Style-driven SUV is a convincing proposition despite the sedan underpinnings.
Push hard enough and you can fit a square peg into a round hole. Audi's SQ5 started the trend towards mid-sized SUVs with performance turbo diesels and was quickly matched by Porsche with its Macan.
Now BMW is muscling in on the party with an even narrower brief in the form of a coupe-styled SUV with a prodigiously quick oilburner under the bonnet. Matching a monster truck powerplant to a willing chassis, the X4 xDrive 35d then spoils the effect by jacking the vehicle up.
The X4's tapered roof and lower ride height is intended to convey a sportier look than the conventional box-shaped X3, with which it shares its underpinnings.
It's a decent take on the segment that doesn't quite go far enough … in this guise, the X4 is crying out for an M suspension and braking upgrade to bring the rest of the hardware up to pace with the engine.
Make what you will of the styling but it comes at a cost.
The adaptive damping doesn't have enough range. It's too firm in the default Comfort setting then not quite firm enough in Sports mode.
It looks like a scaled down X6, though for mine the proportions suit the X4 better.
Make what you will of the styling but it comes at a cost. Rear passengers lose head and legroom and there's a tolerable 40 litre drop in cargo space over the X3. Oh, and an $8900 jump in price.
BMW says comparable X4s have more standard gear and the 35d packs an 8.8-inch multimedia screen with satnav, dual-zone aircon, a 360-degree reversing camera, 16-speaker audio, digital radio and automatic tailgate.
The layout is typical BMW, though the bolsters on the front seats are bigger than your standard fare and the rear pews are built for two, all pointing to its more enthusiast-oriented approach.
X4 prices start at $71,110 for the petrol 20i and rise to $89,900 for the vehicle in the CarsGuide garage. That gives the 35da narrow edge over the Audi SQ5 at $91,700 but trailing the Porsche Macan S diesel, which starts from $88,000.
Official 0-100km/h times hand the Audi the narrowest of wins at 5.1 seconds to the BMW's 5.2. The extra grunt entails extra fuel use and the SQ5 uses 6.8L/100km to the X4's 6.0L. The Porsche needs 6.1L and is the slowest of the trio at 6.1 seconds.
The X4 hasn't been crash tested in Australia. Given it's based on the X3, which earned five stars, it should perform well if you do crash it.
There's no option for autonomous emergency braking. You can add a pack bundling "light city braking" with pedestrian warning and lane departure alert for $900. Upgrading the cruise control to adaptive with stop/go function is a $2400 hit.
On the road
There's no shortage of forward momentum in the X4 but you feel its weight when braking for the bends and, to a lesser extent, when going around them.
Put part of that down to the fact the X4's chassis encourages sedan speeds when entering a corner. Physics then come into play and it tilts a little on its suspension as it powers around the curve.
It is a genuinely engaging drive at this point. The eight-speed auto is great for fuel economy even if it is largely redundant with so much torque on tap. Gear-shifts are barely felt when accelerating and generally the transmission gets it right when matching downshifts to braking pressure and engine revs.
This is a big car capable of hitting big numbers on the speedo very quickly between corners
Push harder — somewhere under the elevated sheet metal lurks a 3 Series after all — and the X4 shows it could do with stiffer suspension. The theory should then be that it sacrifices ultimate handling for a better ride around down and it does … without soaking up bumps like an Asian-developed car. Rivals such as the Porsche Macan excel on both counts.
The brakes do the job without inspiring huge amounts of confidence. They're more than adequate for normal driving but don't have the bite and outright stopping power to be a good pairing with this engine.
Given this is a big car capable of hitting big numbers on the speedo very quickly between corners, I'd be looking to upgrade the brake package.