So I feel for the design crew at BMW when they sat down to pencil the rough plans for the second generation of the X4. The original models debuted in 2014, and it was time to spritz things up.
But if you’re designing an SUV, you have to remember that the S stands for Sport. That, by its name, leads us to expect something sporty and fun.
Ah, then you remember that the UV imparts an expectation of utility. Marrying a sporty vehicle with a utilitarian product doesn’t always create a winner.
For the most part, BMW accomplished their goal. Especially since this 2nd generation fixed a couple of areas that required attention.
The X4 is a luxury crossover SUV, one designed to go head-to-head with the Mercedes entry into this segment, the GLC. It comes in two configurations, the xDrive30i and the M40i.
Man, do these German car makers like their alphanumeric names. I’m dying for one of them to unveil an ABC123. At least it would be easier to say and write.
I spent a week behind the wheel of the M40i. It’s the roadrunner of the pair, proud of its 3.0-liter, turbo-powered 6-cylinder that pours out 355 horsepower.
You’ll work your way through an 8-speed transmission, with all-wheel drive.
One of those improvements in this new design is the fact that they’ve extended the wheelbase, and that’s a good thing. I thought the previous generation had a somewhat-scrunched look, like a doodle bug, or roly-poly, or whatever you call those insects.
Overall the X4 is wider and shorter, giving it a compact look. With the sloping roof toward the back you get an aerodynamic appeal, which, of course, you end up paying for with slightly-diminished cargo space.
Look, they call it a “luxury” crossover SUV for a reason. BMW has, as always, made sure to wrap drivers and passengers in a cocoon of style and comfort.
The mixture of real/imitation leather and aluminum trim is nice. Well, technically it’s “aluminum rhombicle” trim. Go back to middle school and recall what a rhombus is. No fair if you look it up.
The seats are a bit on the firm side, but in an entirely comfortable way. I took the X4 on a bit of a road trip from Denver to Colorado Springs and it was comfy all the way there and back.
Controls are laid out well, with everything easily viewable and in reach. Because of the sloping roof (part of that trade-off the engineers had to deal with in matching style and utility) views out the back are somewhat compromised, and I had to be extra careful when checking blind spots.
There’s plenty of room for passengers up front, and the rear seat is pretty good. Watch your head getting in and out if you’re a back-seat passenger.
Storage is about average for the front seat, with generous door cup holders and an okay center bin.
Rear storage is, once again, a victim of design, but with the seats folded you’ll get a fair amount of space, even compared to the competitors in this segment.
Here’s where we start to shine. I can’t speak to the 30i and its 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, but my M40i definitely puts that M performance through its paces.
I loved the acceleration. BMW will tell you the M will blast off in a 0 to 60 test in just a smidge over four-and-a-half seconds. That’s speedy for any vehicle; when you’re driving a crossover SUV, that’s just plain fast
But it wasn’t just the jackrabbit jump. The overall power and feel of the X4 is first-rate. I never once worried about merging or passing, but all the while it was with a smooth, dynamic ride.
Kudos to the engineers for a steering feel that’s one of the best. Braking is good, and overall handling is excellent. This was a fun ride at all times, whether I was in the city or on the highway.
In terms of quiet, I’d call it above average.
Gas mileage aren’t eye-popping, but I’ll admit they’re better than I’d expected. Combined you get around 23 mpg.
Often I’ll criticize luxury car makers for making things just too damned complicated. BMW has been in my crosshairs more than once for this very reason.
I wasn’t nearly as frustrated this time around. The touchscreen looks and acts good. The only issue I experienced was with the Apple CarPlay function, and that’s kinda goofy all around with the X4.
For one thing, just plugging in your USB cord doesn’t get it done. CarPlay is accessed wirelessly, so it’s like Bluetooth-meets-Apple. Most of the time it worked flawlessly.
Most of the time.
There were times it inexplicably dropped out, which can get a tad frustrating. But overall it was smooth.
One other note: While other manufacturers simply offer CarPlay, BMW offers it for one year, and then you’re on an annual subscription. I don’t get that. And Android Auto is still not available. Don’t get that, either.
The X4 comes with a decent amount of driver aids, including forward collision warning and pedestrian warnings. Others are extra, or part of packages.
The Bottom Line
The X4 isn’t perfect — and no vehicle is — but they’ve made great strides with this new generation, beginning with a better, more-stylish look, and delivered a winner.
The battle with Mercedes will undoubtedly remain close and heated, but BMW (especially with this badass M version) will comfortably hold its own and then some.
2019 BMW X4 M40i
3.0-liter 6-cylinder turbo-charged engine
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 20/27/23 combined
As tested: $74,520
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer