A marriage of convenience...

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Feb 28, 2019

...and practicality gives the X4 a unique design appeal. But will it have the same marketability as the X6, its bigger and bolder sibling?

BMW calls it a Sports Activity Coupe, a branch-off from the SAV category that the German brand pioneered, but the design of the X4 is supposed to be only one of its defining characteristics. Are upright SUVs past their prime and have they lost their appeal? Not really, but buyers have now warmed up to the combination of the ruggedness of an SUV and the elegance of a coupe. More and more manufacturers are offering this combo and somehow the urge for individuality is driving the demand for this body style.

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BMW already has one in its portfolio in the X6, the distinctive beast, which delivers on visual impact and a performance to match. The X4 is the smaller sibling, which will attempt to plug another perceived empty slot in BMW’s range. The X4 was launched globally late last year and has already made it to our shores. BMW India has launched the X4 with three powertrain options; each with only the M Sport X design trim. I got behind the wheel of the India-spec, petrol-engined X4 xDrive30i in Delhi last week to find if this is a better bet than the X5.

Design

The uniqueness of the X4’s design isn’t evident when it is viewed from the front. Yes, nearly like a marker of its hierarchy, the kidney grille is larger than the pair you’d find in smaller BMWs. Viewed straight up, there is an air of an SUV about it, but the rounded edges of the side panels and the gradually rising A-pillar and roofline give away the fact that this is not a traditional upright SAV (as BMW calls it). Yet, there is a feel of solidity to the design, accentuated by the large air inlets in the fender. The headlamps sport a design that is again part-SUV and part-coupe. Inside they feature fully adaptive LED headlights with anti-dazzle high beam function. Step to one side of the X4 and a comparison to the bigger X6 becomes inevitable. The roofline gradually curves up and just before the B-pillar starts to slope downwards gradually all the way nearly to the lip of what looks like a notchback-style boot lid. A strong waistline that becomes more prominent at the rear leads to well-endowed haunches that give the X4 a unique rear design.

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The side profile is very special with what seem like slightly strange individual design features, such as the awkward rear overhang and the oversized squared-edge wheel arches, coming together to create a rather appealing overall package. At the rear, features like the wrap-around 3D taillights, the rear fender’s apron and rear diffuser sporting twin tailpipes, an automatic tailgate with a tall loading lip, and a roof spoiler that just looks like a panel with slits on either side of the rear glass add a lot of character to the X4.

The M-badging can be found on both the side panels at the front just above the wheel arches, where you can also find air vents. Also part of the M Sport X aero package are air intakes, the unique side skirts, wheel arch trim and the rear diffuser, all of which are finished in the special ‘frozen grey’ colour. Hinting at even more performance and dynamism are the 19-inch alloy wheels, which too sport the M-logo, and the special M Sport blue brake calipers.

Cabin

At about 4.7 metres, the X4 is not a small vehicle, but because of its unique design, it is also not the best example of one that optimises cabin space in relation to its exterior dimensions.The five-seat cabin is certainly not cramped, though tall passengers may find the headroom at the rear a bit tight. Despite the narrow glass area on the sides and the rear, the cabin doesn’t feel under-lit thanks to the panoramic sunroof. The design also results in a fairly compact boot of about 400 litres. But thankfully, a full size spare wheel, which is being offered doesn’t take up space in the boot, instead it is tucked away under the loading floor.

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Cabin design is mostly identical to some of the other BMW models with hexagonal theme and the stripes theme that can be seen in the centre stack design, aircon vents, the ‘welcome light carpet’ and in the roof lamp housing being pretty similar. The cabin quality is excellent, though specifically in terms of trim quality, it does reflect the X4’s position in BMW’s portfolio. Still, there is no skimping on the features that this cabin gets. The front sport seats get red contrast stitching and offer multiple adjustment options. The seat position offers a great view of the road, and the dashboard layout is also subtly driver-oriented. The dashboard and the door panels get a leather-like cover with the same contrast stitching, part of the M Sport trim package.

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Cabin features include a head-up display, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon music system, an infotainment system that also offers Apple CarPlay via Bluetooth and an iDrive controller with handwriting recognition. The fully digital instrument cluster is also fab and the entire cabin features discrete LED ambient lighting with six selectable light designs.

Performance

The X4 is offered with two diesel engines and one petrol engine option. All the engines feature BMW’s Twin Turbo technology and all of them are paired with an eight-speed steptronic automatic transmission. The xDrive 30i I was driving had the sport version transmission with steering mounted paddles. The 30i features a 1,998 cc, inline, four-cylinder, BS VI compliant petrol engine that delivers a peak power of 252 hp and peak torque of 350 Nm. That fairly healthy torque is available from a low 1,450 rpm due largely to TwinTurbo tech. In EcoPro mode and Comfort, the powertrain’s response is a bit restrained on part throttle. In Sport and Sport+ mode, though, there is a significant change in powertrain performance. The adaptive suspension stiffens up, as does the variable sport steering. Peak torque continues to be available till about 4,800 rpm, while power delivery peaks at 5,200 rpm. So, it doesn’t leap forward despite the turbocharging, but keep the free-revving engine on a boil and there is a lot of juice you can extract from this mill. BMW claims that the 0-100 kmph mark is crossed in 6.3 seconds, which is not bad at all, though while driving the 30i, one does feel that it could have been offered with a little more power. Driving dynamics are good and despite the mild understeer character, the X4 feels nimble and capable around corners.

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The other two are diesel engines, with one being the three-litre, six-cylinder, in-line in the 30d producing 265 hp and 620 Nm; and the other being the two-litre, in-line four-cylinder, in the 20d delivering performance figures of 190 hp and 400 Nm. In all these model variants, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system distributes the engine’s power between the front and rear axle based on driving conditions and demands. BMW says that the weight distribution in the X4 is also an ideal 50:50 front to rear. Driving aids on offer include electronically controlled automatic differential brakes/locks, dynamic traction control, hill start assist and hill descent control.

Bottom Line

The new BMW X4 is a driver’s car. Owners choosing to sit at the rear will still be able to appreciate the considerable leg room liberated due to the long wheelbase. But, even though one of the features on the list is an option to recline the rear seats, it is not by very much. The X4 comes with a whole list of other safety features, and there are small bits of interesting trim in the cabin that make it sporty and special. Prices for the X4 range from ₹61 lakh for the 20d to about ₹66 lakh for the 30d (all ex-showroom). Bored of the sedan or SUV you have been driving? Are you in the market for a change in body style, with which you can make a statement on the road? Check out the X4.

Published on February 28, 2019
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