Is it a sports car? Is it a 4×4? How does it drive? To find out, Matthew Parkinson visited Bowker BMW in Preston to put the new BMW X4 through its paces. Photography: Paul Currie
When it comes to the broad spectrum of cars on offer today, the similarities between sports cars and 4x4s are few and far between. One sits you up high with a commanding view of the road and go-anywhere ground clearance, the other has you tickling the tarmac as you carve corners inches from the ground. With the release of the new BMW X4, BMW is trying to establish a middle-ground where buyers can get the best of both worlds. The result is a car that brings together the hallmark features of a BMW X model with the sporting elegance of a coupé – a formula that saw its predecessor achieve over 200,000 global sales since its debut in 2014.
This new model retains the brand’s trademark BMW kidney grille and twin headlight units, while the new horizontal LED fog lights integrated into the outer air intakes form a new interpretation of the familiar X model face. All models feature Adaptive LED headlights as standard. There’s an enormous boot of 525 litres and despite the lower roof line, the rear easily accommodates the lankiest of passengers with ease. Large stowage trays, roomy door pockets, cupholders and various storage compartments add extra practicality.
Behind the wheel, the seating position is much like the other X models, providing a lofty view of the road ahead, whilst still cocooning you in the cockpit so you feel like you’re in the car rather than on top of it. While you’re sat there, it’s worth taking a little time to take in your surroundings. BMW’s interior design is as sharp as ever in the new X4. Leather is liberally applied and available in a range of colourways to suit all manner of individual tastes and both front and rear seat passengers benefit from triple zone climate control, ensuring everyone can stay as cool or as warm as they like.
For the driver, the controls go further than ever beyond a steering wheel and a set of pedals. The digital dials are easy to read and provide information on a need to know basis, bringing up different dials and readouts depending on the car’s setting. The latest version of the BMW iDrive infotainment system makes its way into the X4, boasting a new touchscreen display offering a raft of clever capabilities. Perhaps the smartest is the Parking Assistant Plus function which helps drivers select and manoeuvre into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. The system comprises Top View, Panorama View and 3D View functions, which combine to depict a 360º image of the vehicle and the surrounding area on the Control Display.
On the road, the BMW X4 is everything you’d expect from one of BMW’s crossovers. The steering is nicely weighted and the car doesn’t feel at all heavy or cumbersome to drive and at cruising speed, a quick dab of the throttle is all the car needs to pick up its feet when you need a little ‘oomph’. The standard car with BMW’s evergreen two litre diesel engine provides more than enough torque to move you along at a steady rate of knots, but those looking for the sports car performance the looks suggest can opt for either the M40i or M40d models, which BMW claim will hit 60mph from a standstill in under five seconds.
Straight-line performance is all well and good, but what use is a sports car that can’t corner? You’d think the raised ride height eliminates any chance of a meaningful connection with the road, but the way the BMW X4 communicates so well through the wheel and through the seat that it’s easy to find the confidence to press on through corners far harder than the X4’s size would have you assume.
The cockpit offers superb visibility and the muscular ridges on the bonnet help you line up and hit the sweet spot of each and every corner. While the standard ride is compliant enough, it’s well worth looking at the optional M Sport adjustable suspension. This lets drivers choose between the magic carpet ride offered up by ‘comfort’ mode, and a stiffer, more supple ‘sport’ setting, which minimises body roll and keeps the car’s balance as even as possible for startlingly swift progress.
The BMW X4 is a multifaceted mystery. I say that, because it does so many things so well, it’s hard to know what to call it. If I’m looking for a capable, high-riding Sports Activity Coupe that’ll swallow all my stuff with ease and cart my family across the country with ease, it works. If I’m looking for a mile munching grand tourer that’ll conquer corners with the gusto of a car half its size and weight without breaking a sweat, the BMW X4 can do this just as well. It can be fast or frugal, sporty or soft. It’ll handle the daily commute, the long-haul road-trip, the icy roads of winter, the hot European summers and just about anything in between. When a car does so much so well, perhaps what it is depends entirely on what you want it to be?
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