BMW X4 xDrive 20d review

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BMW pioneered the Coupe-SUV concept and has since developed it with cars like this second generation X4. Jonathan Crouch checks out the updated version in volume 20d diesel form.

Ten Second Review

BMW, more than any other brand, is fully committed to the rather contrary concept that is the coupe-style Sport Utility Vehicle. They pioneered this genre, then popularised it, but have they perfected it with this car, a revised version of the second generation X4? Let's check it out in its most popular 20d diesel guise.

Background

The thinking behind this X4's controversial Coupe-SUV automotive niche dates back to 2008 when BMW dismayed the motoring press but delighted its better-heeled SUV customers with the first generation X6, a swept-back sportier version of their large X5 crossover model. Enough were sold to encourage the Munich maker to extend the concept across its range, hence the decision to create a coupe-SUV version of its mid-sized X3 model, christened the X4 and launched in its original form back in 2014. It was directly copied two years later by Mercedes with their GLC Coupe - though interestingly, not by other premium brands, who merely tried to make new or existing mid-sized SUVs a little sportier in order to keep up.

Like the X6, the X4 sold pretty well in its earliest guise, finding over 200,000 buyers in its first four years on sale. As it turned out though, that initial design wasn't to have a very long shelf life. Going forward, BMW needed to align X4 development with the model cycle strategy of its mechanically-identical X3 showroom stablemate. Hence the way that the introduction of the company's third generation X3 in Autumn 2017 was followed by the launch of this MK2 model X4 in the Summer of 2018, a car then updated three years on to create the model we're going to look at here.

Driving Experience

BMW thinks that coupe-SUV models should offer more than just sleeker looks. The driving experience should be sharper and more dynamic too. As before, the X4 range focuses on diesel power, though it's now diesel power with BMW's latest 48V mild hybrid engine tech included. Most buyers, as before, are likely to opt for the volume xDrive 20d variant we look at here, with its familiar 190hp 2.0-litre black pump-fuelled engine. Like all X4 model variants, this one directs its engine's power to the road via an eight-speed Steptronic transmission and features BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive as standard. The standard-fit Driving Experience Control switch lets drivers choose from SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO set-ups, while six cylinder models also add a SPORT+ mode.

You certainly won't lack for performance. Even this base xDrive20d variant manages 62mph from rest in 7.9s en route to 132mph. BMW has tuned the suspension of the X4 to offer a more focused feel than that of the X3 and the intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system splits drive between the rear wheels continuously, plus as required, optimising traction, turn-in and directional stability. The Variable Sport Steering system is fitted as standard and an xDrive status display makes a bid for what might be the most gratuitous use of graphics in a car with the three-dimensional display of the car's body roll and pitch.

It helps of course that the fundamentals are so fundamentally right - like the stiff 'CLAR' cluster architecture platform for example. A perfect 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution also helps here, as does the wide rear track.

Design and Build

This updated version of the second generation model gains a smarter look, courtesy of a larger front kidney grille with a mesh finish. It's flanked by now-flatter headlights that now have standard adaptive LED beams and there's a revised front bumper with a re-styled lower apron. The typical BMW proportions with long bonnet, flat windscreen and long wheelbase give the X4 an elongated, sporty appearance. It's 55mm lower than the brand's X3, longer by 43mm and 27mm wider. Featuring revised LED rear lights with a three-dimensional design, emphasising the vehicle width, the rear section now has a more clear-cut shape, with a smarter rear apron and wide free-form tailpipe trims.

Inside, the twin-screened 'BMW Live Cockpit Professional' set-up is now standard. That brings a 12.3-inch instrument binnacle display and the 'BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant', a voice control system responding to the command 'Hey BMW'. 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring is now (at last) standard. And the infotainment set-up now updates itself with 'over-the-air' upgrades, so you'll get into your X4 one morning and find it able to do something it couldn't do the day before.

Three full-size seats are fitted in the rear compartment and headroom's not as compromised as you might think by the coupe-style roof line. Don't expect to get quite as much boot space as in an X3 but 525-litres should be enough and there's the versatility of 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, plus the standard-fit automatically opening tailgate makes loading easy. Fold the rear bench and there's 1,430-litres of space.

Market and Model

X4 pricing sits in the £49,000 to £62,000 bracket and all models come only with xDrive 4WD and automatic transmission. This xDrive 20d version sits at the bottom of the pricing spectrum. Direct comparisons with this model's X3 showroom stablemate are slightly difficult to make because the spec structure is a little different, but in rough terms, you're looking at needing a premium of around £4,500 to go from an X3 to a directly comparable version of this sleeker X4.

All X4 models feature Vernasca leather upholstery and automatic air conditioning with three-zone control is also standard across the range, allowing separate temperature settings for the driver and front passenger as well as separate climate control at the rear. Whichever variant you select, it'll be easy to spend more than you budgeted or, thanks to a wider range of tempting options. Optional perforated leather climate seats will be popular, perhaps fitted out with active seat ventilation. Another option is a generously sized panoramic glass roof, while optional acoustic front side windows will complement the standard acoustic windscreen glazing to help create even lower noise levels in the cabin. Another interesting option is the BMW Display Key. Fuel level, remaining range and service information are all shown on its 2.2-inch touch display, while the key can also be used to lock the doors, close the windows and operate the optional auxiliary heating system.

Cost of Ownership

As you'd expect, the efficiency figures of this X4 are only a fraction behind those of an equivalent X3 model. This most popular four cylinder 2.0-litre xDrive20d diesel variant can return up to 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and up to 159g/km of CO2. Switch to the alternative six cylinder xDrive30d diesel derivative and you're looking at up to 46.3mpg and up to 159g/km, provided you don't go for one of the really large wheel rim sizes. The flagship M40d delivers up to 42.8mpg and 168g/km. And the alternative petrol-powered M40i manages up to 32.5mpg and up to 202g/km.

What else? Well as usual with a BMW, there's a condition-based service indicator on the dash to advise you when your car needs a garage visit. You can check all of this using menus in the 'iDrive' centre-dash display and the car will give you four weeks' notice of when a check-up is needed so you have plenty of time to book it. Less familiar to some buyers will be the clever 'TeleServices' feature that comes as part of the BMW 'ConnectedDrive' services you can access through the iDrive infotainment system. Via this, before each service appointment is due, your X4 can automatically put in a 'TeleServices' call to your nominated BMW service centre, complete with detailed information on vehicle condition.

Summary

The X4 has always been a divisive product. That's the nature of the coupe-SUV genre. Is this BMW the mid-sized premium SUV model that can give you everything - SUV, coupe, fastback hatch and sports estate, all rolled into one? Or is it trying to be so many different things to so many different people that it ends up please nobody? Opinion on the subject will often be divided. The people who don't like the concept behind this model will tell you to buy a cheaper, more practical X3 - but then they're probably the same people who can't see the point of anything prioritising style over substance. In any case, this X4 does have substance to its proposition - at least when it comes to efficiency, quality and affordable running costs. It's even reasonably spacious and practical.

In summary, don't be dissuaded if you'd like an X4. This may not be quite the sharpest dynamic contender in its segment, but it's still an astonishingly rewarding steer for something based on SUV underpinnings.

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