SUV 'coupes' still cause raging debate regarding their design, practicality, and validity of existence. But who started this trend? The widely accepted answer is none other than BMW.
With the original X6, which went on sale globally in 2008, the Bavarian manufacturer tapped into a new niche in the new-car market, combining the high ride height and muscular proportions of an SUV with the sloping roof line of a coupe. Despite the fact it was more expensive and less practical than its X5 sibling, people bought them in droves (in excess of 200,000 X6s have rolled out of global dealerships since 2008), leading BMW to make the X4.
Playing a similar role to the X3 as the X6 does to the X5, the original X4 was revealed at the 2014 New York motor show and went on sale shortly after. It offered a more striking (if polarising) alternative to the more conventional X3, while maintaining a largely identical cabin and engine line-up.
Fast-forward to 2018, and the X4 has been renewed for a second generation, drawing upon BMW's lighter new CLAR architecture and offering the company's latest and greatest driver assistance and infotainment systems.
Here on test we have the X4 xDrive20d, the entry-level diesel model and one up from the base xDrive20i, priced from $79,900 before on-road costs.
For reference, that's a whole $10,000 more than an X3 with the same powerplant – a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel that features in a range of products from across the BMW Group, but more on that later.
However, that gap in price is somewhat offset by a decent increase in standard equipment, which includes the M Sport package (a $3500 option on the X3), adaptive suspension ($1462 on the X3), Navigation System Professional incorporating a larger 10.25-inch widescreen navigation display, along with a 360-degree camera system.
Other goodies include full-LED headlights with LED daytime driving lights and fog lights, three-zone climate control, 19-inch M alloy wheels shod with run-flat tyres, an automatic tailgate, electric front seats with driver memory, a head-up display, DAB+ digital radio, a six-speaker audio system, and ambient interior lighting.
In terms of driver assistance and active safety systems, all X4 models come with autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. However, items like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are relegated to the options list, or included as standard on higher-grade models.
Speaking of options, our tester was fitted with around $10,000 of additional specification, including larger 20-inch M light-alloy wheels ($1700), 'Oak Dark' wood trim inserts ($300), an electric panoramic sunroof ($3000), electric lumbar support for the front seats ($600), front and rear heated seats ($1400), along with the Innovations Package – adding keyless access, automatic high-beam, adaptive LED headlights, wireless phone charger, and an all-digital driver's instrument display.
That takes the as-tested sticker to $89,100 plus ORCs, meaning you're looking at around $100,000 on the road – sheesh.
For your premium spend, though, you do get a premium-looking and feeling package in the X4. While the coupe-style rear won't win over all, it certainly stands out.
Add to that the bold and imposing front end with BMW's signature double-kidney grille and four-ringed LED daytime running light signature, and there's no mistaking that you're driving a Bimmer.
In the eyes of this reviewer, the somewhat flat rear end treatment takes a little getting used to. The new, thinner L-shaped tail-light clusters are inspired by the company's latest sports car models – think 8 Series and Z4 – and on first glance they don't look quite as sleek on the X4's chunkier derriere.
But it's what's on the inside that really matters, right? Thankfully, the X4 doesn't stray far from the related X3 in terms of the cabin design and layout, which is a huge step forward from the previous model in pretty much every aspect.
Up front, the dashboard looks like most of the company's current range – whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you – meaning it's a familiar experience if you're stepping out of another model in the line-up.
The fit and finish are top-notch. Soft-touch materials adorn just about every surface bar the lowest tiers of the cabin, and the leather upholstery is supple and nice to touch. Drivers are treated to a chunky M Sport steering wheel, which feels great in the hand and has all the necessary controls logically laid out on the spokes.
Speaking of ergonomics, there are no real quirks or complaints about the layout of the controls and switchgear on the centre stack, as is the BMW way.
Atop the dashboard is the lovely 10.25-inch Navigation Professional display, which is high-resolution and snappy to respond to inputs. For those unfamiliar with using the traditional iDrive rotary dial, the display is also responsive to touch inputs too.
Unfortunately, our tester lacked wireless Apple CarPlay integration, which is a $623 option. It's a shame BMW continues to slug customers a fee for a feature that is standard on sub-$20,000 vehicles, albeit wired in those cases, though even the Mini brand offers wireless integration as standard equipment (on a three-year subscription).
Despite the lack of smartphone mirroring, the iDrive software is one of the best infotainment set-ups in the business. It's attractive, quick and well featured.
Supplementing the central display is the all-digital instrument cluster positioned ahead of the driver. Unlike systems in rival brands, though, the BMW unit stays as true as possible to a traditional binnacle, with two regular dials located above the conventional trip computer.
The dials can be changed depending on the driving mode chosen – with Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro and Adaptive settings available. We'll get onto the functions of those modes a little later, but it's a novel thing to see different interfaces as you switch through the different profiles.
Hopping into the back, the X4 is surprisingly spacious despite the sloping roof line. Taller passengers should fit in relative comfort, though head room can get a little tight, particularly when you have the panoramic sunroof specified as we do here.
Rear air vents with climate control are included as standard, and there's enough lateral room for three adults over shorter journeys. Kids should be just fine in the rear, and there are two ISOFIX mounts on each of the outboard rear seats for child seats, along with three top-tether points.
Behind the second row, there's a 525L boot – just 25L short of an X3. That area expands to a decent 1430L with the rear seats folded flat, meaning you don't have to sacrifice that much practicality for the coupe body style.
The boot itself is nicely square and is trimmed in a nice fabric. There's a nifty underfloor storage compartment too, along with nets and rails offering various ways to keep your trinkets tied down in the rear. As the X4's wheels are shod in run-flat tyres, there's no spare wheel under the boot floor.
Let's get to the driving, shall we?
SUVs, particularly diesel ones, aren't immediately associated with the word 'sporty', nor do those words spark any sort of excitement when paired together. However, in the case of the X4, the four-cylinder diesel punches above its weight in terms of performance and refinement, offering good acceleration and decent fuel economy.
Funnily enough, this is the third time I've reviewed a BMW Group product with this very engine – first the smaller X2, and more recently the Mini Countryman. I wondered if the X4's extra heft would prove an issue, but any doubts were shot down very quickly.
The 2.0-litre oiler makes 140kW of power at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500rpm, with drive sent to the ground via BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Around town the beefy low-down torque gets the X4 up and about with little fuss, and diesel clatter is kept to an absolute minimum. The company claims a 0–100km/h time of 8.0 seconds flat, though it can feel quicker by the seat of the pants thanks to its eager low-down shove.
Once at highway speeds, the X4 settles into eighth gear and hums away well below 2000rpm, making for a quiet and comfortable tourer. Wind and road noise are also impressively suppressed; something that can often be an issue in vehicles with steel-reinforced run-flat tyres.
It's worth noting the BMW's beautifully planted feel at higher speeds, inspiring confidence even in poor weather conditions and on loose surfaces thanks to the added grip of its all-wheel-drive system.
As for ride comfort, the firmer suspension tune that comes with the M Sport package could prove to be too firm for some, particularly during urban commutes. We reckon the optional 19-inch rims on our tester play a part in this as well.
While we dock points for the firmer ride, it rarely crashes or is all-out uncomfortable, though it lacks the supple, cosseting feel that is expected of a luxury SUV.
During our week with the X4, we managed an indicated 8.0L/100km over more than 640km of mixed driving conditions – including a return trip between Melbourne and Torquay blended with plenty of stop/start Melbourne peak-hour traffic.
It's admittedly quite a bit off BMW's 5.8L/100km combined claim, though for a vehicle of this size it's a respectable figure nonetheless considering a decent amount of time was spent in high-traffic inner-city areas. We'd also suggest the readout would be higher without the fitment of idle stop/start technology.
Speaking of the stop/start system, the X4's implementation isn't as intrusive as some, and likely helped by the conventional torque-converter automatic. There's still a slight pause between when you lift off the brake and get going, though it's pretty easy to get used to.
Meanwhile, the X4's handling and steering feel lives up to BMW's 'Ultimate Driving Machine' mantra, at least in the SUV world. There's a nicely direct feel through the tiller as you turn, though it's fairly light so parking won't be a chore.
In the bends, the aforementioned firm suspension tune helps the X4 to minimise body roll through corners, making for a sporty drive – though it's still no sports car.
Switching through the drive modes adjusts the throttle calibration, steering feel and damper tune further, though we'd leave Sport for when you're by yourself on a twisty back road, because it's far too firm for everyday driving.
Drivers feeling particularly racy can flick the transmission into manual mode and use the steering-mounted paddle shifters should you want to change cogs yourself, though the diesel powertrain probably isn't the one you're buying if you want to drive like this in the first place.
From an ownership perspective, the BMW X4 is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre program. While we tend to knock manufacturers for offering anything less than five years’ cover, it's worth noting most of the X4's key competitors offer similar warranties.
As for maintenance, the Bavarian marque offers two service packages that cover owners for the first five years or 80,000km – whichever comes first.
The 'Basic' option is $1495, and covers your standard service items like oil changes, filters and fluids for the life of the program. Upgrading to 'Plus' ($4850) extends cover to brake pads and discs, wiper blades, along with clutch discs and plates where applicable.
Going for the Basic program means you don't have to worry about crazy service costs when buying a premium vehicle, and it will cover most owners that turn over their vehicles every three to five years.
All told, the new X4 impresses with its all-round abilities, and in xDrive20d guise it'll do just about everything the average owner needs if you don't require the grunt of one of the performance models.
It drives well, is still practical despite the coupe styling, and offers a look and feel befitting of a 'luxury' car.
However, its looks will polarise, the ride will be too firm for some, and the high pricing combined with some specification omissions puts dents in what otherwise is a solid package.