BMW’s ‘baby’ boasts a more sporty X fac­tor

LAUNCH NEWS/ BMW has un­veiled the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of its X4 cross­over. Ler­ato Matebese drove it at its lo­cal launch

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

BMW has the knack of build­ing niche prod­ucts, but none has been more prom­i­nent and con­tro­ver­sial than the X6, which ini­tially had many au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ists in a quandary, some even billing it a point­less car.

But it turns out the Bavar­ian car maker achieved a mas­ter stroke. Fast for­ward to 2018 and not only has Beemer sold the X6 in good num­bers for a niche prod­uct, but has also en­ticed other pre­mium man­u­fac­tur­ers to bring their own ad­vo­cates to the swoopy SUV fold, namely the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and the soon-to-come Porsche Cayenne Coupe.

Lower down the lad­der in Beemer’s range sits the X4 — a baby X6, if you will — which launched in 2014 and has racked up sales of more than 200,000 units glob­ally. Now the mar­que has in­tro­duced the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of that model and it is con­clu­sive from the on­set that the com­pany set out to make the new X4 more dis­tinc­tive com­pared to its X3 sib­ling.

Viewed from up front you would be hard pressed to tell the two apart, but the rear leaves you un­der no il­lu­sions as the X4 takes on a much more ex­u­ber­ant de­sign. Those slim tail lights are part of a new de­sign sig­na­ture that we first saw on the X2 and will be fol­lowed later by the 8 Se­ries Coupe and Z4 Road­ster re­spec­tively.

Size-wise, the lat­est X4 has grown 81mm in length, the wheel­base tacks on 54mm and legroom swells by 27mm, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous model. Boot space has ex­panded by 25l and now mea­sures 525l (1,430l with rear seats folded).

The cabin mir­rors that of the X3 with high-qual­ity swathes of leather, while the dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter adds a touch of avant-garde to the in­te­rior.

As part of ra­tio­nal­is­ing its prod­uct of­fer­ing, BMW sells the X4 at launch in three engine de­riv­a­tives: a 2.0l turbo petrol with 135kW and 290Nm (xDrive20i); a 2.0l tur­bod­iesel with 140kW and 400Nm (xDrive20d); and a 3.0l six­cylin­der turbo with 265kW and 500Nm in the M40i.

In the first quar­ter of 2019, the M40d with a 3.0l six-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel engine pump­ing out 240kW and 680Nm will join the lo­cal fray.

All mod­els come with a ZF eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and xDrive all-wheeldrive trac­tion.

At the model’s me­dia launch in KwaZulu-Natal, where both mod­els we drove were decked out in an M Sport pack­age, the ride was firm, but not enough to loosen your fill­ings and the ve­hi­cles rode well over cor­ru­gated road sur­faces.

The tur­bod­iesel is eas­ily the pick of the bunch and it would be my choice over the iden­ti­cally-priced but lack­lus­tre per­form­ing 2l petrol ver­sion. I didn’t get a chance to drive the range­top­ping M40i.

Then there is the han­dling, which feels a few notches sharper than its X3 sib­ling, but the en­gi­neers have dis­tinctly made the X4 the ob­vi­ously much sportier model of the two.

Hurl­ing it through a se­ries of twist­ing tar­mac bends, the front points and stays ex­actly where the driver wants it and you can boot it out of cor­ners with­out the fear of un­set­tling its com­po­sure, thanks to the all-wheel-drive sys­tem keep­ing ev­ery­thing in check. While the tur­bod­iesel, as men­tioned, is the sweeter of the 2.0l engine of­fer­ings, it did at times strug­gle to get go­ing while over­tak­ing slower mov­ing traf­fic. This is where I feel that the ad­di­tional torque of a 3.0l tur­bod­iesel would be more ap­pli­ca­ble. That aside, the 2.0l tur­bod­iesel has enough power and per­for­mance for the mun­dane, daily com­mut­ing as­pects.

One might ar­gue the X3 is the bet­ter all-rounder and there is merit to that, but if in­di­vid­u­al­ism ranks highly on your buy­ing de­ci­sion, the X4 is for you. The fact that it hap­pens to han­dle and em­brace the tar­mac so sub­limely adds an­other di­men­sion to its im­pres­sive abil­i­ties. BMW xDrive20d — R843,000 BMW xDrive20d M Sport — R887,900 BMW xDrive20i — R843,000 BMW xDrive20i M Sport — R887,900 BMW xDrive M40i — R1,132,800

Above: Up front the X4 and X3 share the same vis­age. Right: The X4’s rear has a more ex­u­ber­ant de­sign with its coupe-style roof line. Be­low left: The cabin looks pre­mium and there’s now more legroom.

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