The latest trend among the premium brands is to try to slice out ever narrower niches off a common platform, creating vehicles that have a simultaneously broad and specific appeal. The new 2015 BMW X4 is a case in point. The new smaller "sport activity coupe" is in addition to the X1 crossover hatch, the bread-and-butter X3 on which it is based, the 3 Series wagon, and don't forget the 3 Series Grand Touring, which basically looks like a less-chunky, more carlike version of the X4. So you basically have four variations on the same theme. Where does that leave the X4? Let us examine.
Like the X3, But Not as Useful
If you're a fan of the larger X6, you'll probably like the looks of the X4, which basically looks like a ¾-scale X6. It shares the same five-passenger capacity as the more conventional X3, but takes a hit in cargo capacity. Capacity with the rear seats up is 17.7 cubic feet. The X3 offers 30 cubic feet, and 71 cubic feet with the seats folded. The X4 gives you a maximum capacity of 49.4 cubic feet with the seats down. To its credit, the X4 does outhaul the X1, which gives you a paltry 14.8 cubic feet with the seats up, and 47.7 cubic feet. The 3 Series Wagon splits the difference with 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 66 cubic feet with the seats folded.
The sporty nature of the X4 is accentuated by its lower ride height and seating position than the X3, specifically, a 0.8-inch-lower seating position for the driver and front passenger and a 1.1-inch-lower seating position for the rear passengers.
But if you only occasionally have the need to haul large or bulky items, but the rest of the time want a fun-to-drive, subjectively handsome ride, the X4 has its charms. Like most of its aforementioned stablemates, it has the choice of two powerplants, the 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged I-4 producing 240 hp and 260 lb-ft, and BMW's beloved 3.0-liter I-6 producing an even 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. BMW is claiming believable performance figures of 5.2 seconds 0-60 for the X4 xDrive35i, and 6 seconds flat for the X4 xDrive28i. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is standard equipment on all X4 models.
All X4 models feature auto start/stop, which shuts down the engine at stoplights when the brake is applied and quickly restarts the engine when the brake is released. Most BMW models offer the option of defeating this function. Its operation on the four-cylinder models is somewhat less than smooth and seamless in our experience, but BMW has likely improved the refinement on the feature since then. In a further effort at optimizing fuel economy, drivers can select the Eco Pro mode to optimize fuel economy by adjusting the shift points of the transmission, and includes an engine coast function. Models equipped with the optional navigation system also include an Eco Pro route option, which will select the route that will return the best fuel economy for the trip. A driving assistant feature also suggests when to slow down if approaching a lower speed limit.
Other tech goodies include available Advanced Real Time Traffic Information, active cruise control, collision warning and city braking, blind spot detection, and rearview camera with surround view. For the parking-impaired, the X4 offers optional parallel parking assistance, and if you've just gotten your arms full with bags from Rodeo Drive boutiques, an available smart opener, with a foot-activated tailgate, a la the Ford Escape.
Have It Your Way
Of course, the Germans are masters at a la carte personalization, and charging for it, and the X4 proudly upholds that tradition with plenty of different trim and appearance packages, including an M Sport package that adds a high-gloss Shadow Line trim, and sport-tuned suspension. Other features of the M Sport package include an Anthracite headliner, an M design leather steering wheel, door-sill finishers, a driver's footrest, and 19- or 20-inch alloy wheels.
Prices have not yet been announced, but if you feel conflicted about driving a high-priced foreign car, you can take some stars-and-stripes-waving pride in the fact that the X4 will be built at BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant, whence the X5, X6, and X3 now all hail as well. We're not entirely sure the world needed another "sport activity coupe" or even the first one, in fact. But the global auto market seems to have an insatiable appetite for crossovers of all shapes, sizes, and prices, so we're sure the X4 will find its niche somewhere.