BMW recently added a new crossover-style vehicle to its U.S. lineup, the five-door X4 Sports Activity Coupe, designed to meld coupe-like styling with the versatility of a wagon.
The German luxury automaker, whose forte is producing cars that are exceedingly fun to drive, introduced the X4 into its lineup for 2015 below the larger and more-expensive X6, but with essentially the same concept.
With four passenger doors and a tailgate, the X4 is a vehicle that can hold up to five people and their sports gear. And with its standard BMW intelligent all-wheel drive, it’s designed to go lots of places that the average sports coupe could never imagine. It can even ford streams at depths up to 19.7 inches.
The base X4 xDrive 28i and the xDrive 35i were rolled out first, for 2015. Then a new top-end model, the M40i, was added for 2016, replacing the 35i.
Prices for 2017 begin at $45,550 (plus $995 freight) for the 28i, which has a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged engine; and $58,100 for our test vehicle, the uplevel xDrive M40i. It comes with a 355-horsepower, 3.0-liter M Performance TwinPower turbo inline six-cylinder.
The base price for the X4 is well below that of the X6, which ranges from $61,400-$76,100. The X4 is positioned just above the smaller X3 Sports Activity Vehicle, which runs from about $40,000-$485,000, and isn’t quite as coupe-like.
Another plus for U.S. customers: BMW produces the X4 at its U.S. plant, in Greer, S.C. It’s yet another product for the busy South Carolina facility, which has made a variety of excellent BMW vehicles over the past couple of decades.
Both versions of the X4 come with an eight-speed Steptronic sport automatic transmission with manual-shift paddles. The X4 is just 0.6 inches longer than the X3, but it’s also lower, giving it the coupelike profile despite its roomy interior.
It’s meant to have a much sportier look than the X3, and even though it has a rear hatch that gives it SUV-style cargo convenience, its stance is much more carlike than most sport utility vehicles.
Among the X4’s muscular design cues are large air intakes on the outer edges of the front fascia, and what BMW calls “precise character lines in the front apron.”
These features lower the vehicle’s “visual center of gravity” closer to the road, the automaker says. Also included are LED fog lights below the signature twin round headlights, which is a design element on all of the BMW X models, including the subcompact X1, which is the entry-level X model, with a $33,100 starting price.
Inside, the X4 blends “sportiness and exclusivity.” BMW says. The body is 1.5 inches lower than that of the X3, and front-seat occupants are nearly an inch lower than those in the rear seat, which can accommodate up to three passengers. It has a 40/20/40 split-folding seatback to allow for expansion of the cargo area, which is accessed through the power rear hatch.
Both models come with BMW’s exclusive iDrive Controller and central display, with eight programmable memory buttons.
Optional is a navigation system, included on our test model in the Technology Package ($2,750), which also comes with a new iDrive Controller with a touchpad. It lets the user write letters on the screen with a fingertip to input text, such as a destination address. It also brings a head-up display.
The cabin has premium materials, including subtle electroplated accents, a high-gloss black-panel look and aluminum trim strips in the wood paneling. Among other features are a sport leather steering wheel with shift paddles, variable sport steering, Performance Control and rear Park Distance Control.
Besides the Technology Package, we had the Lighting Package ($1,900), which added adaptive full LED headlights with automatic high beams; and the Cold Weather Package ($950), which tacked on a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and retractable headlight washers.
Also included on the tester were the special 20-inch M light-alloy wheels ($950), along with a rearview camera ($400) and Surround View camera package ($750). Surround View, similar to Infiniti’s Around View system, gives the driver a bird’s-eye view of the area around the vehicle from tiny cameras front and rear and in each side mirror.
Other standard features on the M40i included an anthracite headliner, 14-way power front seats with four-way lumbar support and driver’s seat memory, LED fog lights, Comfort Access keyless entry and pushbutton start, Harmon Kardon surround sound audio, a moon roof, and rain-sensing wipers.
The TwinPower Turbo engines in the X4 use direct injection, and come with variable camshaft control and valve timing. With the six-cylinder, there is 343 foot-pounds of torque; with the four-cylinder, 260 foot-pounds. The six-cylinder X4 can go from zero-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, while the four-cylinder achieves 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds.
A sport suspension is standard, along with the xDrive all-wheel drive. Also included is Performance Control, which uses the electronic stability control system to send power to the outside rear wheel when cornering to improve “traction, turn-in and directional stability,” BMW says. Variable sport steering is part of the system.
There is an xDrive “status display” with three-dimensional graphics to keep the driver informed of the car’s body roll and pitch.
A special Eco Pro mode, selected by the driver, helps improve fuel economy. It includes a feature that shuts off fuel when the driver lifts the foot off the accelerator. There is also an automatic stop-start system, similar to those found on hybrid vehicles, that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, such as at a traffic light, and restarts it when the foot is lifted off the brake pedal.
The optional color head-up display projects driving information on the lower part of the windshield in front of the driver.
Other options include Active Driving Assistant and Active Cruise Control; a Pedestrian and Collision Warning system; Lane Departure Warning; and Active Blind Spot Detection.
There is also the available Parking Assistant, which can automatically guide the X4 into a parallel parking space – and even pick out a suitable space beforehand.
We packed up to five people in our X4 during Christmas week activities in San Antonio with family and friends, all of them young to middle-age adults. The rear middle seating position was fine for quick trips around town to shop or dine, but we didn’t take any long runs with someone in that spot.
The driver’s and front passenger seats were comfortable for even full-size adults, as were the two outboard rear seats. We appreciated the roomy cargo area – with 17.7 cubic feet of space – while we were out Christmas shopping.
Now for the best part: Driving the X4 M40i is a purely delightful BMW experience, with all systems focused on performance and great handling. Just because this is a family car doesn’t mean it has to be boring, and it’s definitely not.
The power from the six-cylinder engine was surely a surprise to the slower, more-mundane vehicles/drivers in adjacent lanes at opportune times – enough to put a smile on our faces.
Overall, the X4 M40i is a well-balanced, refined luxury crossover that looks, feels, and drives more like a sports coupe than a typical family SUV-style vehicle. And the price is right, as well – even for the M40i version (especially if you leave off some of the extras that ran up the sticker on our test vehicle).
Total sticker price for our X4 M40i was $67,495, including freight and options.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 BMW X4 Sports Activity Coupe
The package: Midsize, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder or inline six-cylinder gasoline-powered, all-wheel-drive luxury crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: All new for 2015, this was a new addition to BMW’s X line of crossover utility vehicles. The X4 combines SUV versatility with sleek coupelike styling, and it comes in two versions, including a sport M model with six-cylinder turbo power.
Negatives: Middle rear seating position tight for adult passengers.
Engines: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (28i); turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder (M40i).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 240 HP./260 foot-pounds (I-4); 355 HP./343 foot-pounds I-6).
Length: 184.5 inches (base); 184.3 inches (M40i).
Curb weight: 4,130-4,235 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 17.7 cubic feet (behind rear seat).
Towing capacity: Not available.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain for all rows.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 17.7 gallons/unleaded premium recommended.
EPA fuel economy: 20 city/27 highway/23 combined (I-4); 19/26/21 (I-6).
Base price range: $45,550-$58,100, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $67,495, including freight and options (X4 M40i).
On the Road rating: 9.1 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.