Review: BMW X4 xDrive 20d

This is the second X4 from BMW in just four years. That's because it is based on the latest X3 SUV and both are produced at its Spartanburg factory in South Carolina. The outgoing X4 was a hit, with 200,000 sold.

The 21-inch wheels emphasised the 'firmness' of the ride

What is it? A sportier, racier version of the X3, with sleeker and less practical styling at the rear. BMW calls it a sports activity coupé.

The entry model costs £42,900. All-wheel-drive, an eight speed automatic gearbox and M Sport suspension on 18-inch wheels are standard. The ride is firmer than the X3 but most of the mechanical bits are common. The X3 entry price is £39,120.

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Tried here is this “cheapest” X4, the xDrive 20d but with M Sport trappings costing £45,085 on the road and ready to drive. The fetching “phytonic” blue paint was £670. A woman stopped to comment on it. (From phyton: a plant component.)

The X4 is hard up against the racier Porsche Macan. Also popular for good reason is the elegant GLC Coupé from Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar’s handsome F-Pace. Volvo must be eyeing this lucrative sector.

So, the X4: it’s a hot number. Even this cooking four-cylinder diesel model can do the 0-60 sprint in less than eight seconds. Surely that’s enough fastness? The others have straight-six engines and are quicker over the sprint by two or three seconds (the six cylinder 30d, the M40d, the petrol M40i). Prices for the M40 models are around £55,000.

The M Sport kit includes 19-inch alloys and fancy aero “skirts” along its lower edges. The test car was running on fantasy, 21-inch wheels which can only have irritated or emphasised the rather firm ride – even in “comfort” setting. The tyres were get-you-home runflats. The package added £1,400 to the bill.

You can’t object to the X4’s firmness. It needs to be that way to endorse its image as a sporty thing. That’s the deal. If you wanted a cosseting and comfy BMW ride you’d look at the subtle 3-series estate or the higher-riding X3 if you wanted an SUV.

The X4’s empty spare wheel compartment makes a roomy hideaway under the boot floor. A helpful detail is a gas strut to support this false floor when it is raised. Less pleasing was the transmission graunch in parking manoeuvring – corroborated by a woman alongside in her Ford Kuga. (In mitigation, she said she’d wanted another Audi but she’d been given the Kuga and now liked it.)

I took the X4 deep south down a motorway. The return figure was 45 miles a gallon. Local running gave 36mpg. The engine is really smooth and makes a happy sound when pushed – without any diesel tones. The gearshift refinement is exemplary.

Actually, it is not my sort of car, but I enjoyed using it. The massive information screen which comes with the M Sport makes the most of the navigation guidance. A £1,690 technology pack includes a large head-up display on the screen in front of the driver, showing directions, speed limits and your set speed. The latest voice control system usually gets your request first time.

There are all sorts of “connectivity” including the ability to send details of your proposed journey to the X4, which then assesses traffic, re-fuelling needs, and tells you when it is time to set off. I suppose this is a possible excuse if you are late. Blame the car.

X4 is styled for image and visual impact. This second version X4 is longer and wider, allowing a stretched wheelbase and more legroom for rear passengers.

New materials and techniques have made it 50kg lighter. All models are upholstered with a soft leather which BMW calls Vernasca – the name of a community in northwest Italy, not a skin ointment.

BMW is having a busy year. Joining the X4 is a new X5 – its original SUV from Spartanburg. This 4th generation has its premiere next week at the Paris Motor Show. Snippets include a 47mpg/158g model and new suspension system with front and rear air springing. The M5 Competition saloon also gets its world premiere. While economy languishes at around 26mpg and 243g, the V8 engine is boosted by 25hp to 625hp (616 bhp). The 0-62mph time is 3.3 seconds and the 0-124mph time is 10.8 seconds. Err, where?

However, my pick of its newcomers is the latest Z4 two-seater soft-top. It has grown more than three inches longer, two inches wider, with a shorter wheelbase for agility and wider track for grip. Boot capacity is 50 per cent greater.

Production has been moved from the US to Magna Steyr in Austria (which makes the I-Pace and F-Pace for Jaguar). The entry model is the 197hp 20i, capable of 0-62 in 6.6 seconds. Prices are revealed next week, for deliveries in March.

Verdict: People want the X4, so it will sell. Style with function. Strong resale potential.