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Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018 BMW X4 Review

2018 BMW X4 Review
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The 2018 BMW X4 takes today’s trend toward swoopier SUVs and packages it with a roundel up front. It’s entertaining and a looker, but not all that practical.

The 2018 BMW X4 doesn’t bother with convention, tradition, or labels. It’s a luxury sport crossover SUV coupe—add any other names you like. Actually, it’s probably best to just stick to X4.

We rate the X4 at 6.8 overall, which reflects our opinion of its trendy looks and performance potential. It’s not particularly comfortable for four, and cargo capacity is clearly compromised with its coupe-like roof.

The X4 comes in two standard flavors, both will all-wheel drive. The X4 xDrive28i offers a turbo-4 that makes 240 horsepower and can propel the crossover up to 60 mph in about six seconds. At more than $48,000 to start it’s hardly cheap, and we wouldn’t fault anyone for stopping there. The X4 M40i is the performance pick—for now—and offers up an entertaining turbo-6 that makes 355 hp and a wall of torque. It rips off 60-mph sprints in less than five seconds and it’s almost as entertaining as the X4’s shape. In either engine configuration the standard 8-speed automatic is good enough that we won’t wish for a manual, at all.

Back to the shape of the X4: It’s a boon to passersby and front-seat riders, but that’s about all. The sloping roof line cuts into rear seat head room, and while there’s just enough space for a 6-footer to sit behind another 6-footer, we wouldn’t advise it for long hauls. As for cramming five within the X4, we wouldn’t advise that. Deeply sculpted positions for four should be the first indication: this isn’t a family car.

The X4 comes well-equipped from the factory. A small number of options can keep it reasonably (relatively) priced, including adaptive suspension ($1,000) and an M-Sport package with sport buckets, aggressive looks, and better wheel options ($1,700).

One option we can’t get behind: $300 extra for Apple CarPlay compatibility that’s shielded with a compulsory $1,700 navigation extra. That’s effectively $2,000 for Apple CarPlay that other automakers include for no additional cost.

Styling
The 2018 BMW X4 is a statement of style, for some. We’re not sure exactly what it’s saying at times, but we don’t much mind.

Our parents were right: look good, feel good.

It’s hard not to smile behind the wheel of the 2018 BMW X4. Maybe it’s the sloping roofline cribbed from the larger X6. Maybe it’s the available 20-inch wheels slathered with a thin paint of rubber. Or maybe that the X4 is an on-trend crossover that prioritizes style of substance—and somewhat silly, it’s still a smile.

We give the X4 an 8 on looks with the understanding that it’s not going to be for everyone. But for the shoppers who are considering “coupe” crossovers, the X4 looks great and its interior is good too.

Like the X6, the smaller X4 gives up some function in the form of fashion. The X4 is based on the outgoing X3, but cleaves hulking chunks of cargo area for a dramatic fastback roof. The whole crossover is athletic in appearance and approach, so long as it’s not an outdoor sport. The bulky fenders wrap around available 20-inch wheels, and while entry and exit into the back row isn’t ideal, who needs it? The back bench is cramped anyhow.

Inside, even base X4 trims get wood accents and an interior that’s decidedly upmarket. (It should be for nearly $50,000 to start.) Throw more money at the X4 and the interior starts to look better, especially Long Beach Blue with Nevada White Leather. Might as well embrace the trend while it’s around.

Performance
Offered with a good or great engine, the 2018 BMW X4’s wheelhouse is in performance.

The 2018 BMW X4 hits its stride in performance.

Neither engine feels underpowered and in M40i spec, the X4 comes alive as being fun-to-drive for an SUV.

We give it points above average for its engine and smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic that’s more than willing—it’s almost tuned to perfection. We land at a 7.
The base engine in the X4 xDrive28i is a turbo-4 rated at 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Its specs are on par with the Porsche Macan with which it competes, but the BMW’s mill is more familiar to us. We like its power delivery, its rorty behavior when called upon, and its willingness to calm down too. All-wheel drive is standard on all X4s and splits power 40/60, front to rear. Although all four wheels can be powered, it’s not a system designed for off-road use. The X4’s available 20-inch tires were our first clue.

The all-wheel drive system can send up to 100 percent of the X4’s power to the rear wheels and a performance controller can split torque side-to-side, provided you’re brave enough to test the limits of grip in a 5,200-pound crossover.

The optional engine is a turbo-6 that was new for 2016, and helps buyers inch closer to M-badged glory (an X4M is due any day now) without splurging. The 3.0-liter turbo-6 makes 355 hp and slingshots the M40i up to 60 mph in less than five seconds. It’s uproariously fun to drive although we stop short of saying it’s a sports car. Like any performance SUV, the M40i doesn’t hide its tall ride height and drivers sit on top of the crossover’s mass, rather than in it. Tossing the M40i around feels less like skiing (carving through corners) and more like tubing (you’re along for the ride).

The standard 8-speed automatic is nearly telepathic in its downshifts, and seamless in its upshifts. It’s one of the better ‘boxes on the market, and it may rival the 8-speed automatic found in the Corvette when it comes to spirited drives. BMW’s 8-speed almost makes us forget about a manual—almost.

The X4 offers a traditional double wishbone-rear multilink setup for the suspension, upgradeable to adaptive dampers that can dial in firmer response for $1,000. We prefer the optional setup for its comfort and flexibility, although we’d prefer that the steering communicate in the same ways as the wheels.

Comfort & Quality
Nominally a five-seater, the X4 is best with two up front and two occasionally in the rear.

The BMW X4’s shape cuts a check that rear seat passengers will be asked to cash.

Although we think the related X3 is a bona fide five-seater, the X4 seats four passengers—just.

Tall rear-seat riders (think 6-feet or lankier) may struggle with rear-seat room. Cargo space is down markedly from the related X3 too—the X4 boasts 17.7 cubic feet in an odd-shaped area.

The X4 is equipped with synthetic leather, power adjustable front seats from the outset, but opting for the M Sport package or the M40i trim level replaces those with deeper, sportier seats that have good support. We like those best for a wide range of body types.

The rear seats are deeply contoured to prioritize two passengers—we wouldn’t advise three for long, if ever. The X4 is based on the outgoing X3 and shaves just a few inches off of rear leg room, but the bigger compromise comes in rear-seat head room. The X4 shaves a precious 2 inches of head room from the old X3, even more with a sunroof. The sloped rear hatch means that head space doesn’t get much better for taller people, who may sit further back in the seats.

The cargo area holds 17.7 cubic feet of gear with the second row in place, or 49.4 cubes with the seats folded. The X4 is less versatile than the X3, with less vertical space for taller objects but beauty is pain, right?

Safety
The 2018 BMW X4 doesn’t have a complete set of crash-test results, and advanced safety features can add up quickly.

The BMW X4 hasn’t been tested by federal or independent safety officials. We don’t expect that will change anytime soon either—neither agency usually tests high-dollar, low-volume cars.

Without that data, we can’t assign a safety score. We’ll update this space if that changes. 

Aside from crash data, the X4 comes equipped with a standard complement of airbags for front and rear passengers, including dual stage front airbags and side curtain airbags for rear passengers. Stability and traction control systems are standard, as is a rearview camera. BMW also throws in a standard emergency responder notification system if a serious collision that may include injuries is detected.

There are advanced safety features available, but BMW buries many of those in pricey packages. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking are available for $1,200. That’s decent value, although some mainstream automakers are bundling that into the base price.

Blind-spot monitors, a head-up display, and speed limit display is $1,700, but we’re not as sold on that value.

Parking sensors and a surround-view camera system cost $700.

Aside from safety equipment, the X4’s roofline eats into outward vision thanks to its low roof pillars and obstructed rear hatch. We’d prefer that blind-spot monitors were standard equipment on a car with such limited vision for the driver.

Features
All 2018 BMW X4s are well-equipped, with good features available. None of them are inexpensive however.

The 2018 BMW X4 has two stories to tell when it comes to features.

First, unlike several other BMW models, the X4 comes handsomely equipped at the outset. Every X4 includes all-wheel drive, synthetic leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, power adjustable front seats, wood trim, a 6.5-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth connectivity, a power tailgate, and a rearview camera.

The other story? It starts temptingly close to $50,000 in base guise—an eye-watering sum for a relatively compact crossover. Shoppers with that kind of coin, mazel tov.

We give the X4 points above average for good base features, the sink that BMW can throw at it in options, and its infotainment system. It gets an 8 out of 10 before the bad news: BMW offers Apple CarPlay in a bizzaro option blunder that asks $2,000 for what other automakers throw in for free. We land at a 7. 

This year, BMW has shuffled up its optional packages for the X4, but the same basic idea remains. The X4 is available in base configuration with several packages and a handful of stand-alone options. Few X4s will leave the factory without one, or several, add-ons.

The most popular stop for many buyers in snowy states will be a cold weather package that adds heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel for $950.

A Premium Package ($2,200) adds softer interior hides, satellite radio, and keyless ignition. Its value is debatable.

An M-Sport package ($1,700) may be a better option, by our book. It adds a few exterior appearance items, but also sportier front seats, a grippier steering wheel, and better looking wheels.

Several safety packages are available, which we cover above.

Thankfully, BMW has portioned out some of the better options bundled in packages into stand-alone options. Heated front seats ($500), adaptive dampers ($1,000), Harman Kardon surround sound ($875), are just a few.

Frustratingly, Apple CarPlay compatibility is a $300 option—excessive in its own right—only after optional navigation ($1,700) is selected. That effectively makes CarPlay is a $2,000 option, according to BMW. And Android Auto isn’t even available. Yikes.

Opting for the X4 M40i brings the uprated engine, deeper sport seats, leather upholstery, keyless ignition, adaptive dampers, and parking sensors.

The packages largely follow the X4 xDrive28i, except the M Sport appearance package is standard on the X4 M40i.

Fuel Economy
Sleeker shape for the 2018 BMW X4? Sure. Better mileage? Not really.

The 2018 BMW X4 doesn’t prioritize fuel economy above style. Its shape may cut a sleeker hole in the wind, but it may not mean much at the pump.

The EPA rates the 2018 BMW X4 xDrive28i (aka the base version) at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined. The X4 M40i is rated at 18/25/21 mpg. Both of those figures are good enough for a 6 out of 10 on our efficiency scale.

The X4’s chief rival manages roughly the same mileage figures. The Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe is rated at 22/27/24 mpg, and the AMG GLC43 Coupe manages 18/24/20 mpg by the EPA’s calculators.

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