2014 BMW X4 xDrive30d review
The BMW X4 is designed to offer a more sporting, style-focused alternative to the X3 - and provide a rival for SUVs such as the new Porsche Macan and the Range Rover Evoque...
The BMW X4 is the baby brother to the automotive Marmite that is the X6, which means that it's likely to split opinion every bit as much as its larger stablemate.
It is, in effect, a coupe version of the X3 SUV – very slightly longer and with a more rakish roofline that sits 4cm lower – although it's still taller than many other small SUVs including the Audi Q3.
Unlike the X3, the X4 is four-wheel drive only. All of the launch models will be diesel only; the most efficient of the bunch is the four-cylinder xDrive20d, but there are also a pair of six-cylinders too – the xDrive30d and range-topping xDrive35d.
What’s the 2014 BMW X4 like to drive?
We tried the xDrive30d, which offers impressive performance - our tests indicate 0-60mph is possible in just 5.7 seconds. It pulls strongly in gear from around 1700rpm over a wide band of revs, too.
This sensation of speed is helped in part by the X4's brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox, which rarely gets caught out when asked for a sudden burst of acceleration, and moves through the gears sharply, but smoothly, both when left to its own devices or when selecting gears manually via the X4's standard paddle-shifters.
Unfortunately, engine refinement isn't quite so good. There's a gravelly baritone to its diesel engine, especially when worked hard, and this is accompanied by turbo whistle, both on and off the accelerator. At least there's no vibration sent back through any of the controls.
It's a shame, too, because the chassis is more than up to the task. The X3 is one of the best-handling SUVs out there, and the X4's slightly lower stance and tweaked suspension set-up make it better still.
It turns in more crisply than anything this big should, helped by quick, accurate steering, and stays admirably flat during fast cornering. It feels remarkably nimble, and unaffected by its size and bulk.
The ride is impressive, too. Our car was equipped with BMW's optional (£940) variable damper control and, just as we'd recommend that option with the X3, we'd do the same in the X4. It ensures the ride stays firmly on the comfortable side of firm, even at low speeds and on pock-marked urban roads.
Sadly, it can't weave the same magic to dispel wind noise. The xDrive30d's engine settles at a steady cruise, but there's noticeable rustle at speed, particularly from around the door mirrors and the base of the windscreen pillars.
What’s the 2014 BMW X4 like inside?
The front half of the X4's cabin is similar to that in the recently face-lifted X3, which means it's a decent enough blend of well screwed-together, dense plastics, and well-damped switchgear arranged in a logical and clear layout.
There's not much to inspire and delight, though; it's a shame that BMW didn't come up with something more daring for this more 'style-focused' model than its usual fare – a Porsche Macan feels a fair bit more special inside, with chrome and stitched leather throughout.
Still, the front occupants will have few complains about the space on offer, and the driver's seat and steering wheel have enough adjustment to ensure you can easily get comfortable.
Visibility is average at best, though; the over-the-shoulder view is hampered by the thick pillars and narrow screen at the rear. That said, you get a commanding view of the road ahead.
In the back there's enough leg-, head- and shoulder-room for two adults, although BMW's claim that the seat there can accommodate three is fairly ambitious, given the high transmission tunnel.
The standard boot space is 500 litres, around 50 less than you'd find in an X3. In real-world use the difference is probably a little greater, because the rear hatch will limit the height of items you can carry, even when the 40/20/40 split rear seats are folded to increase the total capacity to 1400 litres.
To put things in context, that's more than enough space for the weekly shopping, or a couple's suitcases for a week away, but a family trip involving children will prove a little more challenging.
At least there are plenty of toys, because the X4's equipment list is more generous than the X3's.
Even entry-level SE editions get the electrically operated rear hatch, 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, xenon headlights, heated front seats and an upgraded media package that includes satellite-navigation.
Should I buy one?
Those in the market for a fast premium SUV that’s good to drive could do a lot worse than the BMW X4.
Its handling is genuinely entertaining, the cabin majors on space and quality, and it comes with an extremely generous amount of standard equipment.
For those choosing an SUV for its extra practicality, though, it's hard to recommend the X4 before the roomier, cheaper X3. The X3 isn't as well equipped, but its larger, roomier boot will fit in with family life considerably better.
If handling is your priority, we still think a Porsche Macan is even better to drive, though, and will hold on to its value better in the long-term. Even so, the diesel X4 is an impressive addition to the class.
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