2015 BMW X4 xDrive35i First Drive
Package Deal: A Potential Hit for the Less-is-More Crowd
Full disclosure: My engineering past as an interior packaging guy predisposes me against this whole goofball X6/X4 (and the late, unlamented Acura ZDX) all-road coupe micro-niche. Take a vehicle with functionality and practicality baked into its DNA, and strip it of both in the name of “style?” No thanks.
That having been said, the X4 loses less in the coupe-ification process than its predecessors. To wit: Only 5 percent of the X3’s passenger space is sacrificed, while the X6 trimmed the X5’s by 7 percent and the ZDX measured 22 percent smaller inside than its MDX counterpart. The big losers are rear-seat heads and legs, which are cramped by 1.7 and 2.0 inches the X4. Cargo capacity nosedives 36 percent with the seats up, 22 percent with them down (17.7 and 49.4 cubic feet). That’s poor compared with the X6 (which curiously measures larger with the seats up, and just 10 percent smaller with them down) and the ZDX (39 and 8 percent). The price premium mirrors the X6’s—10 percent ($4300) with the smaller engine, and 6 percent ($2900) with the big one, most of which is accounted for by added standard equipment (18-inch wheels, xenon lamps, sport steering/transmission/performance control systems, etc.).
To accentuate the swooping roofline, the stylists stretched the overall length by 1.3 inches along with lowering the roof 1.5 inches. Does this visual trickery make your knees wobbly and your pulse rate quicken? It doesn’t mine, though I do find the unique dash styling to be pleasing, and my inner nerd loves the new full-color head-up display. I also appreciate the integration of the various driver assistance gizmos like adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, and the discrete steering-wheel buzz of the lane-departure warning system.
There isn’t much else to differentiate the X4 and X3. Its suspenders are slightly starchier in terms of spring, damping, and anti-roll bar rates. The throttle and steering-rack tuning are also unique to the X4, its center of gravity is slightly lower, and the seating position is 0.8 inch lower in front (1.1 inch lower in back), all of which combines to make the X4 feel less top-heavy and slightly more eager to attack a byway—especially in xDrive35i with M Sport trim ($1900, for sport trim, seats, suspension, wheels, and a higher speed limiter), which is how all the available test-drive cars were outfitted.
The car is exceptionally fun to flog on twists and switchbacks. The staggered fitment 19-inch Michelin Primacy 3 tires grip hard with little complaint, and body motion control is admirable. The I-6 makes lovely music while blasting between heavy braking zones, and repeated abuse of the left pedal provoked no fade, even on long, steep downhill stretches. I could whine and lament the lack of steering feel, but I’m getting the impression this is as good as electric assist gets, so never mind. The X4 is a ball to hoon around, but it’s not as fun as a proper 3 or 4 Series car, and the wagon carries more stuff. So unless this shape just melts your heart, you may be better served with one of the other myriad 3 and 4 Series-based variants.
Then again, while the ZDX flopped, global X6 demand has outpaced supply for three years, so don’t bet against X4 success—and an eventual X2 (and X8, X10, X12...).
|2015 BMW X4|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||2.0L/240-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||4150-4250 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||184.3 x 74.1 x 63.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.2-6.0 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||19-21/26-28/21-24 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||160-177 / 120-130 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.82-0.90 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||July 2014|