Car reviews - BMW - X4 - range
Great six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, interior and driving position, long list of standard features
Room for improvement
Compromised ride on the 20-inch wheels, reduced headroom in back compared to X3
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14 Nov 2014
BMW’S line-up of SUVs, or X series models as they are known in the BMW world, are fast becoming the company’s biggest earner. Buyers are moving out of sedans, the German brand says, and into SUVs which last year accounted for 42 percent of the company’s volume.
Which brings us to the X4 crossover which, if it proves a niche hit like the X6, could push that to above 50 percent.
Four variants will make up the Australian X4 range – two petrol engines and two diesels.
The entry point into the range is the X4 xDrive20i from $69,430 (excluding on-road costs) which is powered by a 135kW/270Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Next in line is the xDrive20d from $73,400 which gets a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.
At the top of the range is the diesel xDrive30d and petrol xDrive35i – and these are the two variants which BMW had on offer to test drive at the Australian X4 launch in Byron Bay this week.
First up for the day was the xDrive35i, which at $87,430 is the most expensive X4, but it’s also the sportiest. Under the bonnet is a 225kW/400Nm inline turbo petrol six which can throw the 1800kg SUV from 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds. That’s 0.1 second slower than the Porsche’s recently released sporty mid-size SUV, the Macan S.
Now while tenth’s of seconds win and lose races in motorsport when you step on the gas at the lights in xDrive35i and sink deep into the seat, the acceleration feels more than ample.
The initial leg of the drive was up the Pacific Motorway where the xDrive35i proved itself to be a comfortable cruiser with plenty of that previously mentioned go under the right foot for overtaking.
While the driver’s seating position is 20mm lower than that of the X3, the X4 still provides an elevated view. Inside the cabin, road noise from the 20-inch alloy wheels is low and wind noise almost non-existent.
Turning off the highway and onto the hilly country back roads was where the xDrive35i would have to work harder. Shifting up through the eight-speed automatic transmission using the paddles we blasted past farms as the road became increasingly rougher, and the ride - which was magic carpet-like on the highway - felt less composed.
This has to be put down in part to those 20-inch wheels and the lower profile tyres, which come with the M Sport Package – standard on the xDrive35i.
Then it was onto smoother bitumen as the road climbed up hill and the xDrive35i clawed up its back with more agility than many sports cars. Handling is excellent and the big rubber underneath (245/40 at the front and 275/35 at the rear) provide super glue grip.
A break saw a car swap and this time it was into the top-of-the-range diesel – the xDrive30d that asks $83,900. Before setting off there was time to take the cabin in.
Opening a door, straight away there was the smell of leather. This one had been optioned with Nevada leather in Saddle Brown which is a pleasant change from the usual black or beige. Seating in the back doesn’t offer the same amount of headroom as the X3, but even a somebody an inch or two over six foot will be able to sit up straight with out bashing their head.
The X4 comes standard with an automatic tailgate which opens with a swish of a foot under the rear bumper. It’s an excellent feature for when your hands are full. Inside the cargo area is 500 litres in size, with the seats folded this increases to 1400 litres.
The standard features list for the X4 is impressive, even in the base xDrive20i which comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, eight-speed automatic transmission, gear shifting paddles, variable sports steering, BMW’s Performance Control, bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera, Professional Navigation, the xLine exterior package and LED fog lightsBack in the driver’s seat, the cockpit is all X3, with driver-focused instruments on the dash and control on the centre console.
The drive then took us further north to the Queensland border where the tarmac gave way to gravel.
The entire X4 range is all-wheel drive and while conquering the Sahara may be off the bucket list for this vehicle the ground clearance of 204mm allows it to traverse rough roads you’d think twice about taking a sedan down.
It was at this point that it became clear how good the ride was on the 19-inch wheels that are standard on the xDrive30d. The tyres with their larger sidewalls provide more cushion and soak up some of the road’s imperfections.
Under the bonnet of xDrive30d is a 190kW/560Nm six-cylinder turbo diesel which is also used in the X3 and X5. While not quite as quick as the xDrive35i the 30d isn’t far behind with 0-100km/h coming in 5.9 seconds.
It’s the torque though, and the brakes that impressed us the most. At one point we rounded a corner and came face-to-face with an off-road vehicle coming from the opposite direction at speed. The gravel road was as wide as the X4 and bordered by a rock face on one side and a drop on the other.
With nowhere to go we hit brakes, and pulled up safely, but close enough to see the whites of the other driver’s eyes.
The X4 may share most of the technology which underpins the X3, but you’d never know going by the body. The doors and bonnet are the only panels common between the X3 and X4 – the rest of the body is all new.
Sure the X4’s face is the same as the rest of its X series family, but it’s overall look has far more in common with the X6.
BMW says the X6 was niche hit because of its non-conservative looks. The people that buy it, BMW says, want to stand out.
In that same way the X4’s looks aren’t going to win over everybody but that’s why it will win over many.
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