X4: More Style, Less Utility
As the craze for crossovers speeds ahead, leaving in its wake a slew of long-lived but soon to be mothballed sedan models, it must be asked: Where can a tradition-minded driving enthusiast turn? The answer, as it has become apparent over the last several years, lies in a range of specialty crossovers that strive to bridge the gap between SUV-ish family vehicles and the beloved four-door sports sedan. Like the X1-sourced BMW X2 we tested recently, the completely redesigned X4 is essentially a slicker and badder-looking version of the popular X3 crossover, which is in itself an attractive choice when it comes to fun-to-drive luxury family transportation. The new X4 is slightly longer, wider and shorter than its mechanically similar sibling, and sports an asking price roughly $10,000 higher. There are two trim levels at present, both of which feature a standard all-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission. The xDrive30i (which we tested) is powered by a 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline four gas engine that’s rated at 248 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque. Pricing starts at $50,540 and includes standard features like 19-inch alloy wheels shod with run-flat all-season tires, panoramic moonroof, power-adjustable front seats, powered rear liftgate, selectable driving performance modes, parking-assist sensors, LED headlamps and fog lights, and an array of safety-minded sensors and warning systems. The bottom-line sticker price on our tester rose to an as-optioned $57,895 with the addition of the $1,600 Premium Package (heated steering wheel and front seats, heads-up display and Gesture Control), the $1,000 Convenience Package (keyless entry and ignition, power lumbar support and satellite radio prep with one-year subscription), the $700 Parking Assist Package (augmented parking sensors, rearview and surround-view camera arrays), the $500 Driving Assistance Package (blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning), plus $1,700 for Tacora Red leather upholstery, $550 for dark-gray paint job, $400 for a wireless charging pad, and $995 for delivery. Buyers looking for a bit more starch under the hood can opt for the M40i, which is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that’s rated at a decidedly stouter 355 horses and 365 foot-pounds of torque). Pricing for this model starts at $60,450 and, in addition to the bigger engine, includes a adaptive suspension system, unique aerodynamic flourishes, M-sport brakes, and a number of features available as options on its downmarket sibling. The X4’s roots in the more utility-minded X3 are apparent once one enters the well-appointed cabin. The same attention to detail is evident throughout the space, from the clearly marked and easy-to-operate instrumentation to the tightly screwed-together panels and components, all of which consist of high-quality construction materials. The exterior, meanwhile, represents an evolutionary step forward from the first-generation X4; the overall profile strikes a balance between massiveness (I’m still undecided with regard to that big rear end) and aerodynamic slipperiness. Powerful and ready-to-rev, the turbo-four delivers forward thrust even at low revs and gives the 2-plus-ton X4 a lively feel in and around town. Sixty mph arrives in roughly six seconds and is accompanied by a pleasantly authoritative exhaust snort. The EPA estimates the xDrive30i will squeeze about 25 miles out of a gallon of gas. Similarly, the X4 handles like a BMW, which is to say, very well indeed. Steering response is quick and precise, the chassis and suspension system responding in an unflustered and even-keel manner. The three-position driver-selectable performance modes include economy, comfort (everyday commuting) and sport settings, which unlike other manufacturers’ models really deliver on their promise. The sport mode, for example, keeps the gearing low and engine spinning, ready for the next accelerative demand when coming out of a corner. It really is a blast to drive, albeit at the expense of fuel economy. There’s plenty of head, shoulder and leg room up front for full-size adults, but less so in the split-folding second row. Combine that with a set of head-klonkingly small rear doors and an unambitious 18.5-cubic-foot rear cargo area (expandable to 50.5 cubic feet with the second row stowed), and the rationale underpinning the X4’s premium over that of the more people-friendly X3 becomes less clear. 2019 BMW X4 xDrive30i Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger midsize luxury crossover Base/as-tested prices: $50,540/$57,895 Engine and transmission: 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-four (248 horsepower, 258 foot-pounds torque), eight-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. EPA estimates: 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined The good: Second-generation variant of the popular (and more conventional) X3 is completely redesigned for 2019; stylish and performance-oriented exterior design; two powerful and reasonably fuel-efficient engine choices; twin-turbo inline-four engine we tested provides good acceleration; slick-shifting eight-speed; driver-selectable engine/transmission modes offer choices of good fuel economy or high-revving performance; intuitive iDrive infotainment interface; clever exterior camera array; all-day comfortable; leather-upholstered sport seats up front; nimble and precise handling, cornering and braking. The bad: Fast-back styling limits cargo space and rear headroom compared to its X3 sibling; small second-row doors; small rear window limits rearward visibility; icy conditions temporarily confused the parking sensor system; options quickly inflate the asking price. Bottom line: The X4 bridges the gap between the conventional crossover that Americans love and the stylish sports sedans that enthusiasts crave.