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The new X4 makes a more usable proposition for British roads than the larger X6, but this SUV lacks all-round ability
Nic Cackett
25 July 2014

What is it?

The new BMW X4 - driven for the first time in the UK, and with a diesel engine upfront rather than the petrol lump previously made available to us.

Much about BMW’s latest we already know; this is an X6 clone with its cheeks sucked in to fit the smaller platform currently found beneath the X3. The body swap makes the car slightly longer and a fair bit lower, and sacrifices a modicum of practicality in the good name of SUV sporting pretension. 

Almost everything of consequence is carried over from the X3, although its higher status in the lineup means the two-wheel-drive sDrive18d entry-level version gets culled.

Instead, the X4’s are all-wheel-drive as standard and the range kicks off with the xDrive20d SE at £36,595 - a £3600 premium over the equivalent X3, which is consistent across the board. 

That four-cylinder car comes with a manual six-speed gearbox as standard, but expect BMW’s eight-speed auto to be a popular option (it’s standard with the 3.0-litre motor).

Trim choice splits the X4 into SE, xLine and M Sport, with the straight-six 255bhp 30d and 308bhp 35d filling out the oil burner-only engine selection. We drove the former, albeit in range-topping format. 

Aside from the cosmetic alterations, the X4 gets you a chassis tweak and the toys to go with it - including Performance Control, Variable Sport Steering, and, in the case of our test car, the even firmer M Sport suspension.

To help justify its positioning, the new model gets bigger 18-inch wheels as standard over the X3, as well as the convenience of a 40-20-40 split rear seat. Heated front seats, parking sensors, automatic tailgate and BMW’s Business Media pack are also among the default kit. 

What's it like?

As we suspected on our first glance overseas, the X4 is less likely to attract the teeth-gnashing consternation that greeted its big brother.

The X6 had the obnoxious on-road presence of a chromed whale carcass; smaller dimensions (i.e. the ability to fit snugly into a British parking space and the outside lane) make the new car’s still overtly posturing appearance more tolerable. 

Inside, the roofline’s coupe-ish swan-dive has a predictable impact. All 5’8” of yours truly fits fine in the back, but even with the ceiling emphatically scooped out, it appears likely that Autocar’s collection of six-footers can, at the very least, expect to have their hairline tickled.

It’s a similar story in the boot, where 50 litres of seat-up capacity - not to mention clearance for especially big, longer items - has been lost. That still leaves a hearty 500-litres of pleasingly high loading, square and flat floor space - but the inevitable practicality demerit stands. 

Upfront, of course, the driver wouldn’t recognise any compromise. Headroom here is massively plentiful, and although one wonders how BMW has managed to squeeze a clutch pedal into the cramped, offset area underfoot, the driving position is otherwise satisfying (aided by a 20mm drop in hip point compared to the X3). 

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Being lower to the road is a prominent X4 theme; a 36mm reduction in height has brought the centre of gravity down, and the retuned chassis is obviously primed to take advantage of that. This it does in now familiar style, spurning the dynamic handicap of being still comparatively tall with the kind of bemusing nimbleness one associates with an NBA point guard.

Changes of direction, always grip-happy and torque-trimmed, are ruthlessly gouged from the road surface - especially in Sport mode, where the dampers disregard pliability entirely for jowl-quivering levels of tautness. 

Teamed with the steady fizz of BMW’s straight-six, and the xDrive30d makes for a consummate hot hatch botherer. The unfortunate thing is that it somewhat struggles to be much of anything else.

Despite defaulting on start-up to its softest Comfort setting, the X4 (admittedly in M Sport garb with 19-inch wheels) never truly relaxes on its springs.

There’s a slight irritability about the ride around town; not significant enough to jostle you needlessly - but short of the plush civility one would hope for in an upmarket SUV, and certainly at odds with the low-speed amiability being dispensed by the drivetrain. 

Around this central niggle, others orbit. There’s rather a lot of wind noise at motorway speed, and a wee bit too much engine noise below it. Heave it onto the scales, and you’ll discover the X4 still weighs the best part of two tonnes - so expect its claimed 47.9mpg to be difficult to eke out while deploying anything more than a slither of its potential.

Also, some of the switchgear and polished trim plastic used in the taller dash architecture isn’t of the same standard as those used in the 3-Series - unforgivable in a car which starts and then ascends at a much steeper cost rate.

Should I buy one?

It’s conceivable that you might want to, and likely for the same reason people plucked up the courage to buy the X6.

As the conveyor of a sassier image, the sleeker X4 arguably prevails. And if that’s to be the main tent-pole of its appeal, then the single-mindedness of the M Sport’s ride and handling need not be a hinderance - nor even the premium that applies to it. 

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But we prefer a bit more roundedness to our sporty SUVs, and recent additions to the canon - not least the Porsche Macan S Diesel - have shown the breadth of ability that can be shoehorned into a good-looking body.

Having that presence in the price bracket makes it likely that most X4 buyers will look to shop below £40k, thereby taking advantage of the xDrive20d’s lower running costs. On this evidence, and with the cheaper trim levels feasibly more agreeable to drive, we’re inclined to aim our recommendation in the same direction. 

BMW xDrive30d M Sport

Price £46,395 0-62mph 5.8secs Top speed 145mph Economy 47.9mpg CO2 156g/km Kerbweight 1895kg Engine 2993cc, six-cylinder, diesel Power 255bhp at 4000rpm Torque 413lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox Eight-speed automatic 

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Comments
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405line 11 September 2014

Outlaw these vehicles along with the powerful vacuum cleaners.

The EU is to ban vacuum cleaners in the UK over 1600W while allowing this kind of nonsense to proliferate, who "should" be allowed to buy a "high sided sports vehicle" (they should be banned from driving just for muddled thinking) that weighs god knows how much more than an equivalent saloon. Personally I would like to see all 4x4's type vehicles banned or restricted unless the "requestor" can provide a good reason for requiring them.
275not599 28 July 2014

I was going to moderate my

I was going to moderate my language, but a bottle of rather good California cabernet has scuppered that plan. Like the X6, this is a chrome turd for vacant morons. Like the X6, it'll probably sell well, proving that there are lots of morons, and that BMW is willing to make money by catering to the demand for chrome turds. Good news for the shareholders, one to avoid for people like me. Not difficult.
Steve Johnson 26 July 2014

Something a little different....

Such hostility from this close- minded community. The X4 is avant-garde. It is a fashion statement. Something a little different. It is supposed to generate strong opinions. Yet remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ugly men and women still get married. I'm sure the X4 will find suitors. Furthermore, some prefer better road visibility. The higher ground clearance than the run-of-the-mill sedans and hatchbacks, provides that. At least BMW have the balls to do something a little different.
Citytiger 27 July 2014

Steve Johnson wrote:Such

Steve Johnson wrote:

Such hostility from this close- minded community. The X4 is avant-garde. It is a fashion statement. Something a little different. It is supposed to generate strong opinions. Yet remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ugly men and women still get married. I'm sure the X4 will find suitors. Furthermore, some prefer better road visibility. The higher ground clearance than the run-of-the-mill sedans and hatchbacks, provides that. At least BMW have the balls to do something a little different.

No, the Renault Avantime was avant-garde, this isnt, this isnt something different, this is basically a Nissan Juke for people with fat wallets, as for higher ground clearance giving better visibility, your right, but this has a lower ride height than a traditional SUV and is more similar to an XC70/Audi Allroad type vehicle, they then ruin the visibility by having very thick A and C pillars, and a letterbox rear view (note without a rear wiper), thus negating some of the advantages of the raised height, unless of course you are only looking forward. At present it only comes with AWD and fairly powerful engines, I wonder how long before we see the X4 sDrive18d, catering for the slightly less well off. Also as for balls, lots of car companies have them, but they don't all have sheeple for customers..