BMW_X4_frontSeveral months ahead of the anticipated time, BMW has launched an all-new model, the X4. So keen was early interest when details of the X4 were revealed in Europe that BMW Australia put a strong case to the company’s head office to bring forward the launch date.

Given the success of the German giant downunder in recent years, and perhaps as a thank-you to BMW Australia’s managing director Phil Horton, who is about to move back to Europe, the request has been granted and the X4 is now on sale here.

Using BMW’s new naming system, which gives even numbers to sports models, and ‘X’ for crossovers between a car and an SUV, the new X4 shares its powertrains with the BMW X3. It is aimed at the sporting driver who not only wants a quality on-road vehicle but also may wants to explore bush trails and perhaps even make trips to the beach.

BMW would like us to adopt different acronyms for its range, preferring SAC for (Sports Activity Coupe) for the X4, and SAV (Sports Activity Vehicles) for the wagon-like X1, X3 and X5. Can’t say buyers have shown any keenness on this, but who knows…

The BMW X4 is less controversial in its shape than its big brother, the X6. The front is big and bold and uses the new theme of joining the headlights to the grilles to visually widen the vehicle.

BMW X4 looks sleek and low in profile and, though it isn’t as tall as the X3, it manages to retain the same ground clearance of 204 mm as the X3. That’s a surprisingly high clearance for this class and the midsize Bimmer is only about a centimetre short of the clearance used in some off-road 4WD models.

BMW_X4_interiorOnly when viewed from directly behind does the new X4 have the slightly bulky shape of the X6 that doesn’t appeal to all. Having said that, the sales of the X6 have been almost double those predicted, to the extent the factory in the USA had to be expanded to cope with the demand.

Four and six-cylinder engines are being imported, both in turbocharged format. The four-cylinder units have a capacity of 2.0 litres, with the petrol putting out 135 kilowatts of power and 270 Newton metres of torque. Figures for the diesel are 140 kW and 400 Nm. The diesel is an all-new design, the petrol a carry over from other models.

The straight sixes displace 3.0 litres. Sitting at the top of the tree is the high-performance BMW X4 xDrive35i with 225 kW and 400 Nm. The turbo-diesel six doesn’t lag a long way behind in the power stakes, with 190 kW, but is well in front in grunt, producing 560 nm

Six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions are used in Europe but only the autos are coming to Australia. The auto in the six-cylinder models is the sports unit, with faster changes and programming that makes it kick down more readily.

BMW Australia cleverly specified that all models of the X4 have the largest available centre screen, at 8.8 inches. It’s certainly easy to read with a minimum of distraction. The X4 has USB, Bluetooth with audio streaming, voice control and pairing of multiple phones. There is a 20 GB hard drive for audio files.

The BMW X4 has been crash tested and met five-star standards with plenty to spare. Intelligent emergency call, radar cruise control with braking function are major high-tech safety additions.

The tall stance of the wagon means the front seats are at a nice height for ingress and egress. The have well shaped bolsters that assist during spirited cornering – very BMW.

While the slope of the roof looks as though it could challenge tall occupants, I can sit behind myself (if you know what I mean) with my six-foot frame having a few centimetres clearance of the roof.

We were only able to road test the two straight-six engines during the X4’s media launch in northern NSW as BMW told us the first shipment of the fours hadn’t yet arrived.

Both six-cylinder powerplants have minimal turbo lag, with the turbo-petrol being particularly willing to provide smooth, seemingly endless power. We have nominated the BMW ‘35i’ engines as one of our favourite units over many years and in several different formats, and this latest iteration hasn’t changed that outlook.

The turbo-diesel has stacks of grunt but doesn’t have the silky smooth feel of the petrol.

BMW’s typically brilliant chassis balance and sporting dynamics are very obviously part of the X4’s design. It holds the road securely at high cornering speeds, sends excellent feedback to the driver and quite simply provides the sort of sheer driving pleasure for which the German marque is famed.

We did a short distance of mild off-road driving in the X4 – not as part of the official drive program by BMW, but out of curiosity – it has competent traction, with good electronic aids and the better than average ground clearance is a bonus. Families looking to explore forest trails and the likes will find the X4 works nicely.

New BMW X4 further expands the range of midsize models: the 3 Series sedan and wagon, the X3 SUVs, The 3 Series GT, 4 Series coupe and convertible – and now the X4. Wow, I guess too much choice is better than not enough.

X4 xDrive 20i 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $69,430 (automatic)
X4 xDrive 20d 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $73,400 (automatic)
X4 xDrive 30d 3.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $83,900 (automatic)
X4 xDrive 35i 3.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $87,430  (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for driveaway prices.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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