Love ’em or loathe ’em, everybody seems to want a coupe SUV. Few could have predicted that sticking a coupe, a hatchback and an SUV into an automotive food blender would result in modern motoring’s must-have set of wheels, but it’s a strange world we live in.
BMW beat everybody to the punch with the full-size X6 and once again it’s ahead of the curve by downsizing the concept and producing the X4; a fastback version of its mid-size X3 SUV. Looks are always a matter of personal taste, but it appears dropping down a segment does help matters.
It’s certainly no svelte beauty but, wearing the M-Sport kit and 20-inch rims, it is better proportioned and more aggressive than the bulbous and ungainly X6. The inevitable M version might even look quite cool. That slicked-back roofline doesn’t impact too badly on rear headroom – a lanky six-foot-four mate fit in the back (just) – but it destroys rear vision by creating rear-three-quarter blind spots you could hide a semi-trailer in.
Compared to a 3 series Touring, the X4’s luggage capacity is identical with the rear seats up (500L v 495L) but slightly less with the rear seats folded (1400L plays 1500L). No doubt at this point you’re probably expecting us to just tell you to buy the regular 3 series wagon. But not so fast: BMW has seen this one coming.
You see, if you want access to the cracking 3.0-litre turbo six in a practical package, the X4 35i is now the only way to get it. Neither the 3 series Touring nor the 3 series GT comes in 335i form, and a 535i Touring is $35K more expensive than an X4 with the same engine. Therefore, if you want that six-pot soundtrack with a big boot for under $100K, the X4 35i is your only hope.
So what’s it like? Well, 225kW and 400Nm mightn’t sound like much from a 3.0-litre turbocharged six these days, but allied to ZF’s superb eight-speed auto it’s plenty to motivate 1815kg of X4, though it doesn’t feel as fast as its 5.5sec 0-100km/h claim suggests.
In terms of handling there are two ways to look at it: it’s either amazing for an SUV or reasonably good for something with sporty pretensions. Drive it smoothly and the pace you can carry is quite incredible, but as you’d expect, push harder and it starts feeling big, heavy and a bit sooky.
It’s hard to judge these faux-wheel drives. Despite BMW’s attempts to justify its existence, rationally the X4 makes little sense, yet it will still sell like mad. We’d much rather have an optioned-up 328i Touring, but we suspect that no potential X4 buyer would share our preference.
3 out of 5 stars
Engine: 2979cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 225kW @ 5800-6500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1200-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 5.5sec (claimed)