The subject of this week’s road test is unlikely to stir your soul in the manner of M division’s former glories. At the same time, for BMW’s niche-filling product strategists, it would have been an irresistible project.
In 2018, four years after the original X4 hit our roads as an X6 downsized in both dimensions and cost, the second-generation model was introduced, and as of September, year-to-date sales have grown by more than 40%. Be in no doubt: outside enthusiast circles, there is an appetite for high-riding coupés with a similar footprint to mid-sized executive saloons.
No self-respecting line-up is complete without a ‘halo’ model, so there is now the X4 M Competition. The car is aimed at the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, the flamboyant Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the Porsche Macan Turbo but is part of a broader roll-out of SUV-based M-cars that includes the expensive X5 M and X6 M and the X4 M’s more conventional-looking but mechanically identical X3 M sibling.
Next year, BMW will launch an all-new M3, which is where this road test of the X4 M Competition gets intriguing. BMW says the X4 M and X3 M have been set up to deliver the driving experience of the upcoming M3 super-saloon, but with the ‘added assurance’ of four-wheel drive and a higher driving position. This is also the first chance we’ve had to experience BMW’s new S58 3.0-litre straight six, which looks certain to feature in the upcoming M3, and probably in the same state of tune.
The X4 M Competition has lofty ambitions, then, but are we looking at an exhibition in compromise and a positive bellwether for the most popular performance saloon of all time, or something more confused and less appealing? Let’s find out.
The BMW X4 range at a glance
BMW’s engine derivative range for the X4 looks like a slightly truncated one compared with the related X3 (there’s no entry-level petrol ‘20i’ option and no petrol-electric PHEV). It does contain no fewer than three performance options, though, and any of them should hit 62mph from rest in less than 5.0sec.
All X4s get four-wheel drive and BMW’s ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels, meanwhile, start with Sport and progress through M Sport and M Sport X, before you get to the heady heights of the M division-developed models.