Bavarian Motor Works was created in Germany in 1916, but didn’t officially start selling cars in America until 1975. The first model, a two-door “sedan” called the 2002, went on to become the legendary 3-series compact lineup that remains the benchmark sport luxury sedan in the world.
Today, BMW is the second best-selling premium brand in America behind Mercedes-Benz. The huge Spartanburg assembly plant in South Carolina makes more BMWs than any other plant operated by the automaker, as most of the brand’s X-series lineup of crossovers is built in the USA.
With an extensive cross-section of premium sedans, coupes and crossovers, BMW is well positioned to fill virtually every niche of the luxury-sports segment. The all-new 2019 BMW X4 is but one of the many such options available to buyers.
The second-generation X4 — still based on the compact class X3 platform — is longer, wider and more powerful than its predecessor. Length grows by 3 inches — wheelbase and overall, while track width increases by 1.5 inches to improve cabin space and overall handling. Cargo room remains approximately the same; 18.5 cubic feet under the steeply raked roofline compared to the X3’s more user-friendly 28.5-cubic feet.
Using the same basic mechanicals, the X4, however, offers a more sporting driving dynamic than the X3 to go along with its aggressive stance. A larger dual-kidney grille, wider fenders, plus that racy roof profile all add up to a more athletic looking — and acting — crossover that forsakes maximum utility for style and performance.
These coupe-like crossover body styles (known as sports activity vehicles — SAV — in some corners) are purely a German emphasis right now, with the Mercedes GLC coupe a direct competitor. Yet buyers might find similar driving virtues as the X4 in the Land Rover Velar or the Porsche Macan. Last year, BMW dealers sold approximately seven X3s for every X4 sold.
Power for our xDrive30i X4 was supplied by the brand’s eager turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Netting a smooth 248 peak horsepower, the X4 was quick to respond to any throttle requests and supplied more than adequate forward verve. If you need more spine-tingling power, or just need to get everywhere that much quicker, the brand’s 3.0-liter turbo-six cylinder engine pumps out a robust 355 hp. All X4s feature xDrive all-wheel drive and send their power through a ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimates for the 2.0-engine are 22/29/25-mpg.
With 3-series sedan sales slipping, just like many car lines, buyers are embracing these sportier crossovers in record numbers. Drivers will find similar suspension capabilities in the X4 — sharp steering responses, strong brakes, nimble handling — yet the center of gravity is still a few inches higher than the brand’s vaunted sports sedans, so peak grip and precise race-like maneuvers will not be the same despite adaptive suspensions, sticky tires and the latest electronic driving aids.
On dry roads, the BMW’s 20-inch Bridgestone Alenza run-flat performance tires demonstrated how much the latest SAVs have closed the gap on sports sedans. Yet, when encountering snow-covered and icy roads, these tires didn’t deliver the same level of grip or confidence that you might want for a winter-environment crossover. Just food for thought if your primary driving is New England not South Carolina.
Inside, the X4’s handsome two-tone leather interior ($1,700, Tacora Red and Black) provided excellent seating as well as a premium and sporty-looking environment. The extra wheelbase adds an inch to both front and rear legroom, while the heated sports seats (with manual thigh extenders) produced maximum comfort and support.
Center dash houses the latest iDrive-6 10.25-inch infotainment horizontal screen that features navigation plus voice recognition and BMW’s gadgety gesture control — which you use to change audio volume or accept incoming phone calls. If you are an animated driver that talks with his/her hands, be prepared for unusual control interactions.
The latest X4 also includes 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot functionality, Apple CarPlay, (not Android, yet) plus an optional heads-up display. There are only two USB ports, but the center console has a wireless charging pad. A panoramic roof is also standard, however, several of the latest electronic driving aids are part of optional pricing packages.
The base motor provides plenty of zip; only die-hard driving enthusiasts will need to exercise the larger six-cylinder engine. Handling and ride dynamics are slightly stiffer than the more family-oriented X3, too, which tells us who the target audience is, while the gun-slit rear window cries out for a wiper in foul weather. The Premium Package should include remote starting along with the heated seats and steering wheel.
Pricing starts at $51,445 including destination fee for the xDrive30i. The X4 M40i with the turbo-six begins at $10,000 more. M-sport items are available on both models as well as specific options from BMW’s extensive individual catalog.