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Driven: SUV boost expected from BMW X4

Sibling rivalry: The X4 has the X3’s platform with a look that BMW hopes will appeal to those who like to make a statement.

BMW hopes X4 is the same recipe for success as its big X6 sibling

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23 Jul 2014

BMW'S X4 crossover arrived in Australia this week and the company says it is hoping to mirror the success of its controversial X6 stablemate by attracting a similar kind of buyer but with a more affordable niche vehicle.

Speaking at the launch of the X4 this week, BMW Group Australia product manager Brendan Michel said that the new model could help push the company's overall SUV volume in Australia to record levels.

“Since we launched the X5 in 1999 we’ve sold 3.2 million units globally,” Mr Michel said. “In 2010 the X series made up 34 percent of our volume in Australia. From 2010 to 2013 it’s grown to 42 percent of our volume.”“With this new X4 coming on board and the consumers’ move away from the sedan we can see maybe even 50 percent in three years’ time.”

When it first arrived in 2008 the X4's big brother, the X6, was criticised over whether an SUV with coupe-like lines and an athletic stance was necessary. Mr Michel admitted that BMW had humble expectations for the polarising X5-based crossover, with the take-up of the vehicle surprising them.

“Since the launch of the X6 in 2008 we have sold almost 250,000 cars (globally). When we first launched the X6 we didn’t know that it would be this successful and ended up being better than what anyone thought it could be.”

BMW Group Australia’s general manager of marketing Toni Andreevski says the unique style of the X6 was the recipe for its success, and added that the X4 contains those same ingredients, in a more affordable package.

“I think at the time there was one quote which went: 'the X6 is the answer to the question that nobody asked',” Mr Andreevski said. “I would say for 250,000 customers it was exactly the answer to what they were after and so the same thing will happen to the X4.

“We’re bringing that X6 concept into a more affordable price premium where the market is also a bit bigger in the mid size segment.”

Mr Andreevski said the type of buyer who will be drawn to an X4 will be young, more likely male and looking to make a statement, with the company pushing this through the tag-line it is using for the model's advertising campaign – “Unconform”.

“We know that with the X6 it was a controversial vehicle in some quarters,” Mr Andreevski said. “In fact that’s something we’ve embraced because it’s exactly what the customer wants – they don’t want to conform and they don’t want what everybody else has so it’s a vehicle which helps them stand apart a bit.”

While the X4 may carry different styling to the X3 compact SUV on which it is based, the technology underpinning them is almost identical.

The Australian X4 model range is all-wheel drive only and features two diesel and two petrol variants.

Pricing for petrol variants starts at $69,430, excluding on-road costs, for the xDrive20i while the xDrive35i is priced from $87,430. The entry-level diesel is the xDrive20d from $73,400 while the range-topping xDrive30d starts at $83,900.

BMW points out that while the prices of the X4s are higher than their X3 equivalents, the new SUV’s are specified to a higher level.

The X4 xDrive20d, for example, costs $9000 more than the X3 xDrive20d, but it adds BMW’s Performance Control, variable sport steering, 19-inch Y-spoke 608 alloy wheels, LED fog lights, leather upholstery, lumbar support, Nav Pro navigation system and sports seats over the X3's standard gear.

BMW said it would cost $9000 to specify this equipment in an X3 and said that the decision to make this standard in an X4 was because it felt customers would expect these features. The X4 XDrive20i carries the same standard features as the base diesel.

Other standard features in the xDrive20d and xDrive20i include an eight-speed automatic transmission, sports leather steering wheel with shifting paddles, auto climate air conditioning, bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera, automatic tailgate and power seats.

The xDrive30d gets these features as standard, but gains an eight-speed sports automatic transmission, damper control, ‘anti-dazzle’ wing mirrors, Hi-Fi Loud Speaker system and the 360-degree view parking camera.

The xDrive35i adds the MSport Package with 20-inch alloy wheels, a Harman Kardon sound system and BMW’s Comfort Access which allows you to unlock the car just by touching the door handle.

With its coupe lines, the X4 looks like a scaled down version of it bigger X6 sibling and while from the front all X models have the same ‘face’ the only exterior panels the X3 and X4 share are the bonnet and doors.

As with the X6, the X4’s the shoulder line runs though the door handles, then a second character line appear above the rear wheel arch creating a strong looking ‘rear haunches’.

Inside, is the cabin has a familiar feel to that of the X3. With driver focused control on the dash and centre console and an 8.8-inch display screen.

Under the bonnet of the xDrive20i is a 135kW/270NM 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which is also used in the X3. Average combined fuel consumption is claimed by BMW to be 7.2 litres per 100km, while 0-100km/h comes in 8.1 seconds.

The engine in the xDrive35i is a 225kW/400Nm 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo petrol, and while it drinks more at 8.3L/100km, it can push it from a standstill to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds.

The 20d is powered by a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel which BMW says sips fuel at 5.2L/100km and has a 0-100km/h time of 8.0 seconds.

Finally the xDrive30d with its 190kW/560Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine with an average combined fuel consumption of 5.9L/100km. This is the same engine found in the X3 xDrive 30d and both cars can do the 0-100km/h dash in similar times – 5.8 seconds in the X4 and 5.9 in the X3.

While the X3 and X4 have similar performance figures, BMW said it has added the Performance Control system and variable sports steering to the X4 to give it the sportier edge over the more traditionally designed X3.

The new X4 will be made in the United States at BMW’s Spartanburg factory in South Carolina. The facility already makes the X3, X5 and X6 and is currently capable of producing 300,000 units per year.

Recently a $US1 billion upgrade to the facility was announced which will see the output increase within two years to 450,000 cars.

BMW X4 pricing*
xDrive20i (a)$69,430
xDrive20d (a)$73,400
xDrive30d (a)$83,900
xDrive35i (a)$87,430
*Excludes on-road costs.

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