2018 BMW X4 Review – International First Drive
Paul Horrell’s 2018 BMW X4 Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL The X4 is an X3 with a sharper suit. It loses practicality, gains stiffer suspension and rarity.
2018 BMW X4 Specifications
Price N/A Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engines (selection) 2.0L diesel (20d), 3.0-litre petrol (40i) Power 140kW at 4000rpm (20d), 265kW at 5500-6500rpm (40i) Torque 400Nm at 1750-2500rpm (20d), 500Nm at 1520–4800rpm (40i) Transmission 8-speed auto Drive all-wheel drive Body 4752mm (l); 1918mm (w exc mirrors); 2138mm (w inc mirrors); 1621mm (h) Turning circle 12.1m Towing weight 2000kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1740kg (20d), 1850kg (40i) Seats 5 Fuel tank 65 litres (20d) 68 litres (40i) Spare No Thirst 5.4 l/100km (20d) 9.2 l/100km (40i) combined cycle
THE WHOLE IDEA of an SUV coupe seems crazily illogical. That hasn’t harmed its success. You could say the trend began with the BMW X6, but now we’ve got Coupe versions of Mercedes GLC and GLE, and Audi’s Q2 and Q8, the RR Evoque, and BMW’s own X2 and X4. Plus, there’s the Porsche Macan, Alfa Stelvio and Jaguar F-Pace, which aren’t specifically sold as coupes but look pretty slinky and are probably the best of the bunch to drive.
What is the BMW X4?
The new X4 replaces the original. That was an experiment that went right, in a business sense. OK so the X4 shifted only a quarter as many cars a year as the X3, but given the popularity of the X3 that’s not a bad tally.
So after just four years BMW is replacing the X4 with a new one, which makes sense because the X3 has been replaced and the X4 is mostly just a re-bodied version of same. Not quite though. It’s wider at the rear (for grip and style) and has stiffer, ‘sportier’ suspension. All versions are AWD.
Compared with the old X4, it’s 54mm longer in the wheelbase for better cabin room, but 50kg lighter because it uses BMW’s latest lightweight body parts, chassis and seats etc.
So the X4 is a mid-size crossover, with a longitudinal engine for equal weight distribution and keen handling. There will be powerful six-cylinder options, but the company’s familiar two-litre diesel and petrol fours will carry most of the sales. They come with auto transmissions.
It’s based off BMW’s most modern platform, almost all the high-end electronics from the 5-series are available, for infotainment and driver assistance. The X4 has more standard equipment than the X3, at least in international markets, and standard 4WD too. But we don’t yet have specific Australian specs or prices.
What’s the interior like?
The X4 has a lower roof-line than the X3 (duh, obviously), so you tend to move the driver’s seat lower, and the back seat cushion is dropped a bit too. But it still gives you the throne-like high eye-point that keeps buyers, even city-dwelling ones, coming back to crossovers.
That said, the tied-down roof and thick pillars do constrain rear three-quarter outward vision. The back seat space isn’t bad for two people, but it feels claustrophobic, and any backseat rider taller than 1.85m is going to be rubbing their head on the roof. Rear passengers do get their own climate control though.
The new X4 has a stretched-out tail end, and sure enough the boot space hasn’t been much compromised versus the X3 or other family crossovers, at 525 litres. Neatly, the parcel shelf stores under the floor, and there’s another hidden compartment under there too. The seat folds 40:20:40.
If it has the altitude of a crossover, the X4 also has the seats and control layout of a driver’s car. The chairs are adjustable in multiple directions and stitched in elaborate quilting patterns. As usual for a modern BMW, almost every display and control is clear and satisfying to use.
The standard centre screen is a 6.5-inch job featuring navigation with accurate real-time traffic flows. Apple CarPlay is an option not standard, which seems mean. A further – expensive – expensive connectivity upgrade pack gives you a bigger, higher-resolution screen but its many extra functions are mostly non-essential, such as 3D and satellite views, and connection to your office mail and diary.
Even the byzantine complexity of the iDrive menus is intuitive enough for pretty well all the common tasks. It’s only when you ask it to do something very obscure – probably not something most other cars allow you to do at all – that the translation from teutonic logic gets a bit obscure.
The climate controls are on hard keys, as are most of the driver-assist items. This saves overloading the screen menus. Besides, BMW has its system of custom shortcuts: the buttons numbered 1-7 by the stereo volume button aren’t just for favourite stations. You can set them to call up favourite navigation destinations, dial certain phone numbers or pull up deep-dive menu items, according to what you do most often.
One very welcome feature, likely standard in Oz as it’s fitted to all X3s here, is the widescreen hi-res colour head-up display. It’s crystal clear and has the superb habit of displaying the info you want just when you need it. I love the way you just have to press the steering wheel phone button and the HUD comes up with a list of your recent calls so you can redial without ever taking your eyes off the road. Same with music: press the selector button on the wheel and up comes a track or station list.
The quality of materials takes a step up too, but then given the quality Mercedes and Audi now offer, it had to. The X4’s leather is a grade softer than the usual standard cow in BMWs, and you can choose from loads of colours, some in pretty startling taste. Still, if crossover-coupes are a fashion, might as well push the boat right out.
What’s it like on the road?
The X4 has large wheels as standard, and the well-designed suspension geometry keeps them vertical so they get a muscly grip on the road. The wide rear track helps too. All of which means the X4 will tackle corners at a pace.
Trouble is the damping and anti-roll bars are set very sternly, so it can feel harsh if there are bumps in mid-bend. Besides, the steering, though it’s heavy, is slightly treacly and very numb. It means rapid cornering isnt as much fun as it should be, even though you can sense lots of drive being shuffled to the rear when you really nail the accelerator mid-bend.
Most of the time on winding and bumpy roads I remembered the X3 as more fun to steer, and the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan too. And the Alfa Stelvio in some versions.
There are a few variations of chassis available, so we should be clear. This is the M Sport chassis, which is actually standard, and fitted with the optional adaptive dampers, switched by the button alongside the transmission lever into the ‘adaptive’ mode. This firms things up as you drive more urgently, otherwise softens it.
But in this straight-line soft condition, it has a slight lack of discipline, letting the wheels shudder up and down over washboard-type roadway. Overall body control is good and tight though – there’s no significant floating.
So, a good chassis but not a great one. The X4 pulls it back with the powertrains though. Even the slowest will do what all most people are going to ask, especially in speed-limited Australia. It’s the two-litre diesel, which is reasonably quiet for the type. OK the Audi Q5’s comparable engine is appreciably more muted, but the Jaguar F-Pace‘s is rattlier and louder so the BMW falls well up the pack.
And the BMW motor operates willingly over a wide rev range, getting from 0-100km/h in 8.0seconds. Best of all is the smooth way it works with the transmission, nearly always finding find the right ratio, and usually doing it with remarkably little fuss.
There are also 20i and 30i versions, but they’re both four-cylinder two-litre. A six-cylinder diesel, the 30d, is also in the range; it was a mighty thing when we drove it in the X3.
The top-end M40i has a 265kW six-cylinder petrol engine that knocks out such a vast mid-rev surge that you don’t need to spin to the top of the rpm dial. But you’ll be wanting to go up there anyway because it sounds so gorgeous and pulls so sharply up as it homes in on the red-line. It’ll romp to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
The M40i by the way has even bigger wheels – 21-inch – than the suspension I described above, and firmer settings.
What about safety features?
At the time we tested the X3, it was too new to have had a crash test by EuroNCAP/ANCAP. Now it has, and it’s safe to assume the X4 will be very similar. The X3 got five stars. In the offset-front test all the dummies were well-protected, though in the higher-speed full-width test there was slightly worrying (‘marginal’) chest protection for one of the rear-seat dummies. Side-impact protection was very good. For kids, there are just two positions for ISOFIX seats.
The active-safety features are a strong list, and the auto-brake element performed well in this independent test. Other standard features for avoiding both slow and high-speed accidents include a reversing camera, all-round park sensors and bright LED headlamps.
Optional driver assist packages run all the way to semi-automated driving in a few limited situations such as highways (it’s standard with the six-cylinder engines). The active cruise control works down to stop-go traffic speeds, and is backed up by steering and lane control assistance, which actively nudges the steering to keep in lane, though of course the driver can easily push through these artificial inputs if he or she wants to go in a different direction.
Lane change blind-spot warning also uses steering nudges to help prevent you steering into the path of an overtaking vehicle. The same sensors also give cross-traffic warning when the reversing out of a parking space onto the road. It’s standard on high spec X4s, optional on the base ones.
So, what do we think?
All this talk of sportiness is only worthwhile if it’s good to drive even against conventional crossovers, not just the coupe ones. And in cornering it’s beaten in most circumstances by the Macan, F-Pace and Stelvio.
But the powertrains and cabin pull back a lot of credits. All the engines line up strongly against rivals for responsiveness, refinement, performance and economy. That’s the Bavarian Motor Works for you.
The lowered roof actually doesn’t rob the car of much space, unless you’re in the habit of folding the rear seats and carrying tall bulky awkward objects. No? Thought not.
Ultimately though, the X4’s make-or-break deal is style. Is a coupe-crossover a free-thinking new idea or a silly mashup? And if you like the idea, what do you make of the look of this particular example? We can’t impose our taste on you.