FIRST DRIVE: 2019 BMW X4 – A Refined and Improved Sports Activity Coupe

Test Drives | June 30th, 2018 by 24
2019 G02 BMW X4 M40i test drive 01 830x553

Since its introduction in Summer of 2014, BMW’s first midsize Sports Activity Coupe – the X4 – landed in the hands of over 200,000 owners, …

Since its introduction in Summer of 2014, BMW’s first midsize Sports Activity Coupe – the X4 – landed in the hands of over 200,000 owners, becoming one of the most popular niche models ever launched by BMW. Just like the previous generation F15 X5, the X4 had a shorter production cycle than usual, so four years later, BMW is now ready to introduce the second-generation G02 X4.

At a press event in South Carolina, the home of BMW’s largest plant in the world, and a major job creator in the area, the new X4 was introduced to journalists from around the world. While our European counterparts had the opportunity to sample the X4 M40d – the second X4 model part of the M Performance Automobile family – we instead got the wheels of the X4 M40i, the top dog in the U.S. market.

2019 G02 BMW X4 M40i test drive 22 830x553

Dimmensions

Just like most recent BMWs, the new X4 has gained some width and length – 81 mm longer and 37 mm wider than the outgoing mode, its wheelbase has been stretched a further 54 mm while also providing 27 mm more rear legroom. The roof is also 3 mm closer to the ground than before which BMW says it plays in a role in the sporty character of the X4.

Despite its larger size, the CLAR platform used in new BMWs helps the G02 X4 shave off about 110 lbs of weight (50 kg). Although the the X4 and the new X3 share the same chassis and components, the new G02 X4 was built to fit the profile of a more dynamic and thrills-seeker driver, so most of the fine engineering happened under the hood and in the underpinnings.

Interior

Inside is where the first X4 shows its age, and while the new generation G02 X4 follows on the steps of its X3 brother, the quality of finishes and materials inside the cabin is what stands out immediately. It’s also better looking, and it can be had with BMW’s Individual treatment. The sport seats are standard on the X4 M40i and there is also a new optional Vernasca leather. There’s also a new color option, Tacora Red, as well as black leather available with either blue or red contrast stitching. Unfortunately the car we drove lacked the Sports Steering wheel which according to BMW is stuck in the regulators’ purgatory and will arrive in the future.

The free floating touchscreen is standard and measure 10.3 inches in width and sits atop the center console. BMW of North America says that navigation and panoramic roof are standard as well, while the 75 percent wider head-up display can be purchased as an option. Other add-ons include electroplated trim, three-zone climate control, ventilated seats, ambient lighting, sun blind, Apple CarPlay ( Android Auto is still missing) and a Wi-Fi hotspot that can accommodate up to 10 devices.

Engines

In the US, there will only be two at launch, the BMW X4 xDrive30i and the BMW X4 M40i. The former will use BMW’s typical B48 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The latter will use BMW’s B58 engine, rather than the old X4’s N55 engine, and it will make 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Both will be paired with the ubiquitous ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic and xDrive all-wheel drive. According to BMW, the X4 M40i can get from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, which is the same as the X3 M40i.

Road Test

Our day kicked off in the early hours of the morning with a quick trip to the BMW Performance Center where a fleet of X4s were waiting to be driven. The first part of the day would be spent on the backroads around Spartanburg and into North Carolina, before returning to the Performance Center for an afternoon on the track.

Along with the brawnier engine, the X4 M40i comes with the usual Adaptive M Suspension, M Sport brakes and M Sport Exhaust Systems, while riding on 19 inch tires wrapped around M Performance wheels. Like a proper test car, our 2019 BMW X4 M40i M40i was loaded with M Performance brakes and the optional M Sport differential, which enables greater traction and speeds while exiting corners.

According to Steffen Koch, the X4’s Driving Dynamics project manager, both the standard conventional suspension and the optional adaptive M version are tuned with firmer springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars than the X3 M40i, a car that has been highly praised by us and other journalists. At the same time, the 55 mm / rev steering ratio is more direct from the center without being too light, which will also decrease the hand crossover in city traffic. The same engineer also referenced the additional work that went into the xDrive system which uses a planetary gearset incorporated within the rear axle to individually control every wheel.

Through the curvy country roads, the X4 has immediately impressed us with its steering feedback. While we loved the X3 M40i’s behavior on and off the track, the new X4 is clearly a step ahead when it comes to precision, weight and input. Aided by the M differential, the new X4 feels lighter on its feet and borrows the capabilities of a sedan rather than a crossover.

Of course, as always, the driving behavior can be altered with a push of a button, cycling through the usual Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes which define the throttle response, suspension stiffness, gear shifting and the exhaust noise. Speaking of the new exhaust in the X4 M40i, it is arguably one of the best we’ve encountered in a new BMW. While in Sport or Sport Plus, the exhaust immediately gets louder while intentionally backfiring providing some beautiful music to our ears. Yes, there is some fake engine noise funneled through the cabin, but even when standing by the road, the X4 M40i’s sound is easily recognizable.

If you want to have some fun, then Sport Plus will take care of that for you, pushing you easily and quickly in the back of the extra supportive sport seats (love the adjustable bolsters). Shifting is flawless, thanks to the always evolving ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, and the sync with the gas pedal is perfect as well.

The M Sport brakes shine in the X4 M40i and even without a proper instrumented test, it’s easy to tell that they bring some great stopping distance. The Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance tires are grippy, which kinda helps with this tail-happy X4.

In the North Carolina mountains, the less travelled roads allowed us some fun, modulating the gas pedal from time to time to test the suspension response and body-roll in tight corners, and despite some slight understeer, the X4 is a more than a decent “cornering king”, when pushed to its limit. Even on the imperfect asphalt, the ride quality gets easily smoothed out with the adaptive dampers, so it will never feel too harsh, even in when driven it its highest dynamic setting.

Track Test

To drive the point home, BMW engineers encouraged us to spend some decent track time with the X4 M40i. With that being said, the groups were divided into lovers of drifting and wet skidpad, and others who love the challenges of a tight and technical track course. The idea behind this exercise was to test the X4 with different traction settings, from full DSC ON to completely OFF.

Of course, the X4 M40i won’t live much on the track, but nonetheless, it’s an opportunity for BMW to once again reinforce the “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan. As you’d expect, with DSC ON, the midsize crossover is forgiving, allowing even a non-experienced track driver to have some safe fun. The grip is plenty, the tail is kept in check, allowing you to effortlessly attack even the tightest corners at the BMW Performance Center.

Turning off the DSC brings out the beast within the X4. Now the car is less docile, requiring your full attention on the track. The differential is activated and the tail comes out in every corner allowing for some decent oversteering. It is certainly more engaging and free spirited, demonstrating again the driving dynamics efforts that have gone into this new X4. And just in case you run off the track (and unfortunately we did) and need the full traction, BMW says that severe braking conditions will automatically turn on the DSC to basically save your butt.

The last part of the day was spent on the familiar wet skidpad where we competed with others for the longest slide. The man in charge to show us how it’s properly done was Matt Mullins, the Chief Driving Instructor at the M Performance Center, and also the man behind the BMW M5 Drift Record.

Conclusion

Just like the previous generation X4, the G02 model has a couple of customers in mind. One could be a lover of crossovers who enjoys a dynamic design and an equally dynamic driving experience. This could be the guy that comes from a sports coupe but it’s reluctant to jump into a “Dad Car”, or maybe the stylish woman that sees the X4 as a brand statement, but regardless of the exact customer profile, the new X4 will be found in more garages than its predecessor.

The BMW X4 arrives at dealerships in July 2018 with a starting price of $50,450 for the xDrive30i and $60,450 for the M40i. In the ever growing world of SUVs, the new X4 will take on serious challengers, like the Porsche Macan or the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Coupe.

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