trim level also includes an exclusive set of 18-inch light-alloy wheels, satin aluminium exterior trim, Dark Copper interior trim, Sport seats and xLine leather upholstery. At the top of the range, the M Sport model, as you'd expect, gets a decent run at the BMW's equipment list. It features M Aerodynamic body styling, high-gloss Shadow Line trim exterior trim and exclusive 19-inch M Sport light-alloy wheels, while the M Sport suspension enhances handling. BMW M door sill finishers, sport seats and an Aluminium Hexagon interior trim add the finishing touches.
Cost of Ownership
The X4 xDrive20d gets remarkable fuel consumption figures for such a hefty chunk of car. Choose one with a manual gearbox and fuel economy is rated at 52.3mpg and 143g/km. Opt instead for the ZF automatic gearbox and the numbers are even better, fuel economy improving to 54.3mpg and emissions dropping to 138g/km which, most saliently, means it drops down an entire taxation bracket. The X4 is helped to these figures by BMW's EfficientDynamics technologies. Features such as Auto Start- Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration and on-demand operation of ancillary units are standard across the range. Optionally available are 17-inch aero wheels with reduced-rolling-resistance tyres, which reduce the CO2 emissions of the X4 xDrive20d by a further 7g/km. Where fitted, the BMW Driving Assistant offers additional potential for fuel saving. This technology uses route data supplied by the car's navigation system to identify situations in advance which will require the car to slow down - such as on the way into towns and villages, speed limits - and gives suitable recommendations..
Is the BMW X4 the most practical choice you can make for the money? Of course not. A 3 Series Touring seats more people, offers more load space and is cheaper, but that misses the point. The X4 sells because it's practical enough and because it offers the sort of appeal that SUVs once had before they became a bit suburban. In other words, it's still slightly edgy; something that people will notice and inquire about. Car manufacturers have long known that people are willing to pay to be noticed, and the X4's upfront asking price isn't inconsiderable. The running costs, especially of the X4 xDrive20d model, are extremely low. Residual values look very strong and get even better when the optional automatic gearbox is factored in. It's not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but the X4 is anything but bland. A niche too far? That vote is going to be cast by the wallets of the British public.