2015 BMW X4: Crossover hatch

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Call BMW the niche master.

The Bavarian automaker appears determined to populate every segment in its considerable lineup of sedans, crossovers, sports cars, and alternative fuel vehicles.

The car segment offers 1 through 7 Series models, marketed in both regular high-performance as well as ultra-high-performance versions. Usually the latter have an M attached, as with the M4 and M3 coupe and sedan. There’s also the more unique Z3 sports car, the i8 hybrid grand touring car, and the i3 electric city car.

Over on the crossover side, the shelves are nearly as well stocked with a proliferation of tall, squared-off wagons, featuring a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive: the X1, X3 and X5, as well as the giant coupe-like X6.

But that wasn’t enough, so now comes the 2015 BMW X4, which essentially is a fastback version of the X3 and a sort of smaller version of the X6. Because of its sloping roofline, which basically wipes out a chunk of cargo space compared to the X3, BMW calls the X4 a sports activity coupe — notwithstanding the fact that it has four doors and a hatch instead of a coupe’s usual two.

It seems as if the idea is to lasso every possible buyer — except, that is, the folks on the lower end of the economic scale. BMWs usually have relatively high prices and option imperatives that stretch the charts to raise stickers higher. A 240-horsepower, four-cylinder X4 starts at $44,700.

The BMW X4 xDrive35i that I tested has a starting price of $48,950 and, with extras, a bottom-line price of $57,450. This is for an all-wheel-drive crossover that has about the same passenger room as a midsize sedan and only a modicum more cargo space. The typical midsize sedan has about 12 to 14 cubic feet of trunk space; the X4 has 18 cu.-ft. under its rear hatch, though it can be expanded to 49 by folding down the rear seatbacks.

So the attraction with the X4 is not practicality — it’s looks. If you want BMW performance and utility in this size, one might opt for the less expensive yet roomier X3 or even the engaging X1. Nope. The X4 is all about driving something different and, to some eyes, more attractive.

In any case, it is a BMW, which usually translates into exceptional performance, ride, and handling, and the X4 does not disappoint.

It comes standard with BMW’s all-wheel-drive system, called xDrive. The test car also came with the company’s famed 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine, with twin turbochargers to reach 300 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of low-rpm torque. The power is delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.

Standard equipment includes an annoying auto stop-start system that shuts down the engine at stoplights, which fortunately can be switched off. It is paired with an ECO PRO mode that adjusts onboard systems for maximum fuel economy, including shutting off the fuel supply when the X4 is coasting. The result on the tested X4 35i model is an EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 19/27/22 mpg.

Also on the standard equipment list is active cruise control, which automatically maintains a distance to the car ahead, and a power tailgate that can be operated by waving one’s foot under the back of the vehicle.

BMW doesn’t make a point of broadcasting it, but the standard upholstery is an artificial leatherette material, which is becoming increasingly common in expensive German cars. One would expect a car with a $57,450 price tag to have leather; if you want it, plan to spend more.

Other items that were extra cost options on the test car included a rear view camera, park distance warning, keyless entry, driver’s seat lumbar support, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

On the road, the X4 is typically BMW with a tight handling feel, good steering feedback and straight-line tracking, solid braking, and a composed demeanor around fast curves, partly because of the xDrive, which sends extra power to the outside rear wheel for better turn-in and stability. The ride is firm but controlled.

Off the road the X4 does offer a 26-degree approach angle, a 23-degree departure angle, a 19-degree ramp breakover angle, and 8 inches of ground clearance.

If the look gets you and the price doesn’t faze you, the X4 will satisfy. But if you need something a bit more useful, check out the X3 or X1.