First Drive: 2018 BMW X4

First Drive: 2018 BMW X4
 

BMW has the knack of building niche products, but none has been more prominent and controversial than the X6, which initially had many automotive journalists in a quandary, some even billing it a pointless car.

But it turns out the Bavarian car maker achieved a master stroke. Fast forward to 2018 and not only has Beemer sold the X6 in good numbers for a niche product, but has also enticed other premium manufacturers to bring their own advocates to the swoopy SUV fold, namely the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and the soon-to-come Porsche Cayenne Coupe.

Lower down the ladder in Beemer’s range sits the X4 — a baby X6, if you will — which launched in 2014 and has racked up sales of more than 200 000 units globally. Now the marque has introduced the second generation of that model and it is conclusive from the onset that the company set out to make the new X4 more distinctive compared to its X3 sibling.

Viewed from up front you would be hard pressed to tell the two apart, but the rear leaves you under no illusions as the X4 takes on a much more exuberant design. Those slim tail lights are part of a new design signature that we first saw on the X2 and will be followed later by the 8 Series Coupe and Z4 Roadster respectively.

Size-wise, the latest X4 has grown 81mm in length, the wheelbase tacks on 54mm and legroom swells by 27mm, compared with the previous model. Boot space has expanded by 25-litres and now measures 525-litres (1 430-litres with rear seats folded).

The cabin mirrors that of the X3 with high-quality swathes of leather, while the digital instrument cluster adds a touch of avant-garde to the interior.

As part of rationalising its product offering, BMW sells the X4 at launch in three engine derivatives: a 2.0l turbo petrol with 135kW and 290Nm (xDrive20i); a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 140kW and 400Nm (xDrive20d); and a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo with 265kW and 500Nm in the M40i.

In the first quarter of 2019, the M40d with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel engine pumping out 240kW and 680Nm will join the local fray.

All models come with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel-drive traction.

At the model’s media launch in KwaZulu-Natal, where both models we drove were decked out in an M Sport package, the ride was firm, but not enough to loosen your fillings and the vehicles rode well over corrugated road surfaces.

The turbodiesel is easily the pick of the bunch and it would be my choice over the identically-priced but lacklustre performing 2l petrol version. I didn’t get a chance to drive the range-topping M40i.

Then there is the handling, which feels a few notches sharper than its X3 sibling, but the engineers have distinctly made the X4 the obviously much sportier model of the two.

Hurling it through a series of twisting tarmac bends, the front points and stays exactly where the driver wants it and you can boot it out of corners without the fear of unsettling its composure, thanks to the all-wheel-drive system keeping everything in check.

While the turbodiesel, as mentioned, is the sweeter of the 2.0-litre engine offerings, it did at times struggle to get going while overtaking slower moving traffic. This is where I feel that the additional torque of a 3.0-litre turbodiesel would be more applicable. That aside, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel has enough power and performance for the mundane, daily commuting aspects.

One might argue the X3 is the better all-rounder and there is merit to that, but if individualism ranks highly on your buying decision, the X4 is for you. The fact that it happens to handle and embrace the tarmac so sublimely adds another dimension to its impressive abilities.

2018 BMW X4 Pricing

BMW xDrive20d: R843 000

BMW xDrive20d M Sport: R887 900

BMW xDrive20i: R843 000

BMW xDrive20i M Sport: R887 900

BMW xDrive M40i: R1 132 800