- Nov 2014

TheMotorist reviews the new BMW X4

In the world of compact SUV’s, to say that a consumer is spoiled for choice would be an understatement. Years ago car manufacturers realised that the normal SUV was found to be cumbersome for some buyers, some felt nervous to drive something so “big” so they rather opted for a sedan or an MPV. This left a gap open for a smaller sized SUV that would share many characteristics of a normal SUV and even perform like one(even though most SUV’s only climb pavements). So our friends at the various manufacturing houses released vehicles such as the BMW X3, the Audi Q5 and the VW Tiguan to name a few. As stated before one has many to choose from nowadays, if you live in the city think of the amount of yoga panted middle aged women you see driving the likes of the above mentioned cars. Or even the ever so popular Hyundai IX35’s that are recently seeing themselves in many people’s garages. Well South Africa, we have good news for you, you can add another compact SUV to your list of potential vehicles for the summer of 2014, enter the BMW X4.

Now BMW are one of the manufacturers that poplularised this segment, so one can imagine that this car would be something special. Hold that thought! Am I the only one who is marveled by the amount of new vehicles that BMW has launched this year? The four series was a shock enough to many, mainly due to its controversial new name. Then came the Gran-coupe of the four series, oh didn’t you know? BMW has recently launched a four door version of its two door four series, weird we know but we will touch on that soon. Now we have another car darning the number four on it, but this time with an X before the number. This car is a merger of a coupe and an X drive BMW , which basically means it’s the 4×4 version of the four series.

First impressions? It looks good, in a weird way, this will be one of those cars that you will have to warm up to aesthetically. It bears a striking resemblance to the current X6 and even more of a resemblance to the new X6 that will be released next year. The only difference with this car is that its smaller, but don’t get me wrong it’s not small. The car will seat 5 comfortably and the cabin is typical BMW business, understated yet classy. Some like it, some find it bland, I personally like pretty shiny things so I could have done with a bit more glamour in the cabin. Going back to the outside, after looking at this car I realised what was wrong, the rim. It sounds silly to make this a big deal but it’s a common problem with an SUV, the “small rim syndrome”. If the rims on an SUV are small the car looks funny, almost incomplete. The moment you slap on a rim that fills the wheel arches properly, the car looks fuller and nicer, changing its look completely.

The car I have here has the 19inch rims, but if you look at the car that is advertised on television, it has the 21inch rim which looks fantastic. Now that I have that out the way, we can move on and discuss more important things such as the wide array of option you have to choose from in this car. First the engine, I am of the belief that an SUV is best suited with a diesel engine, why? Better fuel consumption and more torque, two things which are important when driving a big car. Alas I have the Xdrive35i to drive which is the thirsty twin charged three litre turbo engine. This engine has become BMW’s flagship, it is available in almost all the models it offers, understandably so since it’s a fantastic engine. In the X4 you have a choice between a  three litre diesel and a two litre diesel. Then there’s the two litre engines too which offer two different power outputs and lastly, the daddy which I am piloting, all turbocharged by the way.

How does it drive? Very well, the responsiveness is there, you’re sitting higher than most cars on the road but you don’t get the feeling that you’re in a big car. That’s a good and bad thing, because you now expect the car to do things that a smaller sedan would do such as take small gaps, blast through bends (which it does well, but for a 4×4). So you have to remind yourself that this is not a boy racer and once your mind adjusts you appreciate it more. The steering is good too, all electric so it is soft but can be tweaked through the different mode settings in the “Driving Experience Control” module which gives you Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport plus mode.

Cars are geeky today and the BMW X4 isn’t left out, I personally like the “Connected Drive” option on the car which allow you to access a range of cool things such as social media, web radio and such. It’s a nice to have but it’s not a life and death thing. The car is also available in three different shells, Basic, X-Line and M-Sport Package. The list goes on but my fingers and concentration don’t have the longevity to keep going about all the features, that’s what the internet is for. My job is to tell you the good, bad and the ugly.

The good: It’s another choice in the segment, it look unusual and people like weird things so it will be a sure seller. The brand behind it has a reputation of making good quality cars and they have not compromised here. There is a list of options to choose from outside and inside on top of the great ones which come standard, such as the automatic tailgate and the rear view camera.

The bad: It’s another choice in the segment, of which two of the other choices already belong to BMW  (X1 and X3). So as nice as the car is you find yourself not being wowed because it’s new but not quite so new.

The ugly: The car starts off at R648 000, need I say more? Much like the Porsche Macan which is a competitor to this car, these baby SUV’s don’t come with baby price tags. So expect to part with a fair bit of money because who buys a standard one of these with no options?…Exactly.

It’s hard to say if I would buy this car over its competitors, or even buy a small SUV at all. I guess the appeal of a small SUV is an interesting one, maybe because I’m of the male species, not to say that this is a car a male wouldn’t buy. It’s a preference issue, If I had the choice I would prefer to drive a big SUV than a smaller one, that being said if you’re looking for something in this segment this car is definitely worth considering. Personally I would have to pass and that has nothing to do with this car, this car is very good. I’m afraid I just wouldn’t look good in yoga pants.