Road test: BMW X4
Fancy a sporty SUV with the performance of a Maserati? Step inside the X4
Test driving BMW’s SUV range has a tendency to become a collect-them-all exercise reminiscent of my childhood interest in filling Panini football sticker books: “X2? Got. X3? Got. X4. Need!”
But what the Munich brand’s SUVs lack in naming inspiration, they compensate in absolute unshakable competence and flying-off-the-shelves sales figures. The X4 feels like no match for the prominence of its bully-boy bigger brothers the X5 and X6, yet since its genesis in 2014, it has sold more than 200,000 units worldwide regardless.
BMW says this is “the first sports activity coupe at the premium end of the mid-size class”, which is a statement about on par with telling somebody after dinner that it was the best meal you have ever eaten on a Tuesday, in the month of December, while it was raining. Yet the new second-generation X4 definitely bridges the gap between the X5/X6 and the smaller, less-powerful X2 and X3 – and not only in nomenclature.
My test car is the rather swift M40i variant, which despite its relatively subtle M Performance flourishes does outwardly appear to be a slightly swanky supermarket run-around. Except a turbocharged, in-line six-cylinder engine – which gives you 354hp, a notable 500Nm of torque, 0-to-100kph time of 4.9 seconds and top speed of 249kph – suggests otherwise. Some context: said performance is almost identical to that of the latest Maserati Ghibli.
It feels plenty fast, too – almost unnecessarily so at points in urban traffic when you need to bury your right foot slightly – and looks slick, where the X2 and X3 come off as a little too dinky to wield real road presence. A carbon-fibre finish on the wing mirrors lends an extra dose of gravitas. It may share many build and design elements with the current X3, but the X4 is an undeniable step up.
The interior is mostly well thought-out, with classy ambient lighting, quietly effective sports seats (understated in all black with red stitching) and an intuitive infotainment system. The only glaring place where it falls down, indeed, is the fire extinguisher’s awkward position half beneath the front passenger seat and half in the footwell. It proves an ankle-bashing annoyance for a couple of people who share a ride with me in the X4.
The SUV’s rapidness does mean that it isn’t entirely on board with petrol being a finite resource – 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres is a reminder that you are travelling with a six-cylinder engine under the bonnet, something that will matter increasingly to drivers here if petrol prices continue to creep up.
For the lion’s share of your time behind the wheel, though, you will be enjoying the six-cylinder zip sufficiently to put your next trip to the pumps to the back of your mind. Straddling that aforementioned crevasse in BMW’s SUV line-up with decent agility, the X4 is the best of both worlds, delivering useful performance without the X5 and X6’s road-hogging obnoxiousness. It won’t change the world, but it will make the otherwise humdrum existences of folks who usually drive this kind of car a little more pulse-quickening.
Updated: January 2, 2019 07:28 PM