BMW’s X4 SAV (sport-activity vehicle) is a fastback version of the boxier X3 and a smaller version of the first BMW SAV, the X6.
The concept in play here pits the Bimmer against rivals such as Jaguar’s F-Pace, the Range Rover Velar, Mercedes-Benz’s GLC, Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio and Porsche’s Macan, to name five. My choice? Read on.
First, though, a little history. The first version of the X4 arrived in 2015 and just three years later, BMW delivered a major re-do, even though the X4 has been a modest sales success in North America. Still, the Russians like it and so do certain markets in Europe and elsewhere.
The X4 is not an eminently practical four-door wagon. That’s because utility has been sacrificed for styling. That sloping roofline might look sexy; but it’s not an ideal solution for your noggin. I regularly whacked my head getting into the driver’s seat; you must really tuck your head to access the rear.
A sideways glance at this rig explains everything. See the tiny glass areas on the side? Now you understand.
What you can’t see is the quite generous rear-seat legroom. The cargo hold is limited by the racy hatchback design, yet it’s still generous enough for golf clubs or a foldaway playpen. BMW sacrificed comfortable ingress and egress for the roofline of a 1968 Mustang fastback, but somehow managed to create adequate space for legs and cargo.
If you know your BMWs, you’ll instantly see that the X4 and the X3 share almost everything you see and touch in the cabin. The sport seats are terrific, all the materials are obviously of a high quality, though not flashy at all, and all the bits and pieces fit together nicely. The digital instrument cluster is excellent. After nearly two decades, BMW has almost managed to make iDrive user-friendly. This infotainment interface is not elegant, but it is at least functional.
BMW types like to say that the fastback design isn’t just an artistic exercise – that the sleek shape helps with the raging dynamics of a compact SAV with a lower centre of gravity than, say, the X3. But that is a little bit silly. If you want wagon with style, grace and which sits lower to the ground, try Volvo’s delightful S60.
The best performing of the two X4 models sold in Canada is the M40i with its turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six (355 horsepower). It, says BMW, will do 0-100 km/hour in 4.8 seconds and I have no reason to doubt the claim. But it starts at $66,000.
The “base” model is the xDrive30i with its smaller, turbocharged 2.0-litre four-banger (241 hp). It has a base price of $53,000 and would be my choice for value and all-around usefulness at a $13,000 discount on the M40i.
I mean, both come with standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, not to mention a long list of luxury goods. Both also come with BMW’s very weird and not entirely intuitive shift lever, though that little oddity does not affect performance, once mastered.
Yes, yes, the M40i is hot, sounds delicious and corners like Kawhi Leonard driving around defenders to the hoop. It’s a gem that belies its tall stance.
The shift paddles at your fingertips are fun to play with in this rig, the brakes eye-poppingly strong and this rig’s agility and ability to hold its stance in a tight sweeper are staggering. I also like the entertaining noises that burst from the tailpipes with downshifts.
Still, the four-cylinder X4 does not demand much in the way of compromise. It’s lively and fun. The X4 xDrive30i is a slightly simpler car, too. For instance, you don’t need to even consider having BMW’s gimmicky gesture-control system for managing infotainment functions.
So, among the many, many choices you have in rigs of this sort, which would I choose? My favorite is the Macan, with this X4 a close second. The GLC feels like a nice station wagon, the Velar seems overpriced, the F-Pace is a little bland compared to the others and the Stelvio comes off as slightly tinny.
Because Porsches are dear and the dealers not always willing to deal, if it were my money, I’d likely settle on the four-cylinder X4, but not before test driving all of them. Extensively.
What’s the fun in buying without a lot of shopping?
Base price: $66,000. As tested: $77,145.
Premium Package Enhanced option package at $5,500, includes: Universal Remote Control; Comfort Access; Lumbar Support; Storage Compartment Package; Seat Heating; Front and Rear Ambient Lighting; Head-Up Display; SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner; Harman Kardon Sound System; Wireless Charging with Extended Bluetooth and USB; BMW Gesture Control; Full Digital Instrument Display; WiFi Hotspot; BMW ConnectedDrive Services Professional.
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder, turbocharged (355 horsepower/365 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.1 combined (using premium fuel.