BMW has been relentless focusing on the SUV/coupe sector for the last few years. The X4 is just one of the products of this focus.
When it was first introduced in 2014, many people, auto journalists included, were perplexed by its purpose. More expensive than the X3 it was based on, almost as costly as the larger X5, but less practical, one wondered why it even existed.
However, it’s obvious now that BMW knew what it was doing as the old X4 sold like hotcakes moving more than 200,000 units globally in the four years since its introduction. In Canada alone, over 4,400 units have been sold to date.
It’s no surprise then, that Munich’s finest engineers and marketers have followed up with an all-new second generation X4, based on the new-for-2018 G01 BMW X3.
BMW designer, Calvin Luk, has adopted the all-new X3’s basic design aesthetic for the 2019 all-new X4.
The vehicle is BMW’s first application of its next-generation rear lighting units, which have also made their appearance on the new 8-Series coupe and the Z4 cabriolet.
Up front, a taller oversized kidney grille and smaller cooling openings in the front bumper give the X4 an assertive new look.
The swooping roofline is a little less aggressive in the rear resulting in more space in the cargo area.
With a wheelbase stretched by 2.1 inches, the 2019 X4 is around 3 inches longer than last year’s X4 and an inch and a half wider. Calvin Luk has put this space to good use, rendering a less stubby and better proportioned profile with a more cohesive rear contour.
Accordingly, BMW has also updated the latest variant of the sporty X4, in M40i trim.
This unit has 355 meaty horses on tap and 365 lb-ft of torque. Also available is the less powerful X4 xDrive 30i, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four that has 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
The X4’s newly added length has benefited the cabin aft of the B-pillar with rear legroom up by about an inch and cargo capacity expanding by one cubic foot to a total of 19 cu.ft.
A standard-equipment panoramic moonroof helps the rear occupants feel less claustrophobic, although the seemingly infinitely adjustable supportive front bucket seats are still the best seats in the house.
While the previous X4’s choice of materials didn’t seem to match the price premium over the X3, this latest model’s use of soft, plush leather and higher quality nicely textured plastics has paid dividends.
The updated X4’s interior also includes BMW’s latest driver-orientated dashboard design with a 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system that can also be controlled with BMW’s latest rendition of its iDrive controller.
My X4 M40i test vehicle was also fitted with a vibrant multi-colour heads-up display, and BMW’s Active Guard safety suite which bundles forward collision mitigation and daytime pedestrian detection with auto braking.
Active Guard also includes real time speed limit notification, plus the latest in BMW’s pre-and post collision safety systems. Adaptive cruise control is also available.
I would be remiss in this interview if I didn’t write about one of my favourite new BMW technology features. If you haven’t already seen BMW’s 360 surround view camera system, it works absolutely brilliantly.
Not only can the system display the vehicle within the parking lines from above, it can even position a virtual model of the X4 sized to fit within a parking space.
The parking sensor readouts are superimposed around the car, and using gesture control, the touchscreen, or the iDrive controller, one can literally spin around the entire virtual vehicle like a video game, in order to check the spot.
Upon pulling or backing into a space, the Parking Assistant system is even smart enough to automatically switch into a top down front-only or rear-only zoomed-in view so that you avoid grinding the ends of the vehicle.
A few years ago, engineers could only dream about the computing power needed to render such high quality graphics, but yet today they’re in our everyday lives. BMW’s system is the best that I’ve seen in the business.
Wireless Apple CarPlay (via in-car WiFi) is available and works well with no lag, as does the informative and attractive looking digital instrument cluster. The graphics are intuitive and graphically modern.
With peak torque arriving at a low 1,350 rpms to almost red line, the X4 is a hoot to drive despite its higher centre of gravity.
There is no turbo lag and the brawny M40i’s engine is a treat that one keeps coming back to again and again.
The M40’s six-cylinder model sounds almost as sporty as it does when fitted to the M240i or the 440i M Sport coupe. Downshifts, upshifts, and throttle lifts are rewarded with a “blappp” or a cracking backfire.
Some of it may be attributed to the tuning of the in-cabin audio enhancement, but the digitally enabled symphony is no less entertaining.
Thanks to more extensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel resulting in a reduction of 110 pounds, the vehicle’s driving dynamics deserve high-praise even when the roads get twisty.
Compared to its X3 platform-mate, the X4 has been tuned with firmer springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars than the equivalent X3s. However, the X4’s sharp handling comes with little compromise to its excellent ride quality.
Should you wish, there is even a Sport Individual mode that let’s you choose, a la carte, which driving-related functions you’d like sporty, and which you’d like in comfort mode.
Since the first-generation BMW X4 was launched, the SUV-coupe market has now expanded to include the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe with more coming from other European competitors.
The sportier off-shoot to the X3 may not appeal to everyone, but that’s sort of the point isn’t it? While the very idea of a utility vehicle with deliberately limited utility may not be logical, this hasn’t stopped them from selling.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the concept of the X4 or the X6, BMW has proven that it can still perform its mission of pleasing drivers with the new era of its ultimate driving machines.