When is a car not a car, or an SUV an SUV?
When it is an X4, BMW’s new blended vehicle. From the front it looks like a BMW sedan, it even has four doors, but a decidedly taller profile that unfortunately looks bloated and bulbous, especially from the rear. Think Honda Crosstour, but with a better nose.
Plainly this is a vehicle meant to appeal across several market segments and it succeeds in several ways, but mainly as a car.
First, it’s fast like a BMW sport sedan thanks to its 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 that creates 300 horsepower in the tested xDrive 35i. A base 28i model features a still robust turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 that creates 245 horses, nothing to sniff at.
Second, that xDrive part of its name tells you this Sed-Wag-Ute, er crossover, has all-wheel-drive, which makes it a primo choice for our sloppy Wisconsin climate.
Third, handling is on par with most of the better sport sedans, with quick steering and turn-in at corners. You feel well connected while driving and while maybe not the “ultimate driving machine” that BMW claims for all its units, it’s a fine handling vehicle.
Fourth, braking from big discs front and rear is top notch. Get on the binders for a quick stop and you’ll not be disappointed.
In a nutshell, the X4 is fun to drive, aided by a fine 8-speed automatic transmission that is near perfectly mated to the peppy I6. Plus there are four driving modes controlled by toggles on the console. There’s an Eco mode for lower fuel consumption and power, a Comfort mode that gives the BMW reasonable acceleration and Sport and Sport+ which give the X4 a serious kick in the butt and firms the steering and ride.
Jumping on the highway you’ll get a thrill if in Sport or Sport+ as triple digits would be possible in short order. Car & Driver magazine says 0-60 mph comes in 5.2 seconds, and who am I to argue.
Ride, as one might deduce, is sporty, but reasonable when in Comfort or Eco mode. You feel road imperfections, but they aren’t harsh. The other modes seem to firm it more than most of us will enjoy on crumbling Midwest roads.
The test vehicle was an attractive Melbourne Red Metallic ($550 extra) and like all X4s is based on the BMW X3 sport-utility, just with a lower ride height. That makes climbing aboard a bit easier and then there’s the utility of it being a hatchback, like a wagon, sport-utility or minivan.
I always like that, and a power hatch came on the test unit. Under the hatch is 49.4 cubic feet of cargo room with a split rear seat that folds down and plenty of storage under the cargo area’s floor. While I like the hatch, I was disappointed there’s no rear window wiper.
It might be good to note here that the base price for the xDrive 35i is $48,000, plus a $950 delivery fee. Compare that to $45,650, including delivery, for the less powerful 28i model.
But the test unit added a load of options to reach $55,300. Key options included a $700 driver assistance package with rear-view camera and park distance control, and $2,200 premium package that includes the power hatch, keyless entry, a power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, 1-year subscription to satellite radio, “Nevada” leather seats and a hands-free lift gate.
Another $1,900 M Sport package here includes a sport suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, M-style steering wheel, brushed aluminum trim, Sport seats, aerodynamic kit, gray headliner and special exterior trim. The steering wheel was a thick leather unit with the usual cruise, radio and phone buttons on the hub. But it was a manual tilt/telescope unit, not powered.
Another extra was heated (3 settings) front seats for $500, despite these being “Nevada” leather, which one presumes is nicer than California or Arizona leather, but only warm if you heat them. It did look great, being white with red stitching in an otherwise black leather interior. Doors, dash and console featured a brushed metal look trim and the dash’s face and center stack was gloss black. Gauges featured orange numbers.
Seats are well shaped and the driver’s seat features power lumbar and side bolsters while rear seats are hard and headroom a bit limited in the back seat. The overall interior look is sharp and modern though.
Overhead is a sunroof and good lighting along with a HomeLink-style system. Oddly there is no navigation system, even at $55 grand. That’s part of a $3,150 tech package. Adding it would raise this X4 to $58 grand and change.
I’m still no fan of BMW’s awkward trip computer/radio system that includes a dial on the console. There are simply too many information screens you can call up via this system. That can be confusing and divert your attention while driving.
The good news is that this unit now has 8 buttons a driver can use to pre-select favorite radio stations. The down side, it tended to save the same channel on several buttons at once, sometimes cancelling the station you just put on the button next the one you were programming. Weird!
The X4’s rear window also provides the driver a rather narrow view out back, a bit surprising as rear vision is usually a plus in a hatch.
Gas mileage is nothing special either, despite this unit featuring stop/start technology that turns off the engine when the vehicle is at rest. You can override that with a button next to the push-button start. Even with it engaged for most of my driving I got just 18.7 mpg in about a 50/50 mix of city and highway in 30-degree weather. Premium fuel is suggested. For the record, the EPA says to expect 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. That seems a bit optimistic.
A few other observations, the door handles and well lit, the radio runs until you lock the car after exiting it, and this version of the X4 features 19-inch tires in front and 20-inchers in back.
If this fits your budget and you like its look and utility the X4 just might be for you. It’s a delight to drive. However, you may also want to consider BMW’s X3, a more traditional sport-utility truck.
FAST Stats: 2015 BMW X4 xDrive 35i
Hits: Excellent handling, power and braking, plus AWD. Well shaped seats, attractive interior, 3-level heated seats, sunroof and power hatch.
Misses: A bit unusual looking, somewhat bulbous. No navigation system at $55 grand, awkward trip computer/radio dial on console, too many screen options, limited rear vision, limited rear headroom, no rear window wiper.
Made in: Spartanburg, S.C.
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6, 300 hp
Transmission: 8-speed Sport automatic
Weight: 4,260 lbs.
Wheelbase: 110.6 in.
Length: 183.9 in.
Cargo: 49.4 cu.ft.
MPG: 19/27 (EPA)
MPG: 18.7 (tested)
Base Price: $48,000
Dealer’s Price: $45,110 (includes delivery)
Melbourne Red Metallic paint, $550
M Sport (sport suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, M steering wheel, brushed aluminum trim, Sport seats, aerodynamic kit, gray headliner, special exterior trim), $1,900
Driver Assistance Package (rear-view camera, park distance control), $700
Premium Package (keyless entry, power lumbar support, satellite radio 1-year, hands-free lift gate, Nevada leather seats), $2,200
Heated front seats, $500
Enhanced B/T and smartphone interface, $500
Test vehicle: $55,300
Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com