The world is now full of “coupe-like” crossover SUVs–it could be argued that they’ve taken the place of true two-door coupes. BMW’s been a chief proponent of the stylized utility vehicles, and for 2015 it introduced its latest effort, the X4.
The X4 doubles down on the recipe BMW tested with the bigger X6. The X4 simply takes an existing SUV–in this case, the X3–and tapers its roofline for a more intriguing look and less interior space. In doing so, it takes the more upright SUV shape and fashions a more direct rival for vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Macan, even the Lincoln MKC.
MORE: Read our latest BMW X3 review
Like its bigger sibling, the BMW X6, the X4 purposely gives up some of its functionality in the name of fashion. BMW planes down the rear end of the X3 to give the X4 a more curvaceous and gracious profile–and on first glance, the X4 does a better job of tailoring its duds than does the bigger X6. As you spend more time with the X4, the design’s flaws become more noticeable, especially its thick rear haunches. Other details seem to work even better, like the break in the shoulder line, and the break of the C-pillar, which BMW means to hint at the X4’s performance capabilities.
Inside, the X4 offers a similar design to the X3, with aluminum and wood trim–or a choice of an M Sport or an xLine package. The M Sport adds special paint choices, M-badges interior trim, bigger wheel-and-tire combinations, and sport seats; xLine does the same visual changeup, with a glossier bent.
Like the X3, the X4 offers a choice between four-cylinder and six-cylinder turbo power. The base powertrain combines a sweet-spinning turbocharged 2.0-liter four rated at 240 horsepower with an equally talented eight-speed automatic in the X4 xDrive28 model. The more powerful turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six X4 is good for 300 horsepower in the X4 xDrive35i. With a Driving Dynamics Control system, you can select between several ‘attitudes,’ like Eco Pro, to best fit your priorities. BMW estimates 0-60 mph times with the X4 xDrive28i owners at 6.0 seconds, the X4 xDrive35i, in just 5.2 seconds.
For its first model year, the X4 didn’t offer an M-powered rival for vehicles like the Porsche Macan Turbo. That changes in the 2016 model year with the addition of the uprated and upgraded BMW X4 M40i. It presses the turbocharged six for another 55 hp, bringing the total to 355 hp, and bumps torque to 343 pound-feet. With a standard eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the new model’s good for a 0-60 mph run in 4.7 seconds, and a governed top speed of 150 mph. There’s a unique calibration for the all-wheel-drive system and the automatic; a distinct sport suspension tune; more responsive steering; 20-inch wheels and tires; and a sport-tuned exhaust system with a resonator that pumps some engine noise into the cabin. The cockpit also gets a leather steering wheel, gear shift lever, sports seats, door sills and instrument cluster.
All X4s come with all-wheel drive. BMW’s xDrive splits power 40:60 front to rear, but can send up to 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels as traction varies. It’s a performance-based system, not an off-road, ruggedized setup.
The X4 also rides on a similar independent suspension setup as the X3. Variable electronic steering has variable effort and ratio, and the X4 can sift through various levels of green, comfort, and sport driving modes. BMW’s Performance Control is standard on the X4; it uses stability-control input to damp an inside wheel to improve cornering. The X4 displays its driver-control status on its center display.
Most of our driving time in the X4 has come behind the wheel of the higher-powered xDrive35i model. From days of putting it through a laundry list of errands and undisclosed favorite roads, we found few differences between it and the more upright X3. The X4 is about a half-inch longer than the X3, and sits 1.5 inches lower, but the lower center of gravity doesn’t alter its essence, just gives it an incrementally sharper feel. The X4 is, like the X3, athletic and agile for its size, and doesn’t have much discernible nose drive or excessive body motion in deep corners.
The X4 is a BMW, so it’s not a surprise that it feels best in Sport mode, where the electronics set up swifter steering responses and tauter ride feel. The X4 gets BMW’s variable-ratio sport steering standard; it has a relaxed on-center feel, good stability at higher speeds, and we think, a little more feedback than the stock Servotronic units in X3s we’ve driven.
From the options list, we highly recommend the adaptive dampers ($1,000), which can be dialed through Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes through the Driving Dynamics Control system. It adjusts not only the dampers, but the throttle, transmission and steering feel according to the selected mode.
Stop/start is standard, and sometimes can send shivers through the X4. But it helps lift gas mileage, which is rated by the EPA at 20/28 mpg or 23 mpg for the turbo four, 19/27/22 mpg for the turbo six. Like the X3, the X4 has an ECO PRO mode that can shut off the car’s gas when the driver releases the throttle, allowing it to coast.
The X3 has been a good safety performer, but no official data is yet available for the X4. It does include plenty of airbags, and options for adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision and a lane-departure warning system, and BMW’s bank of 360-degree, surround-view cameras. Parking Assistant lets the X4 steer itself into parallel parking spots while the driver attends the controls as a backup.
In overall footprint, the X4 isn’t quite identical to that of the X3. It’s still a three-seater in back, but BMW’s sculpted the seat cushions to give preference to two passengers. Passenger space remains fine for adults in front, and the second-row seat suffers only marginally from the headroom issues you’d expect in a low-roofed X3 spin-off.
Cargo space is down slightly as well, but still checks in at 17.7 cubic feet behind the back seat, or 49.4 cubic feet behind the front seats–enough to haul home a sofa table. It’s accessible via a power tailgate, with an option for Smart Opener–the system that uses sensors to detect a foot waving under the rear bumper, and to trigger the tailgate to open.
All X4 utes get the usual standard features, including power locks, windows, and mirrors; cruise control; and keyless entry. It also has standard paddle shift controls; sport steering; rear parking sensors; and a leather steering wheel. BMW’s iDrive and the high-contrast, wide-view screen are standard on the X4, while navigation is an option. When it’s fitted, the iDrive controller also gets a touchpad surface, so destinations and other inputs can be entered as handwriting.
For 2016, the X4’s Bluetooth and USB connections add functions, including sync capability for a second phone, voice control for music and contacts, and other office functions enabled on scree, such as tasks, photos, and calendars. A Harmon Kardon surround system is now standard on six-cylinder models.
Other standard features include a synthetic-leather interior (the real stuff is a $1,450 option); steering-wheel multi-function controls; wood trim; a power tailgate; rear parking sensors; Bluetooth and USB connections; automatic climate control; and power front seats.
BMW Apps are among the available features; Apps connects smartphones to deliver streams from Pandora, Rhapsody, and Stitcher, among others.
Major option packages include the xLine group ($1,500, including 19-inch wheels and gloss trim); the M Sport group ($2,300, with sport seats, sport steering wheel, aero kit, and higher top speed); a rearview camera, for $700; surround-view cameras and blind spot monitors, for $1,700; adaptive cruise control, $1,200; and a $2,750 tech package that bundles navigation, a head-up display, and real-time traffic and data services.
The 2016 BMW X4 is priced from $46,245 for the X4 xDrive28i, or from $50,695 for the X4 xDrive35i. Assembly takes place at BMW’s U.S. facility in Greer, South Carolina, alongside the X3, the X5 and the X6.