BMW’s new X4 is less SUV and more high-rise GTi

First drive: Another niche crossover from BMW is more than a chopped X3

Make: BMW

Model: X4

Year: 2018

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: July 10, 2018

Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 00:01


BMW has launched its second generation X4, though you’d be forgiven for never having realised the first one was ever here.

Many people may be unaware there was a first generation X4 as BMW has been ridiculously prolific in delivering low volume specialist cars to the market in the last few years. All even numbered X machines are, we’re told, style driven niche offerings built to enhance driving enjoyment. The odd numbers are, therefore, for the more practical cars.

The original 2014 US-built X4 was in reality a scaled down ‘mini-me’ X6 at a scaled down price to match.

To get an idea of where the X4 sits in the motoring public’s mind compared to similarly-sized BMW X3, in 2017 40 X4s were sold in the Republic compare to 276 X3s.

So the new X4 doesn’t have to stretch too hard to top its predecessor.

Not just a chopped X3

The new X4 gets an all new platform that is shared with the latest X3, so dimensions have grown inside and out. However, BMW insists the X4 is not simply a chopped X3.

In handling terms the two cars are chalk and cheese. The X4’s wheelbase is longer by 54mm and the wheel track has been widened and now matches the Porsche Macan at 1,920 mm. The X4 is deceptively spacious with decent rear headroom and a boot that is only marginally smaller than the X3’s.

Once on the move you quickly realise the X4 is an on road beast designed to deliver a sportier driving experience than the X3 SUV. All X4s come with stiff M Sport suspension. Optional adaptive suspension available that offers a slightly softer comfort ride setting.

The Porsche Macan is the new X4’s nemesis. It too is a niche buy here with just 127 sold since 2014. BMW presented an impressive array of Porsche Macan beating figures when compared with its more powerful X4s that in theory let it tackle the German built machine head on. In terms of desirability, however, I’m not sure if many buyers would put the BMW ahead of the Porsche.

The three grade structure from launch is sport, M sport and M sport X. The new M Sport X trim slightly nods to the wilderness with very minor off road styling exterior elements and more standard equipment. As you’d expect there are multiple upgrade options and packs to take you above the standard leather upholstery and 18 inch alloys.

M versions available

Transmission comes via BMW’s smooth eight-speed automatic. Initially xDrive all wheel drive versions will be on sale with two wheel drive sDrive coming at a later date. A 190hp/400nm 2 litre diesel is the launch engine and we found it to be both powerful and flexible in the firm riding X4. Pulling power is impressive and eager. The high driving position give impressive forward vision especially n rural roads and dynamically the X4 is a lot of fun.

Two new M performance X4s will also be available. Not quite full fat M cars, the M40d diesel and M40i petrol will deliver plenty of performance and improved handling characteristics courtesy of greater engine power. Both get a limited slip differential to aid cornering and a sport+ driving mode that dulls down those pesky interfering driving aids that can reduce traction and power delivery.

Adaptive full beam lights that can shape and bend the light around cars in front feature and of course they get bigger wheels with 20 inch standard and 21-inch optional. The optional 21-inch we had our test car delivered a firm ride and while the wheel and tyre combination did a brilliant job of delivering traction and direction changes, the pretty wheels were not well suited to rough road surfaces.

The X4’s all new interior is basically the X3’s with some sportier touches available. Higher quality Vernasca leather seats are now standard and replace the old Dakota leather. A sporty red stitching option is available with new X4 and not on X3. A further leather upgrade option to softer Merino leather is available. The centre of the new X4’s dash is dominated by a large touch screen display.

The boot holds 525 litres as opposed to the X3’s 550 litres. The boot floor covers a small cubby area and lifts up with little effort, while the rear seats fold 40/20/40.

On the road

The new platform also hosts several new technology features, including an optional semi autonomous driving system, which we got to try out on the test drive. It’s useful in heavy traffic situations and once engaged it allows feet off and hands off driving (though for a short period only). Many new premium cars offer similar systems, however.

The open road is where the new X4 is at its best. Its variable geared steering (standard) is sharp and responsive. The chassis set up encourages you to press on and tackle corners as if you were a nine month old puppy let off the lead.

The automatic gear changes can be manually controlled via paddle shifters. Large wheels may look great but often compromise the ride comfort on poor surfaces. Our test car’s 21 inch rims all too easily found road imperfections and keeps us on our toes.

BMW Ireland offers two diesels from launch; the 190/400nm 20d and 3 litre M40d with 326hp/600nm and a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds from €90,675 on the road. The new X4 slots in between the €57,820 X3 and the €93,450 X5 (new 30d xDrive).

The new X4’s entertaining driving characteristics outweigh its awkward looks. Think of it less as an SUV and more a high-rise GTI.

Lowdown: BMW X4 20d xDrive

Price: €67,190 on the road

Engine: 2 litre diesel

Power: 190hp

Torque: 400nm

0-100km/h: 8 seconds

Top speed: 213km/h

Claimed fuel economy: 5.4L/100km (52.3mpg)

Emissions: 142g/km

Motor Tax: €390 (band C)

Verdict: A driver’s crossover, for taking the long way home.

Rating: 3 stars