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BMW X4 road test review | Another one out of the design box

The new BMW X4.
The new BMW X4. Greg Smith / iKapture images

CONFORMING means boredom. That's the philosophy for BMW and its latest arrival.

The BMW X4 aims to lure those who like their cars with a sporting edge but need something with a practical personality.

While based on its X3 sibling with near identical drivetrains, it shares only the bonnet and front doors.

The styling is purposeful and eclectic. That's just the way buyers like it - BMW's larger version X6 has enjoyed success from a similar formula.

Starting from just shy of $70,000, the X4 is available with two petrol and two diesel engines.

During this week's official launch from Byron Bay, the range-topping pair was on show.

Comfort

Welcoming and spacious, using the X3 as the basis means an outstanding platform from which to start.

Five adults can be accommodated with generous leg room. Four would be a better fit over a long journey, and those much taller than 180cm may find the sloping roofline enveloping.

The driver has crystal clear instruments, with the most important pair (speedo and tacho) given prominence.

As long as you learn to successfully navigate the iDrive system, operationally the X4 is straight forward. Getting used to the dial format can be a challenge for some, although given this car's audience will be mostly younger males they should find things intuitive.

The overall ambiance of the top-spec models is nice, with refined leather and clearly labelled buttons, but BMW interiors are beginning to feel dated and could do with a chic overhaul.

On the road

What floats your boat, petrol or diesel? Both the six-cylinder options are strong and rewarding.

No matter which engine you choose the X4 can accelerate, corner and perform with near sports-car like prowess.

Sitting lower than the X3 but still maintaining a high-riding driver's vantage point, the X4 doesn't feel like a bulky wagon.

It's aided by Performance Control (which sends more power to the outside wheels when cornering) as well as sports steering. The latter is far more direct than the standard system, and only takes just over two turns lock-to-lock rather than the usual three.

Both the six-potter models also get a sports tune to the automatic eight-speed transmission which has launch control and quicker shifts.

Given the need for premium unleaded cancelling out the higher maintenance costs of diesel, the more sensible selection would be the xDrive30d with lower fuel consumption.

The range-topping xDrive35i comes with 20-inch alloys, but the 19-inch rubber offers a quieter and more compliant ride for little performance trade-off.

Neither of the base four-cylinder models were available at this week's launch, but having sampled them in the X3 they too will be more than capable daily drivers - bolstered by the sporting steering and suspension changes.

What do you get?

Complimentary kit in the xDrive20d and xDrive20i includes 19-inch alloys, dual zone air-con with rear vents, leather-trimmed sports seats with lumbar support and electric adjustment for the front (memory function for the driver), leather steering wheel with paddles, bi-xenon headlights, USB port, Bluetooth with audio streaming, sat nav with 22.3cm screen and 20GB hard drive for audio files, cruise control, along with a front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera and automatic tailgate.

The xDrive30d adds 360 degree camera visibility, dual round exhaust pipes, nine-speaker stereo and damper control settings which enable the driver to choose between comfort and sport modes.

Step up into the xDrive35i and it gains the full M Sport package, incorporating 20-inch M double spoke alloys, body kit, anthracite roofliner, harman/kardon stereo, M designated door entry sills and leather M steering wheel as well as high-gloss shadowline exterior trims and aluminium interior trim.

Practicality

Sporting with a functional edge. That's the X4 marketing pitch.

Inside the centre console bin you can option a cradle for your phone, and it's also where you find the 12 volt plug, auxiliary and USB ports.

Front doors have a gigantic storage spot, able to handle large bottles and a heap gear like magazines or iPads. The rear doors also have a wide stowage allocation.

With a 40-20-40 rear seat split and a 500-litre boot there is an excellent cargo space. Those seats fold flat to provide up to 1400 litres of space, and there are some handy boot hooks to stop shopping bags from sliding in all directions.

Dual cup holders are found in the centre console, and there is another pair in the fold-down arm rest.

Running costs

Sensible driving of the X4 should see reasonable fuel consumption in the realm of nine litres for every 100km. Depending on your driving style, servicing schedules can be extended to two years - the harder you go the more often it needs maintenance.

There are some all-inclusive servicing packages available to avoid any nasty shocks in the future.

Funky factor

Onlookers rarely mince their words with the X6; it's either loved or hated.

The X4 is simply a smaller version and opinions will continue to be divided.

From the back it can appear constrained and encumbered, while from the front it doesn't look much different from the X3.

Yet from three-quarter and in profile the X4 is a distinctive offering with interesting creases and bulges designed to stand out from the crowd which (in the X6) has so far appealed mostly to males.

The lowdown

There is good reason why BMW has added another SUV (actually, the Bavarian brand calls them sports activity vehicles or SAVs) to its line-up. About 42% of all of its cars sold Down Under are of the high-riding variety.

Expect that to account for nearly 50% in the near future.

The X4 won't light the fire of everyone…but that's exactly its intention.

Both six-cylinder engines on show at the launch this week live up to the sporty persona, proving athleticism doesn't need to be abandoned with practicality.

What matters most

What we liked: Strong top spec engine choices, internal cargo space and storage options.

What we'd like to see: Some extra internal design energy, heated seats to be standard.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist. Servicing intervals are dependent on driving style, and can be as long as two years or 30,000km. A pre-paid servicing pack is available, starting from $1090 which covers maintenance for five years or 80,000km.

VITAL STATISTICS
Model:
BMW X4.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive luxury compact sports utility vehicle.
Petrol engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generate maximum power of 135kW @ 5000-6250rpm and 270 Nm @1250-4500rpm; 3.0-litre six-cylinder 225kW @ 5800-6400rpm and 400Nm 1200-5000rpm.
Consumption: 7.2 litres/100km (combined average); 8.3L/100km.
CO2: 168g/km; 193g/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.1 seconds; 5.5 seconds.
Bottom line: xDrive 20i $69,900, xDrive 35i $87,900.

Diesel engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder 140kW @ 4000rpm and 400Nm @ 000rpm; 3.0-litre six-cylinder 190kW @4000rpm and 560Nm @ 1500-3000rpm.
Consumption: 5.2L/100km; 5.9L/100km.
Performance: 0-100 km/h in 8.0 seconds; 5.8 seconds.
CO2: 138 g/km; 156g/km.
Bottom line: xDrive20d $73,400, xDrive30d $83,900.

Topics:  motoring road test