2017-03-16 / Top News

BEHIND THE WHEEL

BMW X4 is strange, and that’s why you like it

BMW might have just created the perfect Florida car with the X4 crossover, but the question is, did they really mean to do that?

It’s hard to confine the X4 to one vehicle class. It has four doors like a sedan, but there’s a sweeping rear roofline that German companies like BMW will still call coupes. It has the raised suspension of an off-road machine, but the tire package is from a sports car. And when the car-like rear deck lid is opened, it reveals a versatile hatchback design.

Seems confusing, right? That’s why BMW had to create the term Sports Activity Coupe. This is actually the company’s second SAC behind the X6, and Mercedes and Audi are even following suit. So, this segment is more than just a fluke.

What an SAC really provides is a crossover for people who wanted a sports car. It works well where twenty-somethings like to be seen in tall machines with prestigious badges, like when arriving at a nightclub in Miami Beach. But in reality, this is a vehicle that works exceptionally well for the senior demographic, too.

After all, the X4 has swoopy coupe lines, but its high ride height means there’s no bending down to get inside. And the overall size is 10 inches shorter than the X6, so it’s even easier to park. BMW already makes a taller version of its cars known as the Gran Turismo that offers similar mobility benefits to the X4, but this one just does a better job of hiding its functionality under trendy skin.

Inside, the X4 only loses a few inches of wheelbase over the X6. That means plenty of legroom up front, and there’s even still proper seating behind the tallest of drivers. The instrumentation is lifted directly from the X3 crossover — a vehicle that shares the South Carolina assembly line with the X4.

The good news about this is that the X3/X4 has a well laid-out interior that keeps many of the familiar BMW family components (gauges, gearshift, iDrive, etc.) But it also feels a little better executed in some places. For example, other BMW vehicles have their infotainment screens mounted on top of the dashboard. The X3/X4’s screen is smaller, but it seems a bit nicer because it’s integrated into the dash design.

Our tester car was optioned with the M Sport interior that upgrades a few elements, including the steering wheel. It’s not only thinner than the stock piece, but also fans of BMW history will love that the smaller round airbag allows the steering wheel to look like the classic performance designs from the first 3-Series and 2002 models.

And having a sporty feeling is key to the X4. The base motor is a twinscroll turbo four-cylinder that produces a healthy 240. Upgrade to the X4 M40i, and that odd alphabet soup will add a six-cylinder turbo that yields nearly 50 percent more power.

The 355 hp motor in our test car loved to generate low-end turbo boost so that it was always the first one to the next stoplight. And while the X4 is taller than a sports car, the sports suspension and grippy road tires made sure there was no real body roll.

This kind of performance does come at a cost. The X4 starts at $46,545, which includes standard all-wheel drive. Upgrading to the M40i adds $12,550 more, and that’s before expensive goodies like the head-up display or 20-inch wheels are added.

In fact, a vehicle like the one seen here is more expensive than its X6 larger sibling.

The loaded X4 is lighter and more powerful than any comparably-priced X6 out there, and it’s this distinction that creates its real versatility.

The X4 is not as capable off-road as an SUV, cannot carry as much cargo as a wagon, and is not as speedy as a true sports car. But it carries a little hint of each. Thus, it can be the sports car for people who want a trendy crossover, and it can be the tall crossover for those who are forced to give up their sports car. And whether you’re a retiree or a club kid, you’ve probably got this one on your premium shopping list. ¦

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