The BMW X4 has had a rather interesting development so far. When it was originally launched, a lot of old school BMW fanboys called it ‘useless’ and ‘ugly’, but sales have showed that’s not the case. It might’ve looked a bit peculiar and it may not have been as practical as its X3 brother, but the BMW X4 had a market of its own.
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Then the time came for the BMW X3 to get a new version, and the G01 model was launched. For production line efficiency reasons, the X4 also had to be launched not long afterwards, since the two are sharing a lot of their underpinnings. Therefore, the production of the first-generation BMW X4 was cut short, to about four years in total. The new model at hand here is therefore a very competitive offering, considering the market seems to be ever expanding.
The popularity of the X4 – no matter how peculiar that sounds – is confirmed by its rivals as well. The first to jump on the Coupe SUV bandwagon were the people from Mercedes-Benz. After creating the GLE Coupe to rival the BMW X6, the smaller choice in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe came out, to see what can be done about the X4 hugging up all the sales in this niche.
Next, a couple of other rivals started popping up, such as the Porsche Macan, if you will, or the Land Rover Evoque, to some extent. What’s pretty obvious is that a number of manufacturers are thinking about this particular niche right now and consider it important enough to develop brand new models for it.
With this new competition looming, the BMW X4 has to be a very good car just to remain relevant and if the BMW X3 it is based on is anything to go by, the premises are very good. BMW claims the two share some things, but that they should feel different. Luckily for me, I had them at rather short intervals and I have to agree with that claim from the Bavarian company.
From the outside, depending on where you look, the X3 and X4 might seem very similar. The front-end, and almost everything up to the B-Pillar, is almost exactly the same. To put things differently, you couldn’t tell if it was a BMW X3 or a BMW X4 riding your bumper on the highway if you only looked at it in your rearview mirror.
Compared to the old F26 model, the new X4 is a better-looking car, in my opinion. The front fascia has new, bigger grilles, and a different style for the bumper. Gone are the headlamps connected to the grilles and for the better, if you ask me. The new lights look a lot sleeker as does the new M Sport package.
Our tester, being an M Performance model, came with a couple of tricks up its sleeves. Like it is the case on all M Performance cars, the kidney grilles are Cerium Grey as are the bumper’s trims inside the air intakes and the side mirror covers. Looked at against the Flamenco Red paint of the car, these Cerium Grey accents actually look good. The car’s shapes are accentuated as well by this color, including from the B-Pillar on.
That’s where the X4 starts distancing itself from the X3. This being a Coupe SUV, the roofline is sloping towards the back. From the sides, it looks just right. However, the rear-end is just bland and the most talked about item on this car. To me, personally, it just looks off and it could always be improved in future generations.
Unlike other cars, where the pictures make things look worse than they are in real life, I think on the X4, the car looks better in photos.
Technically, the X4 is now wider and longer than before. The wheelbase has gone up to 2,864 mm which means you get more legroom in the back (some 27 millimeters) and a bigger boot by some 25 extra liters. That shows BMW has been listening to what the customers complained about. Furthermore, even though the new car is not taller, there’s more headroom in the back, thanks to a different positioning of the rear bench. Six-foot tall people can fit in there without having to remove their heads but they will make contact with the roof.
The rear track is also 30 millimeters wider than on the old version, which means the car is supposed to be a bit of a better handler too. For the M Performance models you get an M Sport differential on the rear axle which should also help out a lot, even though the X4 is an all-wheel drive model only.
Press the start button and you immediately meet the best thing about this car: the engine.
Getting behind the wheel of the X4 definitely feels a bit different than the X3. While I did complain about the driving position of the X3, in the X4 it feels like you sit a bit lower. Sure, the Coupe model rides a bit lower too compared to its more utilitarian brother.
That’s felt immediately.
It’s also a bit wider and those two characteristics combined lead to a better overall experience from the moment you get in. The cabin is just as well built as on the X3 and looks identical too. You get a couple of reminders that this is an M Performance model, such as M logos here and there and the M40d badge in the dash. Other than that, it’s all regular BMW business, with the typical fit and finish standards we’ve all gotten used to.
Press the start button and you immediately meet the best thing about this car: the engine. The BMW X4 M40d is powered by a twin-turbo 3-liter straight six diesel engine good for 326 HP and 680 Nm (502 lb-ft) of torque. Those numbers are huge, especially in the torque department. To get a better grip of just how much grunt that is, remember that the F10 M5 with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine used to make the same amount. And you get all of that in a BMW X4.
Being a BMW diesel straight six, the NVH levels are great, the B57 being well known as a refined mill, as much as a diesel can be anyway. But even though the compression ignition might be a bit louder than the Otto alternative, you soon forget about that as you set off in the X4 M40d. The silky-smooth delivery of power and torque is a good as they get and this thing is quiet too, making breaking the law with triple-digit speeds something you need to be very careful about. That could be partly due to the double-glazed front windows and windscreen, an optional feature our tester had. Thus, tire noise doesn’t become a nuisance until you reach 120 km/h.
In a straight line, the X4 M40d is a veritable land rocket. Launch it and you reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.9 seconds, which is more than respectable. Push it harder and the engine will keep your back glued to the seat well over the speed limit, unless you live in Germany. Even the 200 km/h mark sneaks up on you, prompting your brain to immediately call out an immediate press of the brake pedal, to make sure your driver’s license remains safe in your wallet.
It was absolutely stunning to see an average of 6.5 l/100 km (43 mpg imp) outside the city limits
It may seem like effortless torque and a general sense or urgency whenever you go pedal to the metal might be the only two party tricks of the X4 so far.
But you’d be wrong.
The Sports Activity Coupe can also handle a nice set of twisties. BMW wanted the X4 to provide a great driving experience and for that they reconfigured the all-wheel drive system, which now uses a planetary gearset incorporated within the rear axle to alternate power being sent at each individual rear wheel, to provide outstanding handling. And it works.
To test things out, I took the X4 M40d out on one of the best roads close to my home, a mountain road full on hairpins and tight corners. The X4 delivered in spades. The car needs a sure hand on the steering wheel though, if you want to take it to the limit. The steering is a bit heavy in Sport mode but I think it has to be, as this is a rather big car and you need to be aware of that. If you want to get the most out of it, you need to grab it by the scruff of its neck and just coax it into carrying high speeds into a corner. Tires will start to squeal but the brilliantly set up xDrive system will keep you on track, with some body roll, of course. In the end, the laws of physics can’t be ignored.
This is almost a 2-ton car, and it’s not a sedan either. Yes, the center of gravity of the X4 is lower than before and yes, the weight is well distributed, BMW claiming a perfect 50:50 ratio but still, there’s a lot of weight to carry around. You feel it but, luckily, the low-end torque of that brilliant engine makes it manageable. The rear end will also step out if you want it too, while the front end has tons of grip. As for understeer, it does show up, I’m afraid, but only if you push it to the limit.
If pushing an 1,895-kilo Sports Activity Coupe model to the limit on mountain roads with not guardrail isn’t your cup of tea, you could very well enjoy the car around town. The X4 is easy to drive in every scenario. Busy urban city centers are not going to pose a problem. Visibility is great except for the rear window, as you may expect. The tailgate has a peculiar shape and you don’t have a huge opening in the back to check out what those slow pokes behind you are doing. Nonetheless, it’s not a huge issue and, when parking, the 360-degree surround view camera system allows you to make due without scratching the Flamenco Red paint.
The 20” wheels our tester had are not the biggest you can get on the X4. They are perfectly fine for whatever you plan on doing. However, you can go with 21” wheels, but those will probably cut into comfort. Testing the car on smaller wheels I can’t say the M40d is not a comfortable car, even with its M Sport suspension. It handles the road perfectly, even when the asphalt isn’t perfect. Our car had the brilliant Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on, not some runflat alternative, and that had a lot to do with the fun we had with it, most likely.
As for the fuel consumption, it was absolutely stunning to see an average of 6.5 l/100 km (43 mpg imp) outside the city limits, especially since the speed was, on average, above 130 km/h (81 mph). Inside the city limits I saw an average below 10 l/100 km (28.2 mpg imp) and that’s perfect for a car of this size, with this much power.
X4 M40d or M40i?
And that’s basically why I would get the M40d model over the M40i one. Dynamically, the two are very similar and extremely fun to drive. It may sound crazy, I know, but this B57 twin-turbo diesel engine is absolutely incredible and allows you to party all the time without paying for it. It’s incredibly efficient and, since the M40i doesn’t sound great anymore (thanks to the OPF), the M40d makes a whole lot more sense. Unfortunately, not everyone can get it and it’s a shame BMW won’t bring it to the US. This could’ve been the one car to convince Americans that diesels are a worthy alternative these days.