BMW X4 Review
The SUV has proved immensely popular around the world over the past 20 years, but with its roots in utilitarian, off-road driving, it hasn’t really leant itself to petrolhead appeal. However, anyone assuming that BMW’s X4 is just another soft, lumbering SUV is dead wrong; it’s a superbly engineered machine with brilliant handling that’ll reward you handsomely for taking the country roads home, rather than the motorway.
And on top of that, it’s a well made, well kitted-out premium car with a range of great engines and trims to choose from.
Select's rating score* - 3.7 / 5
At a Glance
There’s been a trend in recent years for carmakers to introduce a new SUV – one geared towards practicality and family life – and then introduce another, very similar one. The second will have the spectrum tilted away from practicality and more towards style and performance, while retaining the tall ride height and commanding view of the road. BMW was one of the first to do this with the X6, a version of the big X5 that sacrificed a bit of rear headroom and boot space in favour of swoopy, coupe-like styling and some improved handling characteristics.
That formula has been copied by many, and also applied to other models in the BMW range. The practical X1 is mirrored by the sporty X2, and the midsize X3 has been jazzed up to make this, the X4. It’s the same approximate size as the X3, and other SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar. Most versions of the X4 are diesel-powered, although there is a petrol model too.
The styling of the BMW X4 may raise some eyebrows, and we’ll leave you to decide whether that’s for good or bad. It’s essentially a high-riding SUV that’s been given the coupe styling treatment, with the roofline lowered at the back for a more rakish silhouette. That places it in the firing line of the other premium coupe-SUV, the Mercedes-Benz CLC Coupe. But as well as swish looks, BMW has engineered the X4 to give a sporty, dynamic drive as well, which means it rivals Porsche’s Macan, Jaguar F-Pace and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio too.
The sweeping roofline means slightly compromised rear headroom compared to its sibling, the X3 but it’s still got enough room for general family duties. There are several trim levels together, all with a sporty vibe, and a range of fairly potent engines too.
Performance & Drive
While under the surface the X4 shares much with the X3, it’s been reengineered to give a different kind of driving experience. The suspension is firmer to resist body roll and make for keener cornering, a move that works very well. The X4 handles sweetly, full-stop, let along for an SUV with a high centre of gravity. The steering feels meaty and fast, which makes for a precise, agile character. It’s very good, only overshadowed by the even-better Porsche Macan, which is more involving.
While the firmer suspension does slightly impact on comfort in comparison to the X3, it’s really not by much, and the dampers do a good job of massaging away the worst that rough roads can throw at the car, at least when you spec adaptive suspension. You can switch this between different preset stiffness levels depending on the conditions.
All models use an eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s unobtrusive in auto mode and quick to react, and all have all-wheel drive. The entry-level model is the 20d, which has a 187bhp 2.0-litre engine. That’ll be plenty of lots of people, as it makes for smooth and brisk acceleration while keeping the fuel consumption reasonable. For a bit more oomph, there’s the 30d, which ups the power considerably to 282bhp, while the M40d has 335bhp, taking you well into performance car territory with effortless swells of velocity appearing with just a flex of the right foot. You don’t need this kind of power, but if you’re embracing the sports car appeal of the X4 then it does go very nicely with the handling characteristics.
If you’re set on petrol power, or just want the most horsepower possible, then look at the M40i, which has 355bhp. This will give you the most straight-line speed, but be prepared for higher running costs.
There is also a high-performance version, the X4 M Competition, which is another step on entirely from the rest of the range in both driving experience and price. We won’t go into that in detail here, save to say it has more than 500bhp and some genuine motorsport engineering, but many will question whether it’s worth the extra money over the M40i or M40d.
Unlike the X3 and Mercedes GLC Coupe, there’s no plug-in hybrid X4 available, and at the time of writing there were no plans for an electric version either.
When it comes to leasing costs, you’ll pay a small monthly premium for the X4 over the X3, and prices are very similar to the Mercedes-Benz GLC. A Porsche Macan will cost you a fair bit extra, but a Jaguar F-Pace could save you a few quid a month, and an Alfa Romeo Stelvio even more.
Running costs follow the range, with the entry-level 20d the most efficient. It has an official fuel economy of up to 47.9mpg, but the 30d isn’t far behind with a figure of up to 46.3mpg. The 40d promises up to 43.5mpg. The petrol-powered M40i drops the efficiency considerably, with a claimed fuel economy of up to 31.7mpg.
The X4 is a premium car, so insurance premiums will be towards the higher end of the spectrum. The 20d sits between groups 33 and 34 of 50, depending on trim level, and the 30d rises to 41 and 42. For the 40d you’re looking at group 45, but you will save a bit on the M40i, which is group 43. The X4 M Competition is in group 46.
If you’re looking at the X4 as a company car, then you might be particularly annoyed that there are no plug-in hybrid models, which have lower CO2 emissions and therefore much lower company car tax rates. We’d understand if this alone had you looking at the Mercedes GLC Coupe.
Still, the diesel cars are the ones to go for if you’re set on an X4. The x30d has emissions of between 153gkm and 167g/km, and sits in Benefit in Kind brackets of 34% to 37%. The x30d sits in 35%-37% brackets, and both the M40d and petrol-powered M40i sit in the maximum 37% bracket.
If you’ve also checked out an X3 you’d be forgiven for checking you hadn’t got in the same car again, because there’s very little difference in the X4. That’s not a problem though, because it’s a well laid out and beautifully made interior that’s full of quality materials and some cutting-edge technology. All models have ambient lighting that looks great at night, and there’s plenty of adjustment in the driving position.
BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is one the easiest to use on the market. It might not be quite as flashy as the MBUX system from Mercedes-Benz, and it doesn’t have the GLC’s clever voice assistant feature, but it’s simple to navigate, quick to respond and packed with features. Controls are done through a central touchscreen, measuring 8.8 inches in Sport models and 12.3 inches in higher-end cars. M Sport cars and above get a digital driver display instead of traditional analogue dials.
Some models feature a gesture control system, which lets you activate systems by waving your hands in front of the centre console. For example, you can twiddle your index finger clockwise to turn the volume up, or anticlockwise to turn it down. It’s clever, but a bit gimmicky when you can just use buttons on the steering wheel. All models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity. CarPlay is available wirelessly, which saves you plugging your phone in. Need to charge it? There’s a wireless charger available as an option, and a head-up display too, which projects driving information like speed and navigation instructions onto the windscreen.
Perhaps surprisingly, adaptive Active Cruise Control is only available as an option across the range. This increasingly popular system controls acceleration and braking on the motorway and keeps a constant gap from cars in front, and is often included on much cheaper cars, so that’s a bit of a shame.
Practicality & Boot Space
While that stylish silhouette will cost you a bit of interior space, it’s hardly cramped on the X4. Up front, driver and passenger won’t want for head or leg space but things are slightly less roomy in the back. You’d have to be over six foot to need extra headroom though, and there’s lots of legroom too. The middle seat is tight though, so don’t plan on taking five adults on long journeys if you want ultimate comfort.
The boot is a reasonable size too, and the rear seats fold down flat in a 40:20:40 split, which gives you flexibility if you need to carry larger items and still fit someone in the back. It’s not as big as in the X3, but it’s still big enough for most day-to-day family requirements. Storage around the car is excellent with lots of pockets, bins, boxes and trays, as well as good-sized cup holders.
The X4 is close enough mechanically to the X3 that it shares a safety rating from independent testing organisation Euro NCAP. It was given a thorough going over in 2017 and awarded the maximum five stars. Active safety systems like automatic emergency braking are included as standard, as is BMW Emergency Call, which will alert authorities automatically in case of an accident.
All models have front, side and curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, and there are Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
The Sport model might be the cheapest way into the X4 range, but it doesn’t lack for kit. It rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and has adaptive LED headlights, as well as a reversing camera and the iDrive infotainment system.
Upgrade to the M Sport model and you’ll get 19-inch wheels and some extra sporty styling on the outside, as well as sports seats inside, a bigger fuel tank and the upgraded infotainment system with a bigger screen. M Sport X models add a panoramic glass sunroof, some Frozen Grey exterior elements for a snazzier look, and automatic high beam headlights.
The M40i and M40d have 20-inch alloy wheels, electric front seat adjustment and upgraded brakes, as well as an M Sport Differential for improved handling. The sound system is upgraded too.
Options include a range of paint colours, alloy wheel designs and interior finishes, including wood and aluminium trim elements and a range of leather upholsteries. You can also select a range of packages that bundle together various features. The Comfort package will give you an automatic electric boot lid that opens when you wave your foot under the rear bumper, as well as a heated steering wheel. The Technology package includes gesture control, wireless charging and a head-up display as well as a 600W Harmon/Kardon sound system.
Which cars you consider alongside the X4 will depend on your priorities. As another premium coupe-SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe is an obvious rival, although it doesn’t drive as well as the X4 and the interior isn’t quite as nice. However, the presence of plug-in hybrid models in its range will be a big plus for company car drivers, or those that want to cut their fuel bills.
If you’re after the ultimate sporty drive in your SUV then the Porsche Macan is the benchmark, but it’s pricier. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is worth a look too, and Jaguar’s F-Pace is also great fun, but the interior isn’t as plush. You might also want to consider the Range Rover Velar, especially if you might be venturing off-road.
Verdict & Next Steps
The X4 is an excellent midsize premium SUV that drives far better than you’d expect from such a big machine. It does sacrifice a bit of practicality to its sibling, the X3, and you’ll pay more for it too, but for some it’s a price worth paying. There are better cars to drive of this type, but not for the same money. We’d recommend you think carefully about whether you really want the X4 over the X3, and we’d keep our engine choices to diesel because of the running costs.
And if we were company car drivers, we’d very carefully look at the Mercedes GLC range of plug-in hybrids too. If you do settle on the X4 though, you’ll find a very capable and very comfortable SUV that’ll put a giant smile on your face when you find a quiet country road.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW X4
**Correct as of 21/04/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4203.14 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.