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
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.