BMW is to invest $900m in its factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina to build the new X4, a sporting version of the X3, it has been confirmed.
Plans for the car were predicted by Autocar in 2010, and last year BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer gave the first official indication that the four-seater SUV will be built when he said, "Yes, we will position a BMW X4 above the X3".
The car, depicted here in Autocar’s exclusive computer-generated rendering, will extend BMW’s already strong presence within the toughly fought premium SUV market.
Smaller and more agile than the X3, the new four-seater is expected to be badged X4 when it goes on sale in 2014. And in keeping with the new four-wheel-drive’s sporting brief, BMW’s plans also call for a range-topping X4 M version, previewed in our rendering.
Although the X4 shares the same floorpan, drivelines, chassis and hard points as the X3, it is set to receive its own individual styling in a move intended to give it a more sporting image and enable BMW to position it higher than the SUV upon which it is based.
Design proposals suggest that the X4 differs from the X3 in much the same way that the X6 is distinguished from the X5, with a bullish front end, curved coupé-style roofline and heavily angled tailgate.
As with its larger sibling, the exterior design changes are set to make it less practical than its more upright sibling, with reductions in headroom and luggage capacity. However, strong sales of the X6 have convinced BMW bosses that customers are prepared to forgo everyday usability in the name of style.
The car is also depicted in a pair of official BMW sketches. Although they reveal a three-door model badged X3, they hint strongly at the X4's design, mainly its roofline and front-end styling; BMW sources insist that too much shouldn't be read into the fact it has three doors.
Production ready?BMW’s answer to the Porsche Cajun — Stuttgart’s new three-door SUV, which is due for launch in 2013 — was first proposed by in-house designers back in 2006. However, capacity concerns at Magna in Austria, where the first X3 was made, ultimately led BMW to postpone a decision on the car’s future until production switched to Spartanburg — something that has been realised with the second-generation X3. As well as the Cajun, BMW will level the X4 at the Audi Q5. Influencing BMW’s decision to push ahead with the X4 is the continued slow sales of sporting estate cars in North America.
Engines and layoutThe X4 is expected to come with a choice of four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines mated to a six-speed manual, seven-speed double-clutch or optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. As with the X3, BMW does not plan a two-wheel-drive version.
It will be allied to BMW’s latest electronically controlled Dynamic Performance Control system, which provides an individual apportioning of drive to each rear wheel dependent upon prevailing traction.
Sitting at the top of the line-up will be a performance-orientated X4 M model boasting styling upgrades and a next-generation in-line six-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers from BMW’s M division. The X4’s double-wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension will be tuned to deliver more engaging handling than the X3.
There will be a lowered ride height, reduced wheel travel, uprated anti-roll bars and unique spring and dampers that will feature variable control.