BMW’s coupe-SUV, the X4, in its totally new second-iteration should be enough to satisfy those who want their off-roadiness with coupe slinkiness, but don’t expect comparable-to-a-real coupe fireworks
CarBuyer’s near-genetic bias against crossovers is well-documented, so I won’t repeat it here, and the only thing we’re even more biased against is crossovers that also want to be coupes at the same time.
The X4 is just such a beast, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that crosses the crossover-ness with the (ostensible) lines of a coupe.
Ostensible because for me, it’s never really been true in my eyes, no matter how hard manufacturers try to convince us otherwise.
X4 potted history first: BMW was the first to make an SUV-coupe in the form of the bigger X6 (same size as an X5) in 200X, followed by the smaller X4 in 2014.. While the conventional life-cycle timeline implies the X4 is due for a mid-life facelift, it’s in fact all-new, having moved to the modern CLAR platform and matching the all-new BMW X3 that was launched in Singapore last year.
There will be two engines for Singapore, namely the xDrive20i, with 184hp, and the one you see here, the xDrive30i, with 252hp from the same 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo inline four engine.
The car shown here is unique in that it’s a mix of the two that will actually be sold: The xDrive20i will be offered only in xLine trim for $230,888 with COE, while the xDrive30i is sold in M Sport X trim (for $267,888 with COE), while this car, the X4 xDrive30i xLine, has the more powerful engine, but lower spec equipment.
The difference between the xLine and M Sport X isn’t actually that major: The latter gets a head-up display, driving assistance systems (lane departure, lane change warning, city braking, rear-cross traffic warning), uprated M Sport brakes, Harman Kardon sound system, 3D view parking camera.
Visually, you’ll be able to identify M Sport X models by the satin grey fenders and bumpers (‘Frozen Grey’) like on the X2, gloss black elements and larger 20-inch wheels, an inch bigger than the xLine’s.
The X4 actually doesn’t look hugely different from before, at least from the front, the wider, flatter looking bonnet and lights cue you into the coupe-ness, but at least the rear end with its sloping tailgate, plus much wider, and much flatter, taillights wave the sleek flag high.
As noted in our international test drive, the X4 has been setup for more driving vim than the X3, notably with an e-differential, wider rear track, lower centre of gravity, and sportier suspension and steering.
For Singapore, the latter two are M Sport Suspension (non-adaptive) and Variable Sport Steering, standard on all X4 variants. Usually that’d make our rides-like-a-jiggly-thing alarm go off, but at the X4’s international drive, of the X4 xDrive30i and X4 M40d variants, we came away with the inkling that its less crashy nature would translate well onto Singapore’s rough-n-tumble tarmac.
That much is true as the the great bugbear of crossovers, especially coupe-crossovers, doesn’t rear its ugly head as much in the X4. There’s that inherent crossover thumpiness, but it doesn’t devolve into the Ozzfest when the going gets rough.
‘30i’ hasn’t meant driving nirvana in the form of a naturally-aspirated straight-six for a long time, but BMW’s familiar turbo 2.0-litre is consistently punch, quick to respond, and doesn’t bleat when you wring it.
The handling is decent and darty enough, but it won’t be enough to win over committed sedan and coupe driving enthusiasts. It certainly feels more pointy than an X3, but doesn’t have the natural grace – or low enough C of G – that makes even the entry-level, outgoing 318i ‘put a goofy smile on your face’.
Unlike the X2, which has the edge of being smaller, lighter and generally more playful, the X4’s fun-driving nature is less upfront, perhaps also because you need to go quicker to feel like it’s working. The X4 is by no means slow, but it, like so many crossovers, doesn’t imbue you with any urgency to drive quicker, so it’s just as well it handles day-to-day driving very well.
On The Inside
The smaller proportion of glass to metal, as well as the small rear windows and thick A-pillars, delivers a coupe-vibe once you’re behind the wheel, it does feel like a two-door in the sense that things seem closer, more driver-focused, but on the downside, it also makes the car feel wider and bigger than it actually is (it actually has grown slightly).
That allows the X4 to be very practical, even more so than a sedan or coupe naturally, with a generous 525-litre boot (25-litres smaller than the X3’s), 40/20/40 folding seats and a wide hatch door.
When it comes to worth-the-money, we have to extrapolate a little because of the engine vs spec quibble mentioned, but opt for the xDrive20i X Line will offer the best value for most people.
It has basically everything the M Sport X does, the latest full-featured iDrive (nav, concierge, internet-connected etc), active instrument panel, three-zone AC and wireless charging, and you won’t miss the extra 68 horsepower really.
The takeaway is that the X4 is back and better than it was. But coupe-SUVs, with one or two outliers aside, aren’t really the magical superblend of coupe and SUV promised – even Mercedes-AMG has problems with its GLC 43 Coupe that’s powerful, fast but also confused and weird.
But if you happen to like the way it looks, prefer it to the chunkiness of a conventional SUV, and enjoy a dash more of driving fun, at the expense of slightly worse visibility and busier ride, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the X4.
It’s no rough-n-tumble 4×4, nor is it a ‘real’ coupe, but the middle ground it strikes is an interesting one that’s thankfully free of obvious compromises.
BMW X4 xDrive30i xLine
|Engine||1,997cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||252hp at 5200-6500rpm|
|Torque||350Nm at 1450-4800|
|VES / CO2||C1 / 166g/km CO2|
|Agent||Performance Motors Limited|
|Price||On indent ($267,888 with COE for xDrive30i M Sport X)|