When the 4 Series showed up three years ago, I had a feeling another “4” would pop up in the X line-up, more so with the likes of the Range Rover Evoque and Porsche Macan prodding BMW to react. It did. And the X4 started rolling out in 2014, making it only the second BMW coupe-styled SUV after the X6. BMW prefers you call them “sports activity coupes”.
Strange as they are, people are getting used to their hybrid shape and they are here to stay. Even Mercedes-Benz wants a share, and is now testing an X4 fighter called GLC Coupe, a fastback version of the model that arrived locally earlier this month.
READ ALSO: 5 highlights of BMW X4
Like the X6, the X4 hails all the way from BMW’s US plant in South Carolina and comes in as a RM435,800 all-wheel drive turbocharged 2.0-litre vehicle in xLine trim or optional M Sport get-up that’s RM30K extra.
In other markets, diesel variants are sold and there are 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre X4s and a 3.0-litre M40i that made its world premiere at the 2016 Detroit auto show.
While the X6 was designed as a big elevated coupe, it looks decidedly better than the shorter wheelbase X4.
There are those who don’t take a shine to the X6 nor the X4, which looks like a smaller X6 but is really based on the X3.
Despite misgivings by some about the X4’s place in the world, BMW is reporting hearty sales globally to keep it going. Over 55,000 were sold last year, a doubling over the year before. That’s fantastic, right? But the X4 remains a rarity on Malaysian roads even after over a year has passed. So draw your own conclusion.
While the X3 was a proper SUV, with a shape that is easily acceptable to everyone, the X4 is an oddity as it tries to combine SUV and coupe styling in a 4.7-metre long body– with mixed results. It’s a good 23cm shorter than the X6 and doesn’t look as sleek as the latter. I can’t say I fancy it but I can appreciate those who will buy it for its distinctive compact shape and jacked-up advantage.
Compared to the X3, the X4 is heavier, longer and sits lower to the ground but retains the same wheelbase.
Sharing the same headlamps and bonnet as the X3, the X4 stakes its key claim to differentiation through an arcing roofline that sweeps backwards and ends in a stubby rear with redesigned tail lamps.
Muscular curves on the sides and bulging wheel arches strive to show this is a sporty vehicle with all-wheel drive to beef up traction on and off-road.
The back end, however, only succeeds in looking busy with numerous horizontal creases and elements seeping into the tail lamps that attempt to make it appear wide, you know, like a real coupe.
The test unit in xLine trim conveys modern elegance featuring an equipment list that includes underbody protection with an off-road look, light alloy wheels in a two-colour design and leather upholstery with “X” stamping on the headrests.
The X4 cabin feels premium and retains the clean dash seen in the X3. Visibility is reduced to some extent because of the sloping roof, compensated by the fitment of a rear-view camera. Legroom all around is plentiful but headroom is merely adequate for rear row passengers for obvious reason. Seats are comfortable and supportive for four passengers. But the mid-person in the rear will start whining if travel time is longer than it takes to bake bread, as he sits higher up and have a tunnel on the floor to contend with.
The X4 owner accepts that boot space will be sacrificed for style but at 500 litres, it’s still a decent volume to shove luggage or groceries in, enlarged nearly three times with foldable rear seats. Contactless opening of the tailgate is useful when you have your hands full; just practise “kicking” under the rear of the car a few times to ensure you got it down pat.
While the X4 is less practical than an X3, it rewards with a sportier drive than its less flashy sibling. The X4 xDrive28i uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder lump that’s good for 245hp and 350Nm of torque from a lowly 1,250rpm, enabling the 1,845kg car to catapult from 0 to 100kph in 6.4s, topping out at 232kph.
It’s a strong, smooth and well-matched engine for the X4, delivering the quickness required. No complaints on the paddle-shifted eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox either as it relays up to 100 per cent of torque to either axle in the blink of an eye.
It’s no surprise the X4 is often compared to the X3 since both offer a similar level of tranquil ride at highway speeds as underscored by a trip from Petaling Jaya to Ipoh and back. Toss the X4 into corners and this high rider emulates a low-riding coupe with minimal roll. It handles better than the X3, with a sharp steering that makes for easy directional changes as it gets predictively heavier with tighter corners encountered.
Staying true to its BMW lineage, it packs a raft of convenience, comfort and safety technologies that’s expected of the luxury marque.
The X4 is a case of “different strokes for different folks”. If you are practical-minded and looking across segments, the X3 would be the no-brainer choice. And the lower sticker price is darn persuasive.
The X4 is really for those who want to stand out from the crowd and who don’t mind losing some space to look different, while enjoying a sportier experience.