2015 BMW X4

Squished SUV or lifted sports coupe?

  • Likes
  • Acceleration
  • steering and handling
  • smoothness
  • interior features and quality
  • Dislikes
  • Identity-crisis styling
  • poor rear visibility
  • brake pedal feel

Think of it as a downsized X6 or a squished X3. BMW calls this shoe-shaped crossover a "Sports Activity Coupe," and its purpose is as confusing as its name. Good dynamics, a sweet inline-6 engine and plenty of comfort features make this odd machine at least pleasant, however.

While the BMW X4 may look like a bizarre niche vehicle, it comes to seem almost inevitable in light of BMW's current compulsion to add fastback-y versions of nearly every model it offers. In fairness, the X4 is still a pleasant, well-made and competent vehicle. BMW's inline-6 engine is as smooth and willing as ever, taking the two-ton X4 to 60 in just over five seconds and making enthusiastic turbo whistles as it does so. The 8-speed sport automatic transmission is about as quick-shifting and intuitive as slushboxes get, and it responds to input from the paddle shifters nearly instantaneously.

Our Alpine White test car, featuring the $1,900 M Sport package (probably the only option we would spec on any new BMW) handles better than anything this tall has a right to. Its torque-vectoring all-wheel drive helps mitigate understeer and the M-sport's Dynamic Damper Control does a good job of keeping body roll in check. The X4 feels like it can keep pace with a 3 Series GT on a twisty road. The ride is stiffer than we're used to in a 3 Series, but then this is a Sport Activity Coupe. Still, we were a little concerned with how unhappily the X4 took a few speed bumps. If you're looking for a sporty off-roader, you're probably better off with a Range Rover. Or a Subaru, for that matter.

The BMW X4 xDrive 35i comes well-equipped, tongue-twister of a name and all. Our test car, with the $3,150 Technology Package and $700 Driver Assistance Plus Package, featured parking sensors, active blind spot detection, surround view cameras, a navigation system with BMW Online and BMW Apps and a nifty head-up display which can be configured to show your current speed juxtaposed next to the local speed limit. The standard Nevada Leather seats are very comfortable, the gauges are easy to read and the Harman Kardon audio system is excellent, with sound so full and clear it feels like you are alone with your music in a marble vault.

Like most current BMW cars and SUVs, the X4 35i provides multiple driving modes. Using a switch on the center console, drivers can toggle between sport+, sport, comfort and eco pro settings. Sport+ sharpens throttle response, tells the transmission to hold gears longer and dials back the stability control to its most forgiving setting. Sport is similar but less extreme, leaving traction control in place. Comfort is a "normal" mode, with mellow throttle response and transmission shifts optimized for smoothness. Eco pro, like the name implies, is meant to maximize economy, giving tepid response and telling the transmission to upshift right away. During some light cruising in eco pro mode, we never saw the tach needle go above 1,500 rpm. A display appeared under the speedometer to inform us that we had gained 0.3 miles of range by driving this way.

The BMW X4 also comes standard with an automatic stop/start feature, useful for saving gas at long red lights or when stopped in traffic. The mode-selection and fuel-saving tech may not turn this large crossover into a Prius, but they are part of the expected set of features on a well-equipped new premium car. The X4 35i may be a funny-looking hodgepodge of design, or a car that tries to fit into every possible category, but in a way it does have it all. There is a case to be made for the usefulness of the X4: if you want to drive a sporty coupe most of the time, but occasionally need to carry some skis or take relatives and friends to the airport with all of their luggage, then the X4 might make sense. Not as much sense as a 3 Series wagon, of course, but then the truth is most X4s will be sold on style, not functionality.

So, if driving a 3 Series is just too boring for you, an X3 is not sporty enough and a 435i is too sporty, then the X4 could be your ideal BMW. Or perhaps you have a driveway with a ditch that will scrape a 3 Series, but your garage door opening is too short to fit an X3. Then the X4 may be the vehicle you've been waiting for, allowing you to finally trade in your lifted 335i xDrive.

Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, 12-year/unlimited-mile rust perforation warranty, 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance, 4-year/50,000-mile free maintenance program

Visit the BMW website

Specs

Base Price: $48,000

As Tested: $48,000

  • 19 / 27 mpg
  • EPA
  • 5.2 sec
  • 0-60
  • 300 hp
  • Horsepower
  • 144 mph
  • Top Speed
  • Engine: 3.0-liter inline-6 turbo
  • Horsepower: 300 hp
  • Torque: 300
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb Weight: 4,253 lbs
  • Wheelbase: 110.6 in
  • Length: 184.3 in
  • Width: 74.1 in
  • Height: 63.9 in
  • Brakes: Front and rear ventilated disc with ABS, EBD and brake fade compensation
  • Suspension: Front machperson strut; rear multilink
  • Traction: Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control standard; start-off assistant and hill descent control standard
  • 0-60 mph: 5.2 sec
  • 60-0 mph: 113 ft.
  • Top Speed: 144 mph
  • EPA City: 19 mpg
  • EPA Highway: 27 mpg
  • Combined MPG: 22 mpg
  • Seating Capacity: 5
  • Safety: N/A

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