Described by BMW as a "Sports Activity Coupe," the X4 combines the elevated ride height and all-wheel-drive capability of a crossover with the striking sheetmetal of a coupe.
Detractors claim that it's a worst-of-both-worlds vehicle that marries the performance- and efficiency-diluting weight of a CUV with the impracticality of a coupe. On the other hand, for supporters, the X4's distinctive styling more than makes up for those drawbacks.
And distinctive it most certainly is, with a sharply tapered roof, creased hood and upswept character lines. Only the front end, with headlights that flow into BMW's signature kidney grille, betrays the X4's close relationship to the more utilitarian X3.
It's a different story inside, at least as far as design is concerned, as everything you can see and touch in the X4 is essentially lifted straight from the X3. That's hardly a bad thing, though, as it means there's premium materials, an attractive dashboard and a comfortable driving position. Simple, effective and old-fashioned white-on-black analog gauges contrast with BMW's latest iDrive infotainment system, which has evolved over the years into one of the most user-friendly interfaces for controlling entertainment, navigation (optional) and climate control functions. Redundant controls composed of conventional knobs and buttons provide an alternate means of accessing often-used features.
Numerous extras are available to enhance the cabin experience, including a 16-speaker, 600-watt premium sound system, a panoramic sunroof, navigation system with real-time traffic updates and BMW Apps, which lets users access Facebook, Twitter, web radio services and more through iDrive.
Where the X4 differs from the X3, of course, is in the realm of utility. While the X3 can hold 27.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats, or 63.6 cubes with the rear seats folded down, the X4 suffers for fashion with diminished capacities of 17.7 and 49.4 cubes for the same measurements. There's plenty of space for passengers up front, but taller folks will find the rear accommodations to be a bit of a tight squeeze in terms of head room.
Power and Performance
The basic X4 is offered with the buyer's choice of two engines.
The standard motor, which is fitted under the hood of the X4 xDrive28i, is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Those wanting more output can opt for the X4 xDrive35i - it packs a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six capable of 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.
All X4s shift through an eight-speed automatic transmission that provides quick, smooth shifts and can de-couple the drivetrain in coasting situations from 30-100 mph in order to save fuel. All-wheel-drive is standard.
Building on the already dynamic handling of the X3, the X4 boasts a more direct variable-effort steering system as well as standard performance control, which maintains a rear-biased torque split for sportier responses. An optional Dynamic Damper Control system tightens things up further with adaptive shocks that help to smooth out the ride and reduce body roll.
For those who want the most capability possible from their crossover purchases, BMW is now offering a dedicated M Performance variant of the X4—the M40i.
The M40i boasts a topped-out variant of the xDrive35i's inline-six pushing 355 horsepower and 343lb-ft of torque. As befits its range-topping status, the M40i also comes standard with all of the performance options available on lesser trims, including adaptive suspension and variable sports steering.
Standard and Optional Features
The X4 xDrive28i come standard with the turbo four-cylinder motor in addition to leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with HD radio along with AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, a power liftgate, automatic windshield wipers, auto on/off Xenon HID headlights, LED foglights, ambiance lighting, auto dimming exterior and interior mirrors, a universal garage door opener, full power accessories and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The X4 xDrive35i brings the turbocharged straight-six as well as a panoramic sunroof.
The X4 M40i comes fairly loaded, incorporating all of the standard features of the xDrive35i along with the aforementioned powertrain and suspension upgrades. Additional standard equipment includes park distance control; sport seats; an M-branded steering wheel, door sills, dead pedal and gear selector; Nevada leather seating surfaces; keyless entry; lightweight 19-inch "M" wheels; and adaptive headlamps. An exclusive paint color, Long Beach Blue Metallic, is available only on the M40i trim.
The optional xLine trim package brings metallic bumper inserts, satin aluminum side cladding, imitation underbody guards. It also allows buyers to choice between a range of unique leather upholstery, trim strip 19-inch wheel options.
The M Sport trim line adds an aggressive bodykit, shadow line exterior trim, sport front seats, anthracite headliner and sport-tuned steering and suspension. An exclusive variety of paint color, leather upholstery, trim strip and 19- and 20-inch wheel options can also be selected.
All X3 models are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Also included is BMW Assist eCall, which automatically notifies a BMW call center in the event of a crash and can even predict the severity of occupant injuries.
Lane-departure warning is available as part of the Driver Assistance Plus Package, as are frontal collision warning, pedestrian warning and city collision mitigation. The latter three are all designed to prevent or mitigate the severity of frontal collisions with vehicles, pedestrians and stationary objects.
As a so-called "crossover coupe," the BMW X4 squares off against the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe. More rivals will enter the segment in the coming years, but right now those are your only two choices.