2015 BMW X4 First Drive

2014 BMW X4 11 photos
Photo: Original image by autoevolution
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If you want to buy a BMW with a tailgate these days, you can have your pick out of no less than 5 different models, something that would’ve been unconceivable not too far back. However, times changed and so did the Germans that are now offering cars that cater to absolutely everyone’s needs.
Heck, the Bavarians will be offering a front-wheel-drive car starting this autumn (the 2 Series Active Tourer) so you really shouldn’t be surprised by anything that comes out of Munich any more. Just keep an open mind so that it doesn’t implode one day.

One of the 5 models with a tailgate that we mentioned earlier is the brand new BMW X4 that we had for a couple of days for our own testing pleasure. It’s part of a bigger scheme that sees the company entering every possible niche and segment. Alongside the 3 Series Gran Turismo, the 4 Series Gran Coupe, 5 Series Gran Turismo and X6, the smaller Sport Activity Coupe is part of the new age coming out of Bavaria.

It’s a generation looking to take over the world with models that appeal to every aspect of your life. You want a car that sets you apart in the world? A car that has a special design, less practicality and a bigger price tag? You got it!

That’s what the X4 basically is. It’s an X3 with a more stylish look that appeals to those people that want to feel unique, the people that want to stand out and don’t care too much about practicality but more about how they are perceived in traffic.

Looking at it from the outside, you’ll immediately recognize the shape. It’s a mini-X6 if you’d like, with the same sloping roofline that somehow resembles a coupe and a chunky rear fascia that hosts a huge tailgate with a decent boot.

Up front, the design was adapted to the recent trend over at BMW, one that has the headlights and kidney grille connected, to make the cars look more aggressive. And the little X4 packs a punch. The kidney grille is absolutely huge and if you’re not a basketball player, you might actually fit your hand in between the bars. It’s that big.

The headlights have a new design but the similarities with the facelifted X3 are too obvious not to mention. Actually, the X3 and X4 share the bonnet, front fascia and front doors. Going inside you’ll notice even more similar details.

The dash is completely identical between them, with the iDrive screen being positioned rather inside the center console and not on top of it, like on other models in BMW’s current line-up. It’s not a bad thing but the angle at which it sits, might make it hard to read in powerful sunlight.

Compared to its SUV brother, the seating is a bit lower, to allow for ample headroom, at least up front. One thing we’ve been wondering about ever since we saw the concept was how the headroom was in the back.

Inside its bigger brother that came before it, the E71 X6, there wasn’t any room to spare in this department, in the back. If you’re over 6 feet tall you won’t be sitting too comfortably on longer trips. That’s not a problem inside the X4 though.

Somehow, the engineers managed to create a rear bench that can accommodate people taller than 6 feet with ease. Even three of them one next to each other, could go for shorter trips. You’ll have plenty of space in the back even if you’re taller than the average Joe.

Getting in and out might be a bit problematic. The doors are a bit on the small side and you could bump against the rear fender when entering or exiting the car. But that’s only true in certain cases and it won’t happen all the time.

Technical-wise, the X4 comes fitted with every new bit of tech you can get from BMW at the moment. The touch-sensitive iDrive controller is there to assist you as well as Head-Up display, active rear differential, the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system and the latest EU6-compliant engines. Of course, you’ll have to pay for them and prices aren’t exactly small.

The model we had was an xDrive35i, the top of the range petrol model but not the fastest in the line-up. Fitted with the all-familiar 6-cylinder inline 3-liter turbocharged N55 engine and the 8-speed Sport automatic transmission, it’s a pleasure to drive the new X4.

BMW knows its engines and transmissions and you’ll have to look very hard to find better ones in this segment. 306 HP and 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) means you get to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 5.5 seconds but it doesn’t feel all that fast. Maybe it’s the suspension or maybe it’s the comfort but something doesn’t really let you know of the speed you’re driving at until over 120 km/h (75 mph). That’s where the cracks begin to show.

Wind noise becomes quite loud, especially around those big side mirrors that are absolutely helpful inside big cities. You need to remember this is a Sport Activity Coupe and the rearview mirror won’t show you much due to the small tailgate window. That’s where those big side mirrors come in handy and we’ll gladly accept the wind noise rather than go for smaller mirrors.

Other than that, the car feels really planted. It actually is like an Coupe-SUV should be like especially in tight bends. We noticed less body roll than in the F15 X5 and the suspension set-up felt harder on bumpy roads. Then again, the M50d model we tested had air suspension on the rear axle.

That being said, the X4 really drives like the X3 and you can feel that the two use the same platform. But then, this car was created for those people looking for a lifestyle vehicle, one that looks different on the road. And the ‘wow factor’ is definitely there.

Dressed in Melbourne Red like our tester and fitted with the M Sport package, you’ll turn a lot of heads around town, at least in the first few years, while the X4 is still brand new. And that’s probably what the prospective owners will want as the practical aspects of the SAC are not its forte.

The boot is big and you can fold the rear seats in a 40:20:40 split but it’s not nearly as impressive as on the X3. You could probably get two big trolleys in there but that’s about it. You can also operate it hands-free by swiping your foot under the rear bumper, a feature that is most useful, especially when you’re having your hands full. You can also close it like that, the car emitting a warning sound before closing the boot. We found it much easier to just push the button on the tailgate and let it close all by itself.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, not all that much, to be honest. You’d really have to be nitpicking to find things wrong with the X4, considering it’s not destined for everyone’s taste.

It doesn’t have any handles above the windows that you or the passengers can grab on, the headrests are a bit too hard and the visibility (especially through the rear window) could be better but these are minor faults after all.

The biggest problem with this car is its pricing. The model we had was decked with a lot of optional features that you won’t really need and the price tag rose accordingly: €80,242. However, you can keep things in check if you want to.

In Germany, the price for the xDrive35i starts at €58,000 with the automatic 8-speed gearbox. To that you’ll have to add a couple of optional features that we found you can’t enjoy this car without, such as the Electronic Damper Control (€3,684), Surround View (€779) and Back-Up Camera (€442), Navigation system Professional (€2,621), the Hi-Fi sound system (€410) and the smartphone connectivity (€185). Adding in all of those and you can get this car for €66,121, a number that sounds a lot better than the €80,242 our tester had.

In the US, a similarly equipped model would set you back $56,200. Sure, you’ll have to get by with Sensatec inside the cabin but at this price tag, the xDrive35i doesn’t really have any competition. The closest car to it would be the Porsche Macan S a car that is dynamically superior but more expensive when decked with similar options.

Many people claim that the X4 will be a failure. The same people said the same thing about the X6 when it came out and to this day BMW sold over a quarter million of them. Therefore, if the past is any indication, the new, smaller Sport Activity Coupe could be another success for the Bavarians.

The reasons are simple enough to understand. Compared to its older, bigger brother, the X4 is cheaper and offers nearly the same prestige to potential customers. It’s also a really good car with minor faults that are all due to its unconventional design but the prospective customer for this car is looking exactly for this kind of ‘problems’ so that won’t get in the way of purchasing one.
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