Tuesday, May 28, 2019

2019 BMW X4 First Review

There may be no other manufacturer out there who caters to a wide variety of crossover buyers than BMW. The up side to that is that they offer a lot of vehicles that would qualify as crossovers or crossover alternatives. The down side is that it can get a little confusing. We recently drove the all-new X4, one of BMW’s Sport Activity Coupes, and if you’re looking for a vehicle like this, the X4 is worth a closer look.

What is it, Anyway?
The X4 is a Sports Activity Coupe – if you want something with ground clearance and visibility similar to that of an SUV, but want a vehicle that drives like a car and has a fastback shape, BMW offers vehicles such as the smaller X2, X4, and larger X6. (If you want lower ground clearance, there’s a 3 Series wagon. More utility with a less carlike ride? Choose the X1, X3, or X5.) While this vehicle isn’t one that will draw mainstream sales – just over 19,000 X4s total have sold in the U.S. since 2014 -- it isn’t supposed to: the X4 is not a mainstream vehicle.

What’s Changed
If you’re deciding between a 2018 or 2019 X4, which goes on sale this month, there are some key factors you should consider. The new X4 weighs less than the previous-gen, having shed as much as 110 pounds (depending on trim level and equipment), and is more aerodynamic. The 2019 model marks the start of the vehicle’s second generation and it’s based on the new-for-2018 BMW X3’s platform, which is a great starting point. The X4 has a 50/50 weight balance, the goal for vehicles that lean toward the sporty side. It has a lower center of gravity and wider track – also key for improved driving dynamics – and is longer and lower overall.
That added length gives the 2019 a few advantages over its predecessor. Not only does it make more room for cargo, but it also adds a touch more legroom in both rows. There’s also more headroom for everyone on board. However, if you need more than 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row (or 50.5 with the second row folded), you should consider the X3 instead, which offers 28.7 and 62.7 cubic feet of space, respectively.

Not only is the X4’s interior roomier, but it has a clean, updated new style. Navigation comes standard, with a large, clear 10.25-inch touch screen, which has been moved to the top of the dash. Vents and controls are now in a slimmer, more horizontal layout. These changes make knobs and controls easier to reach, while creating space for a storage area below the climate control settings. The seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered, and combined with the cabin’s muted noise levels, our extended drive time in the X4 was pleasant during a day-long drive. Lumbar support is standard with the M40i, and part of a $1,000 option package with the xDrive30i. The interior color combinations and materials are at the high-quality levels you would expect from BMW, with livelier color mixes than in the previous generation. Options include a Harman Kardon audio system ($875), wireless smartphone charging ($400), and front and rear heated seats ($350). Wireless Apple CarPlay is available – it’s free for the first year, then $80 a year from that point on.
The available Driving Assistance package includes lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, daytime pedestrian protection, front collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert. If you want to further expand on that, Driving Assistance Plus adds adaptive cruise control, which also stops and moves the vehicle in traffic, lane-keep assist, and front and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Drive
The X4 is available in two trims: the X4 xDrive30i, and the X4 M40i, both of which come standard with all-wheel drive. We started with the xDrive 30i, which we anticipate will be the volume seller. It’s powered by a 248-horsepower, twin-turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. While you may look at a vehicle of this size and wonder with some skepticism if a 4-cylinder engine offers enough power, there’s nothing to worry about: the engine hustles the 4,100-plus-pound X4 to 60 mph in six seconds. What’s better, though, is that it’s very easy to have fun in the X4. Steering feel is often a matter of personal preference. For me, the steering response is quite good – my favorite setting was Sport mode, which nicely tailors steering, throttle and transmission response for spirited driving, yet doesn’t make any action feel jarring when driving at a more leisurely pace. The transmission is smooth shifting yet has just the right amount of response. You can enter turns on a curvy road at a higher rate of speed than in an SUV, and the X4 feels confident and stable. It’s very carlike even though it has eight inches of ground clearance, the same as in the X3. When the road straightened out, we put the X4 in the more relaxed Comfort setting, and enjoyed a leisurely drive while noting the pleasantly quiet interior.
Our second X4 run was in the X4 M40i. As was the case with the previous X4, the M40i is the more powerful beast of the lineup. It uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which has a bit more torque than in 2018 and the same 355 horsepower. The M40i’s features include an adaptive M suspension, with dynamic damper control to reduce body roll. It also has a differential lock; when the X4 is cornering, the lock works on the inner wheel to greatly reduce understeer. Many of the M-themed driving aids and features like the sport exhaust system come standard with the $61,445 base price (including destination). There are other items, such as the M Sport differential, that aren’t available with the xDrive30i, even as an option. The M40i is a much more serious track and street performer, and the power difference was clear within the first few seconds of driving. The more powerful X4 darts to speed in a short amount of time, only needing 4.6 seconds to reach 60. The M40i weighs a couple hundred pounds more than the xDrive30i, but you wouldn’t know it. The added M suspension and driver assists make this X4 a ball to drive on a winding road, and with more enthusiastic driving, the raucous crackling, popping exhaust is a bonus aural reward.

To Buy or Not to Buy
The X4 lives up to BMW’s promise: even though both vehicles have some commonalities, the X4 has a much more sporting attitude than the X3 it’s based on. One of the most polarizing things about this vehicle is its styling: its combination of SUV height and proportions and its coupe-ish shape isn’t for everyone. But if what the X4 offers aligns with what you’re looking for, it’s important to keep in mind there is a $10,000 difference in price between the xDrive30i and the M40i. For most people, the less expensive xDrive30i is all the X4 you would need: it offers rewarding dynamics with a powerful engine, and has the quality interior and amenities you’d want in a BMW. However, if you start adding options and the bottom-line price starts to approach that of the M40i, it may be wise to start considering stepping up. You get more power, many of the X4’s optional features become standard, and you can get an X4 that’s ready for performance driving.
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