Honey, I shrunk the X6.
When BMW launched its first sloped-roof high-rider, the X6 ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ in 2008, we didn’t really know what to make of it. BMW had decided to take the practical proposition of an SUV and essentially take an axe to it, lopping off a lot of the space by making it look more dramatic. It was an oxymoron, an SUV coupe. And just as its name seemed to indicate polar opposites, opinion on the X6 and it looks were equally polarised.
Most motoring critics thought it was the kind of product that would die out. Not only did it not die out, sales of the X6 astounded even BMW, and they ended up expanding production facilities just to meet demand.
So successful was that ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ concept, BMW decided to add another to the family, and the X4 is set to offer even more people even less practicality and a little more distinction on the road. It even looks better than the X6, and moulds that compromising roofline onto the already-pleasing lines and proportions of the X3 on which it’s based. It sports more dynamism than the (relatively) more vanilla X3, and promises to bring the fight up to the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, Range Rover Evoque, and even the Porsche Macan. Has the maverick brand got what it takes to stay ahead of the pack, or has the ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ crown been lost to one of the many competitors it’s inspired?
“Undaunted by the bile flung at the X6, BMW has replicated the ‘sports activity coupe’ formula on the sector below. This time, we must say, rather more successfully.” - TopGear
These Sports Activity Coupes usually focus on style rather than practicality, and the X4 is no different. It certainly looks unique, with its shape and proportions arguably more pleasing than the bigger X6. The X4 looks best in M-Sport trim, which we reckon ought to be the default choice in this style-driven segment. When viewed head-on from the front, the X4’s relation to the X3 becomes apparent though, as there’s little to distinguish this Coupe from its wagon sibling. Thankfully, that’s the only angle where you might assume this to be just another SUV.
The rear of the X4 presents the typically bluff drop from the top of the tailgate to the ground, as is characteristic of coupe SUVs. And while the profile looks dramatic thanks to that sloping roofline, the omission of frameless doors means it that the doors themselves look bulkier than is entirely necessary. In terms of outright style, the X4 loses out to the more polished and leaner Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, while the more traditionally-proportioned Porsche Macan and Range Rover Evoque offer compelling alternatives.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Four and six-cylinder engines are being imported, both in turbocharged format.” - CarsGuide
There are two four-cylinder and three six-cylinder powerplants on offer, all with forced induction. The range kicks off with a 135kW-270Nm 2.0-litre petrol xDrive 20i which offers good performance and decent refinement, with the next step being the xDrive 20d, with its oil burner of similar displacement putting out 140kW/400Nm. The next move upward will see the xDrive 30d, with its 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel offering 190kW/560Nm, with the sole 6-cylinder petrol sitting above that in the xDrive 35i, which is good for 225kW and 400Nm of power. The range-topper here is the xDrive 35d, which produces a very healthy 230kW and 630Nm of torque. All engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox, and power is sent through all four wheels.
Though the petrols offer smooth and refined progress, the stand-out engines here are the diesels. The smaller 2.0-litre oil burner is claimed to consume just 5.2l/100km, while its 400Nm torque figure (available from just 1750rpm) means that its twist is very accessible. Even the range-topping 35d seems to drink from a sippy-cup, with all of its shove claimed to need only 6l/100km. In comparison, the base petrol 20i drinks a more considerable 7.3l/100km on official tests, while the top-petrol 35i does 8.3l/100km.
“The X4 has an identical cabin to the X3. This means an uncluttered layout and interior that feels upmarket and well finished.” - AutoExpress
We can’t remember the last time BMW did anything truly adventurous with their cabin designs. As a result, their efforts have been focused on refining the already-good recipe they’ve got, and the X4 is a perfect example of that commitment. It might not wow you at first sight, but the fit and finish it enjoys is as amazing as (almost) every other BMW before it. It’s logical, it’s ergonomic, and it’s well built.
BMW Australia had the sense to pack every X4 with the top-spec 8.8-inch iDrive screen, which mitigates the risk of having a thick black border around the screen (like you can sometimes find in the X3). The great infotainment system aside, the X4’s interior is smart and well-finished, with a commanding driving position somewhat at odds with the X4’s sporty pretensions. The cosseting seats and wrap-around dash design helps raise pulses, while the M-Sport pack furnishes the driver with a thicker steering wheel to emphasise the athleticism of the car.
Visibility is at a premium in the X4 due to its design, which is likely why all-round parking sensors comes as standard. For those who may need a little more help navigating tight parking spaces, there’s an optional surround-view monitor that gives drivers a birds-eye view during slow-speed manoeuvres. Helpful in a regular SUV, almost mandatory in an “SAC.”
Behind the Wheel
“The X4 turns in to corners eagerly, and stays flat during fast cornering. A Porsche Macan handles even more sweetly but the X4 isn’t far behind, while its meaty, accurate steering inspires real confidence.” - WhatCar?
Sheer driving pleasure is what every BMW promises, and the X4 offers more agility than most high-riding wagons. We’re not sure if it’s the architecture of the car that makes to more dynamic, or just suspension tuning. Regardless, the X4 is a great steer, falling just short of the class-best Porsche Macan. It’s confident at speed on the motorway and through corners, and drivers will enjoy how communicative the whole setup is. Standard adaptive dampers also means that the X4 can be fun through corners and smooth through town, giving it a great breadth of ability.
The X4’s range of engines means there’s something for everyone. For the out-and-out spirited driver who puts driving experience above all else, the petrol engines will make for the best companions with their linear performance and invigorating sound. The diesels are likely to be the favourites with buyers, thanks to their comparable performance and excellent fuel economy coming only at the cost of a little refinement (and slightly elevated prices).
Safety & Technology
“The BMW X4 is still to go through the independent Euro NCAP crash test programme. However, the X3 on which it's based scored a five out of five star rating, and there’s no reason to think the X4 wouldn’t achieve the same result.” - Telegraph UK
BMW’s best iDrive screen and system features here, headlining the standard tech on the X4. Other standard fare here includes Xenon headlights, LED taillights, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, and satellite navigation. There’s also a powered tailgate on all cars, making loading and unloading a doddle.
The X4 remains untested by any New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) anywhere in the world, but its shared architecture and mechanicals with the X3 means it likely retains the same 5-star safety score. Of note is the lack of active driver safety technology as standard, which is a glaring omission in this day and age. At least it’s available as an option across the board.
While the entire Sports Activity Coupe concept continues to divide opinion, it cannot be denied that if a dramatic and swoopy mid-sized SUV is what you want, the X4 will likely sit high on your list. Its imposing styling, reasonable practicality, and great powertrains make for a very compelling argument, and certainly makes a marque against other competitors in its segment. Add to that the typically BMW driving experience, and we’re sure that this is going to be yet another winner from the Munich brand.
Our pick of the range has to be the X4 xDrive 30d, with its great blend of performance and fuel economy, and impressive list of standard kit. If you intend to use your X4 predominantly around town though, we’d suggest going with the base-model xDrive 20i, as the slightly more quiet progression through the urban snarl would be greatly appreciated.
Motoring - 76/100 - “So while it does call for a couple of concessions, and doesn’t have any wild fins or chrome, the X4 is a niche SUV that does offer something a little out of the norm. If outright practicality is a concern, there’s always the cheaper X3 or larger X5, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, this swoopy SUV is just the ticket.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “The BMW X4 further expands the range of midsize models: the 3 Series sedan and wagon, the X3 SUVs, The 3 Series GT, 4 Series coupe and convertible – and now the X4. Wow, I guess too much choice is better than not enough.”
TopGear - 7/10 - “The latest X3 offers a much improved cabin and driving experience, and X4 adds a sporty focus to it.”
WhatCar - 4/5 - “The X4 is more expensive than the X3 but competitively priced against rivals such as the Porsche Macan. Fuel and tax costs aren’t too high considering the car’s performance. Depreciation is an issue, however. The X4 struggles to retain as much of its value over three years as its premium rivals including the Macan and the Land Rover Evoque.”
AutoExpress - 3/5 - “The BMW X4 is similar to the larger X6 in that it mixes SUV and coupe bodystyles. It’s based on the X3, which is BMW’s mid-sized 4x4 and has a pair of powerful diesel engines – along has the company’s usual hallmarks of sharp handling and strong performance, which makes it good to drive.”
Telegraph UK - 8/10 - “The BMW X4 is well equipped, distinctive to look at and great fun to drive, but also less practical and more expensive than the X3 on which it's based. Which is best depends on your priorities.”
AutoCar - 3.5/5 - "Occasionally exceptional but too often ordinary. A worthy effort, though.”
Carbuyer - 2.8/5 - "The BMW X4 is a compact SUV with more style than substance, thanks to its coupe roof line and small boot."