BULK UP, STAY IN SHAPE

Head-turn­ing coupe styling pre­vails as BMW con­jures a larger yet still lithe X4 VER­DICT

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF

The big­ger, bolder BMW X4 shows even brash coupe-style soft-road­ers can come of age. Its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion has grown in key cri­te­ria and is a bet­ter mid-sized SUV for the growth spurt. Cargo space is up by 25L and an ex­tra few cen­time­tres of width and legroom make for a sur­pris­ingly prac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle.

SUVs are tipped to ac­count for about 60 per cent of BMW Aus­tralia’s sales this year. De­sign-driven ve­hi­cles such as the X4 and X6 con­trib­ute only a small per­cent­age but their un­con­ven­tional shape and high pro­file en­sure they build brand aware­ness.

Prices start at $76,900 for the X4 20i pow­ered by a 2.0-litre turbo (135kW/290Nm. Pay $79,900 for the sim­i­larly equipped 20d with 140kW/400Nm turbo diesel. Both drive all four wheels via an eight-speed au­to­matic.

That puts the en­try level car about $3000 dearer than its pre­de­ces­sor but BMW has fit­ted an M Sport pack as stan­dard — 80 per cent of cus­tomers or­dered one for the last model.

In the four-ver­sion range, stan­dard gear in­cludes ac­tive safety kit, LED head­lamps, three-zone air­con, head-up dis­play, adap­tive sus­pen­sion and 10.25-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with sat­nav and dig­i­tal ra­dio.

The 30i comes in at $83,900 with a 2.0-litre turbo tuned for 185kW/350Nm, plus leather up­hol­stery, adap­tive cruise con­trol, 12.3-inch screen and 20-inch wheels. For now, the head­line act is the X4 M40i (the X4 M is due next year). For $109,900, it has a limited-slip diff, stiffer sus­pen­sion, sun­roof, heated front seats and 16-speaker au­dio.

Propul­sion in the M40i comes from a 3.0-litre six-cylin­der turbo (265kW/500Nm) that will launch it from rest to 100km/h in

4.8 sec­onds. As­ton­ish­ingly quick for an SUV, this was in the su­per­car realm not that long ago.

All mod­els make do with run-flat rub­ber, so there’s no spare wheel and all are rated to tow 2000kg, though “trailer nose” weight is limited to 100kg.

ON THE ROAD

At 1800kg with a driver on board, the X4 doesn’t feel like a light car. Lithe yes, light no.

The adap­tive dampers are stiffly tuned to help tame body pitch and roll. They do that ad­mirably through the turns but it comes but at the ex­pense of a jit­tery ride over cor­ru­ga­tions ... like those found en­ter­ing those same cor­ners.

There’s also not enough range be­tween the nor­mal to sport set­tings, or even the adap­tive mode, which should be able to de­tect when you’re trundling along and ad­just the im­pact over small bumps ac­cord­ingly.

The base 2.0 doesn’t have the oomph to el­e­vate the X4 from SUV into the “sports ac­tiv­ity coupe” when aimed uphill.

The diesel’s mid-range torque is bet­ter but the 30i is the pick of the lit­ter for ev­ery­day per­for­mance — and it of­fi­cially drinks fuel at the same rate as the 20i at 7.8L/100km.

Sharp steer­ing con­trib­utes to a sta­ble and spir­ited drive should the right roads beckon from be­yond the wind­screen. There’s just enough feed­back to save face with­out chal­leng­ing a BMW sedan for steer­ing-wheel feel.

En­gine noise sup­pres­sion in any ver­sion is re­mark­able, with a dis­tant, well-lu­bri­cated thrum from be­hind the fire­wall au­di­ble on full revs. That quiet­ness high­lights some wind noise around the wind­screen and mir­rors but noth­ing re­quir­ing el­e­vated con­ver­sa­tion vol­ume.

The M40i is cut from an­other cloth en­tirely. The “lite” ver­sion of the com­ing X4 M em­ploys a wan­tonly play­ful six-cylin­der en­gine

PRICE

Up by $3000 on base model 20i thanks to ex­tra kit and tops out at $109,900 for the M40i

TECH­NOL­OGY

A head-up dis­play is now stan­dard across the range. Ac­tive safety suite now in­cludes traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion.

The mid-spec diesel has been dropped, leav­ing the 30i petrol with marginally more power but less torque than the 35i it re­places. The M40i is then se­ri­ously quick.

As with its pre­de­ces­sor, the ride is a touch too firm around town but this one han­dles a touch bet­ter.

Big­ger in ev­ery di­men­sion but height, the X4 now has the vol­ume to go with its volup­tuous looks.

PER­FOR­MANCE DRIV­ING DE­SIGN

Ex­tra space and so­phis­ti­ca­tion make the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion X4 a more rounded prod­uct.

de­liv­er­ing enough per­for­mance to sat­isfy all but the most manic drivers.

The sus­pen­sion is stiffer again but you for­give it in this case be­cause it’s the only way this ve­hi­cle can carry that much cor­ner speed.

When you reach your des­ti­na­tion you can un­load the fam­ily and the lug­gage and re­flect on how the X4 is also grow­ing with the tribe, again with­out di­lut­ing the DNA.

PRES­TIGE

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