BMW X3 VS BMW X4
- Clever tech now trickling down
- Quiet and spacious cabin
- Dynamic enough to dispose of twisting tarmac
- Smaller diesel engine lacks overtaking punch
- Wince-worthy option list
- Full phone integration will cost you
- Bold, in-your-face styling
- M40i is a little beast
- Good ride
- Limited room in the back seat
- Boot practicality reduced by sloping rear window
- Steering feels a bit numb
If SUVs were a horror movie, they'd have to be the 1958 cult-classic The Blob: a drive-in special that told the story of a shapeless mass that grows and grows, eventually consuming everything in its path. A bit like James Packer, then.
But also a bit like BMW's range of X-stamped SUVs. Take the X3, for example, which has slowly but relentlessly grown over the past 15 years, so much so that this all-new, third-generation model is now bigger in every key dimension than the original BMW X5.
Which means the X5 has also grown, which means the X6 has grown, which means the... well, you get the idea. If current trends continue, we won't be so much driving the next generation of X cars as we will be moving into them.
But unlike that cinematic tale, the X3's new and bigger dimensions have a happy ending, especially for riders lounging about in the really very spacious backseat. And there is more good stuff going on for this major update, too.
It's got a new and more muscular design penned by crayon-wielding Aussie ace Calvin Luk, and it's loaded with clever technology (including BMW's latest autonomous technology) pilfered from the new 5 series.
So how does the new X3 measure up.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Love it or hate it you can’t say the X4 hasn’t been a hit for BMW, just like the bigger X6. Now the completely new version is here – the sequel to the original, the second-generation X4. But is it better?
This one is bigger – but does that solve the practicality issues of the previous one? The outside is completely restyled, but has the ageing interior of the past been turfed? And now that this is not just a rebodied X3 like the previous car was – does it feel like it has its own identity? And then there’s the wilder M40i - could this be the X4's ultimate form?
I found out this week at the new X4's Australian launch.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The X3 is a hugely important model for BMW, and one that was starting to be left behind by rival models from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But this third-gen model levels the playing field once more, and launches the X3 straight back into the fray with the segment's best.
For our money, the xDrive30d is the pick of the bunch, serving up effortless performance in a comfortable, quiet and practical package.
Would you choose the new BMW X3 over a Mercedes-Benz GLC or Audi Q5? Tell us in the comments section below.
This is the X4 I wish BMW started with in 2014 – it feels a far more complete SUV and looks confident in its identity, with a thoroughly modern and cool interior. The M40i feels almost like a completely different car to the xDrive20i in the way it drives. Which reminds me, the X4 M will be here soon – now that is going to be a little monster.
As far as value goes the sweet spot in the range is the xDrive30i – a good price, a great engine, plenty or equipment.
Is this car this or that? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model. And while, to our untrained eyes, the changes don't seem quite as extreme as Calvin insists they are, there's no doubting the X3 cuts a handsome figure on the road.
Viewed front-on, that traditional kidney grille has been raised to give it a more proud look out front, and it flows into a bonnet lined with new and defined creases carved front-to-back toward the windscreen. Muscular arches, roof rails and a razor-sharp body crease add attitude to the side profile, while at the back, a more tapered rear end is framed by a hint of rubber from the rear tyres.
Inside, the materials and layout are taken straight from the BMW playbook, but there's been a technology overhaul, albeit one that's more obvious on the more expensive models, with wireless phone charging, an updated touch screen and, on the 30i and 30d, a new digital driver's binnacle.
So evolution over revolution inside, but the cabin exudes a predictably premium feel no matter the trim.
The X4 is all about the design, well maybe not all but a large part of the appeal of this SUV is its styling, which can polarise opinion more than a dinner party conversation that turns to politics. These opinions don't matter anyway, because it seems the reason some people don’t like it is exactly why some do.
Like the X6, the X4 is an in-your-face SUV with fastback styling. The X4 does look like a ‘Mini Me’ version of the X6, but it’s actually the X3’s twin under the skin, sharing the same platform and engines. But unlike the first generation this new X4 was built in conjunction with the X3 and not just a rebodied afterthought version of the X3.
While this second-generation X4 shape may appear to look a lot like the original X4 from 2014, there have been some big changes.
Let’s start with dimensions, because this SUV is now slightly bigger. At 4752mm end-to-end the length (4733mm for the M40i) has grown by 81mm and it’s 37mm wider at 1918mm (1938mm for the M40i), but 3mm shorter in height at 1621mm tall.
Its profile is less humpy and more sleek, too. Edges have been smoothed especially around the tailgate which now looks more minimalistic, while the big taillights have been replaced by thin blade-like units.
The headlights have been redesigned and the kidney grille is now enormous – and possibly too large, with structural supports behind it being clearly visible. Have a look at the video above – when the SUV is driving towards the camera they are hard not to see, and once you notice, it’s hard to unsee.
You can tell the sporty top-of-the-range M40i by its grey grille treatment and side vents, plus a trapezoidal dual exhaust. The front bumper is more aggressive than the lower grades, but there’s not much in the way of a tough body kit – even the roof spoiler is low key.
The changes to the X4’s cabin are just as significant. See, there’s only so much cosmetic surgery a car company can do to slow the aging of a cabin before a new generation is needed to start fresh.
The previous X4’s cockpit was starting to date with its small-ish touch screen, analogue instrument dials and older styling, but the new X4’s cabin is impressive with a large dash-top display, a fully digital instrument cluster and modern styling. BMW owners will still find it familiar, with the layout of controls almost identical to every car in the BMW line-up.
Have the interior dimensions grown as well? Is there more legroom? And how does that roofline affect anybody with a head in the back seats? Skip forward to practicality or keep reading to find out what you get for your money.
At 4708mm long, 1891mm wide and 1676mm high, this third-generation X3 is bigger than the original X5 (which was 4666mm long, and 1872mm wide), and all those those extra millimetres start making sense once you climb into the cabin.
Up front, every X3 feels spacious, with lots of headroom and, with electric front seats standard on every trim level, plenty of options to get comfortable. There are two cupholders that seperate the front seats (joining the two in the pull-down divider in the backseat), and there's room for a 1L bottle in each of the four doors. Up-front riders also share two USB ports, as well as a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.
Climb into the backseat and you'll find plenty more space on offer. There was more than enough clear-air between my knees and the seat in front when sitting behind my own (5ft10inch) driving position, and impressive headroom, even with the optional sunroof fitted.
Elsewhere in the back, three-zone climate is standard across the X3 range, so backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though. There's also two ISOFIX attachment points in the back, and a third top-tether point in the middle seat, so you can squeeze three child seats across the back.
The boot serves up 550 litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat in place, but should you drop them via the boot-mounted levers, that number grows to 1600 litres. There are some cool touches in the boot, too, like a hidden storage area under a partition in the boot, the lid for which is held open by a gas strut that makes loading easier. That extra space is also big enough to store the boot cover.
I was afraid you were going to ask this. Even though the X4 shares so much of the X3’s engineering the body itself limits space inside – which is just the price you pay for the coupe roofline.
So, while the boot capacity may sound good at 535 litres (and that’s only 25 litres less than the X3) the sloped rear window and roof will limit you from carrying taller items. With the rear seats folded down you have 1430 litres at your disposal.
Legroom in the second row of the previous X4 was pretty good, but it’s been improved further now that the wheelbase of has been increased in this second generation. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with 30mm to spare, thanks also to the cleverly designed front seatbacks, too.
Headroom is where it starts to get ‘iffy’. If you’re as tall as me, you’ll be ok, just, but that roofline drops towards the back so quickly that anybody taller is going to be uncomfortable, especially if there’s a sunroof, which lowers ceiling further.
Up front there are no space issues. BMW says it’s a driver-orientated car which I have a feeling is a diplomatic way of saying only the driver will have the plenty of space and comfort, that and all the dials and control are angled in the pilot’s direction. I was the front passenger for a couple of hours and can report that leg, head and shoulder room was fine for me during my time riding shotgun.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, but could be better. There are large bottle holders in all of the doors, and there are two cup holders up front, but there aren’t cupholders in the back and the bin under the front centre armrest isn’t huge.
Price and features
The BMW X3 range arrives in three flavours, the diesel-powered xDrive20d ($68,900), the petrol-pumping BMW xDrive30i ($75,900), and the biggest - and best - diesel option, the xDrive30d ($83,900). They'll be joined by the smallest petrol model, the xDrive20i, and the go-fast and enticing-sounding M40i version, both of which will touch down next year.
For now, though, the cheapest way into the X3 range wears the xDrive20d badging, and your investment will earn you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside, while in the cabin you'll find part-leather-trimmed seats, a leather-lined steering wheel, a colour head-up display, navigation and a wireless charge pad for compatible phones. You'll also get three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo.
Step up to either the 30i or 30d (both are identically equipped), and you'll add 20-inch alloys, full leather seats, a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen running the latest iDrive system, and another 12-inch digital display that replaces the traditional gauges in the driver's binnacle.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option, with the clever wireless version of the system yours for $623, and you might want to spring for the 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo (another $2000), too. Both of which should really be standard on the more expensive models.
How much does an X4 cost? It depends which one you get – there are four grades in the line-up. The range starts with the petrol xDrive20i with a list price of $76,900 and there’s its diesel twin, the xDrive20d for $79,900.
Both come standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, digital radio, six-speaker stereo, cloth-leather seats, auto parking, a head-up display, adaptive suspension, LED headlights, M leather steering wheel and 19-inch alloy wheels. If you want Apple CarPlay you’ll have to option it for $623. Like all BMW's, there's no Android Auto available.
The next grade up is the xDrive30i and it looks to be the best value in the range with a list price of $83,900. It adds full leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, proximity keys, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch alloys.
At the top of the range is the M40i at $109,900, and it brings adaptive M suspension and an M Sport differential. There’s a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, panoramic sunroof, wood trim, heated front seats, ambient lighting and 21-inch M alloy wheels.
The optional Innovations package adds wireless charging, proximity keys and the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster for $2200 on the 20i and 20d.
There’s also the $2800 Comfort package which brings heated seats with lumbar support, ambient lighting and wood trim.
As for colours only Alpine White is free – the rest you’ll pay for. Carbon Black, Glacier Silver, Sophisto Grey, Flamenco Red and Phytonic Blue cost $1950, while Sunstone Metallic is $2300.
How does the X4’s price compare to rivals? As a model comparison there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe which starts at about $70,000 and heads north to a bit more than $100,000; also check out Jaguar’s F Pace which lives in the same price range and Porsche’s Macan is more expensive at $80-147,000 but did you consider you can step into a Porsche for $10,000 more than the base X4?
Engine & trans
The xDrive20d kicks off proceedings with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine good for 140kW and 400Nm. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles its power to all four wheels. The combination will serve up a 8.0sec sprint to 100km/h (though it doesn't feel that fast).
Step up to the petrol-powered xDrive30i, and you'll find a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit nestled under the bonnet, producing 185kW and 350Nm, which is paired with an eight-speed "sport" automatic. It too sends its power to all four wheels, and will trim the sprint to 100km/h down to 6.3sec.
But our pick of the current-engine bunch is the xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm. It pairs with the same eight-speed "sport" automatic as the 30i, but produces a sharper sprint to 100km/h of 5.8sec.
There are four grades in the X4 line-up, a different engine for each and the most affordable is the least powerful.
The xDrive30i is also a 2.0-litre petrol four but makes 185kW and 350Nm, which should be enough for most people but if it isn’t then there’s the six-cylinder turbo petrol xDriveM40i which puts out 265kW and 500Nm.
While the X4 is all-wheel drive, dirt and gravel roads are as adventurous as you should probably get in this SUV. Ground clearance is 204mm which is better than most regular cars.
The petrol variant - the xDrive30i - sees fuel use climb to a claimed/combined 7.6L/100km, with emissions a claimed 174g/km. Finally, the biggest diesel should return 6.0L/100km (claimed/combined) and 159g/km of C02.
Fuel tank size is 60, 65 and 68 litres respectively.
According to official combined figures, the four-cylinder diesel engine in the xDrive20d uses the least fuel of all X4s at 5.8L/100km. The most fuel-efficient petrol engine is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the xDrive20i and the xDrive30i, with both rated at 7.8L/100km. The six-cylinder petrol in the M40i is the thirstiest at 9.2L/100km.
It's actually pretty hard to go too far wrong in the premium mid-size SUV market at the moment, with the other Germans especially kicking all sorts of goals. And happily for BMW, this new X3 is packing the right skillset to launch right into the thick of that field.
We spent the bulk of our time in the biggest diesel, the xDrive30d, and it's so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all. The smaller diesel lacks the outright punch to overtake quickly and cleanly, and is probably better suited to city life, and while the sole petrol option improves matters, its the rich stream of torque on offer from the big six-cylinder diesel makes it our pick of the bunch.
The eight-speed transmission is a treat, too; silky smooth in its changes, and quick enough to feel near-enough telepathic when you plant your right foot.
Plenty of work has gone into improving the ride, handling and NVH, or in other words, how quiet and cosseting the interior is, and even on loud road surfaces the cabin is impressively quiet, and the standard suspension strikes a handy balance of supple and sporty, so much so that, even on the twisting stretches of tarmac, there's seemingly no need to lean on the optional adaptive dampers (leaving a handy $1900 in your pocket).
But the big news in the cabin is the adoption of BMW's Driving Assistant Plus (BMW's autonomous technology) as standard on the 30i and 30d, meaning you can drive hands-free for up to 40 seconds. It's not infallible, of course, and will only work consistently when there's clear road markings, but it's a very handy safety net.
My main takeaway from the original X4 launch in 2014 was that the suspension seemed to be over sprung, which resulted in a jittery, pogo stick-like ride.
This has been fixed for the new X4. The ride is outstanding, even on the giant 21-inch wheels of the M40i.
Helping achieve this is the M40i’s M Sport adaptive suspension – you can either lock it in Comfort or Sport, but adaptive will adjust the dampers on the fly by ‘reading’ your driving style.
I only had the chance to drive the M40i and the xDrive20i – so the top and bottom of the range. The pick for me is surprise, surprise, the M40i. While it’s not a hardcore M car, it comes under BMW’s M Performance banner, or somewhere in between mild and wild.
Its straight six is a beautiful engine. The sound, the grunt, and the power delivery through the eight-speed auto is wonderful, with great acceleration. BMW claims it will do 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2.0-litre four cylinder in the xDrive20i isn't flawed, but to me it just doesn’t have the bark or power to match those fighting-dog looks. Or the handling. The M40i feels taut, planted and confident in the corners despite it being an SUV with a high centre of gravity. That M Sport differential is there to reduce under and oversteer, too. The xDrive20i handles well, but more body roll reminds you that you’re not in a Z4.
What didn’t I like, about the driving experience? Visibility out the slim rear window from my driving positition is terrible, but the auto parking system and reversing camera partially solves that problem. Also, the steering in the xDrive20i feels a little numb – it’s accurate and well weighted but I like more feedback. The M40i has the same issue, but to a lesser degree.
The safety story starts with six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain), as well as cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and a city-speed auto emergency braking system that detects pedestrians that BMW calls its Approach Control Warning. You’ll also find parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and a parking assistant function that will tell you if you’ll fit in a parking space, all of which arrives as standard on the xDrive20d.
Stepping up to the 30i or 30d adds Driving Assistant Plus, which includes Active Cruise Control with AEB, cross-traffic warning and steering and lane assistants that form part of BMW’s autonomous package (the same that appears on the 5 series), and that will allow you - in the right conditions - to take your hands off the wheel for spells of 40 seconds.
The X3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2011, but the new-generation model hasn't been tested yet.
The new-generation X4 is based on the X3 which was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. Coming standard across the range is AEB, but in the xDrive20i and xDrive20d it’s a city version which only operates at lower speeds. Step up to the xDrive30i and you’ll get the full AEB which also operates at highway speeds and brings adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. All grades come with LED headlights, lane departure warning and auto parking.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts in the second row and three top tether anchor points.
All grades come with run-flat tyres rather than a spare.
I gave the X4 a better score here than the first-generation car I reviewed earlier in 2018 because of the increase in advanced safety technology. That said, the new X4 did not score an even higher mark because the AEB offered on the 20i and 20d is limited to city speeds. They also miss out on blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance. Also, considering the poor rearward visibility, all X4s should be equipped with reverse AEB and rear cross traffic alert.
The X4 is covered by BMW’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is in line with its German luxury competition but lags behind the five-year status quo among mainstream brands.
Servicing is condition-based but you can pre-purchase a variety of service packages to add a bit of certainty to the maintenance bills. Terms range from three years or 60,000km to 10 year or 200,000km, and are available in Basic or Plus levels, with the Plus adding brake pad and disc, clutch and wiper blade replacement.
As an example, the Basic pack costs $1495 for five years/80,0000km, while the Plus package costs $2680 for the same terms.
I'm giving the X4 a fairly low mark here based on the short warranty and the need to pre-purchase the service packages.