BMW X4: Goodbye

So some 5,000 miles and nearly four months of testing has revealed that the BMW X4 is, indeed, not for everyone. It’s no surprise that BMW is setting very modest sales target for this sporty SUV.

There’s the price, which for the entry-level engine but top spec trim is over 40 grand, and that’s before you add several thousand in options. Before you know it, you’re into the price bracket of a new X5.

Design and driving dynamics

For those buyers, however, that aren’t after a 4x4 just for its practicality and off-road ability, the X4 offers something very distinct – SUV style, coupe design and sports car abilities.

It’s a strange brew and in the case of this X4 version it certainly delivers on smooth, open A-roads where the taut suspension and the diesel engine (in Sport mode) really come into their own.

Neat tech and practical touches

The X4 hasn’t sacrificed everything on the altar of design – there is some real substance here. The boot has some everyday practical features that count: hooks for shopping bags, deep cubby for drinks bottles and a cargo net to keep larger items from rolling around. The rear seats spilt 40/20/40, giving some flexibility when picking up bigger items at furniture or DIY stores, and letting you still carry a child or two.

The driving modes help out when you want to go faster or travel more frugally, and they do make a difference. The trick tow bar makes an appearance when you need it and can disappear when you don’t all at the push of a button, and it can still tow a seriously weighty trailer of up to 2,000kg behind it.

Downsides

Getting the kind of average fuel consumption the official figures suggest you might does take careful driving and the use of the ECO PRO mode. In general, everyday driving, and especially when you want to get a shift on, that average takes a real tumble. This is not the most frugal of wheels; we averaged 34mpg in our test.

That sloping boot lid means that while the boot is large (500 litres), tall items require you to drop the rear seats. It also means the view out the back is very restricted – just as well the X4 comes with parking sensors fore and aft as standard.

Ownership experience

The interior quality and attention to detail in the cabin is exquisite, particularly with the contrasting light leather with red stitching and embossed detailing. Being in the car is one very pleasant place to be. The high driving position also gives you a commanding view of the road and BMW’s sat-nav is one of the clearest and most helpful out there.

Oh, and, if you ever find yourself having to stay at the Sofitel Hotel at Terminal 5 Heathrow, BMW drivers are served a little treat – reserved parking close to the exit which brings you to the hotel reception. It’s a particular way of showing how BMW’s concierge system works both in the real world and via the car’s connectivity (ConnectedDrive as BMW calls it). You can speak to an operator who will help you locate a restaurant, a nearby cash dispenser and a pharmacy when abroad. Small details but when you buy a premium car, it’s these details that really make ownership a pleasure.

Mileage: 5,297 Economy: 34.2mpg

 

Sixth report: eekeing out the fuel

Ever since I started running the BMW X4 I have found the overall fuel consumption to be disappointing. With it seemingly stuck around 33mpg I was beginning to wonder if it could be improved on at all.

First up, I had to recognise that my driving style was not getting the best out of the engine when it came to efficient driving. I was using Sport mode too much and while my driving is reasonably smooth, I figured there were ways I could improve to maximise fuel economy.

Selecting the right mode

Sport mode is great because it sharpens the throttle response and adds a certain oomph to the power delivery. Great for dashing about the place but a seriously bad idea to save fuel.

Luckily the X4, like other BMW models, has four selectable driving modes. There’s Sport, Sport+ (backs off some of the driver aids like traction control), Comfort (default mode) and Eco Pro. I found Comfort wasn’t a great compromise as it did little to improve running costs but also felt slightly anaemic when it came to performance.

BMW X4 drive mode

Clearly Sport was not doing me any favours so a more hardcore version of that would do even less. That leaves Eco Pro

Adapting my driving

Once I had made sure the tyre pressures were okay and Eco Pro was selected, I also made sure that the air-con was off . Then it was a case of keeping an eye on the mileage indicated between the instrument dials and restraining my right foot.

Not that I needed to that much. In Eco mode the throttle is less sensitive and it requires a good prod if you want to accelerate harder. By thinking ahead more and backing right off before getting close to a junction or roundabout then I used less fuel and braked less often. The car also indicates when to change gear so I was in the optimal gear more of the time.

Recording the results

The Eco mode records your progress in a slightly strange way by showing how much further it is possible to drive thanks to more frugal motoring with a blue mileage-plus figure. I managed to get to an extra, wait for it, 1.3 miles! Okay, that test run was just my commute into work – all 12 miles of it - so that's actually a significant 11 percent uplift.

BMW X4 eco pro

A quick check of the overall average mpg and I had shifted it up to 35.6mpg indicated. Again, it may not seem a huge jump but that single journey had caused that jump. I reckon a long motorway drive in Eco Pro mode and driving gently will get that mpg up into the 40s.

Mileage: 4,412 Economy: 35.6mpg

 

Fifth report: Towing the line

Given the sharp looks of the BMW X4, hooking up a trailer that dates back from the 80's is probably not going to do its street cred any good.

In the absence of a Streamline caravan, this is the only way I am going to get to test the X4’s towing credentials.

Neatly-stowed tow bar

The first thing you notice with the BMW is the lack of a tow bar. Stand at the back of the car and it is nowhere to be seen. It’s not even obvious how you are supposed to get it to make an appearance.

After checking off the buttons on the dash and, still determined not to resort to the handbook, I started to look around the boot. Bingo! Behind the right-hand panel in the boot is a little push button with the graphic of a tow bar on it.

Press and listen to the whirring as the tow bar performs a slow but complex articulation before locking into place with the ball offered up in the upright position. Neat.

Challenge of trailer electrics

All was looking good as I hooked up the box trailer on to the ball socket and locked it into position. So far so good. But the electric plug would not go into the car’s socket. A quick visual check revealed the car had a 13-pin socket while the trailer had a 7-pin one. Hmm.

Turns out the common socket fitted to cars is the continental 13-pin version that is ideal for towing caravans and supplying all the electrical power they need, not just for lights but also for on-board fridges, etc. Some argue the 13-pin set-up is a safer bet too.

Plug convertors

The good news is there’s a simple convertor that plugs into the 13-pin and enables the good ol’ British 7-pin to slot right in. It wasn’t a perfect fit but a bit of jiggery-pokery and the lights all worked on the trailer.

Towing driving test

Our 2-litre diesel X4 is capable of handling a braked towing weight of two tonnes, which is a pretty impressive feat des[ite my trailer hardly going to trouble it. On the road, care was needed for initial pull-offs thanks to the gap between first and second gears, but otherwise the smooth nature of the power delivery made towing easy.

BMW X4 tow bar

A tow bar is only ever going to appeal to those with caravans or trailers but the deployable version is very handy. It can tow some serious weight and doesn’t do a bad job of smooth driving with something hooked up at the back. Once finished with, the tow bar can be moved back up out of the way where it won’t trouble the rear parking sensors.

Mileage: 3,896 Economy: 33.2mpg

 

Fourth report: seeing the light

The BMW X4 is packed with sophisticated kit with much of it geared towards assisting the driver, making journeys less strenuous.

New headlight technology

Not that long ago you had to switch the lights on and off yourself, plus pull, push or twist the light stalk to engage full beam. Then automatic lights came in, which took care of the former function in poor light.

BMW X4 light switch

Then it was the turn of automatic main beam. If it detected a clear road it would engage main beam. If it noted bright lights coming towards the car (either on-coming traffic or closing in on traffic) it would dip the beam.

The latest trick is to only dip the part of the beam that could dazzle another driver. That way your side of the road and the verge would remain brightly lit, but the beam on the other side of the road would be dipped to prevent anyone being blinded by the light.

Does it work?

The BMW system seems a little slow at times. It’s as though it is double-checking to make sure the road is clear before it switches to full beam.

When dipping to prevent dazzling on-coming traffic it seems only six out of ten drivers agree the lights are doing a great job. Or at least they don’t flash me to dip my lights.

BMW X4 night driving

When driving along you can see the headlights doing some clever stuff as they cast a dark shadow on the opposite side of the road, while the verge and edge of the road on the nearside is clearly illuminated. Even cornering doesn’t throw it as the headlights ‘bend’ the light away from other traffic. It's impressive but not foolproof. It does work it out eventually but not before the other drivers can start to flash their main beams in protest.

If the system can be perfected then it is definitely a great driver aid; especially through the dark months of winter when driving on country roads. It is so much easier to see where the lane goes - even with oncoming cars.

Mileage: 2,889 Economy: 33.9mpg

 

Third Report: Practical touches

The addition of the interior Comfort Package added some useful practical features such as the cargo net in the boot and the nets on the back of the rear seats.

The boot opening and size is pretty generous – I had no trouble fitting in weekend luggage and a week’s worth of grocery shopping fits in easily.

At 500 litres the boot is only 50 smaller than the BMW X3 and matches the new kid on the block, the Porsche Macan. However, the Range Rover Evoque beats both with 550 litres of boot space.

Useful features for family life

Clearly someone who has a family has been involved in designing the boot features. There is a deep set well where a couple of large bottles can sit in (saves them rolling around the boot), there are hooks for one or two carrier bags (saves on your shopping being spilt across the boot floor) and there is the cargo net. The cargo net stops bags sliding around - quite useful if I happen to be enjoying the Sport driving mode.

BMW X4 folded seats

The 40/20/40-spilt seats, which come as standard, are also very handy. Family trips to the DIY store show I can slide long, thin packages through the middle of the rear seats and still carry two teenagers in the back.

Boot downsides

The problem is that steep sloping tailgate. While it looks great for a more dynamic design from the outside, it means any tall packages have to be laid flat and to do that you need to drop the rear seats. That said, if load space is really important for you then a bigger SUV is going to be the car for you.

Upfront there are cup-holders and reasonable space for cans and small bottles in the door bins. Located on the driver’s door is the remote boot release that I find very handy, especially in winter as it saves me having to put my hand in grime to press the boot lid open button.

BMW X4 window and boot switch

Fuel consumption seems to be improving as I am now exploring the other driving modes, including ECO PRO, so it will be interesting to see what the X4 can manage over our time with the car.

Mileage: 2,325 Economy: 34.4

 

Second Report: Driving Impressions

As is the way with the vast majority of SUVs, big and small, power is supplied by a diesel engine.

In the case of our long term BMW X4, it’s a 2-litre version that sees plenty of service in a range of other BMWs including the 3 Series Saloon, 4 Series Coupe and X3 SUV. The company offers it in a range of power outputs to suit different tastes and pockets.

Power and economy?

The 2-litre diesel is the entry-level model to the range with two 3-litre diesels on offer above it (one with 255bhhp and one with the wick turned up to 309bhp).

With 187bhp and a rather healthy 400Nm of pulling power, it should make for a decent dasher out on the road. On paper, things look good: 7.7 seconds to hit 60mph from standstill and the black wagon is claimed to hit a top speed of 132mph.

BMW X4 dials

For those drivers looking for wallet-soothing overtones, the X4 is claimed to deliver an average of 52mpg – again not bad for a SUV. VED band F means car tax costs aren’t harsh either, with the annual charge set at £145 at current rates for first and subsequent years.

Driving impressions

The BMW X4 doesn’t feel particularly powerful on the move. The six-speed manual doesn’t quite feel at home with the engine, with the first gear being sufficient to get the car rolling but you immediately need to hook second. Given the long reach it never feels the smoothest of actions.

BMW X4 dash

With peak pulling power arriving early it sometimes feels I’m stuck between gears and I’m struggling to get used to the manual. It’s a bit of a surprise really as BMW makes some of the best manual gearboxes going, but this six-speeder seems at odds with the X4.

The engine does feel slightly blunted in all bar the Sport driving modes when you get the full responsiveness from it. It also helps the gears feel more aligned with the power delivery, where hanging on to the revs and quick changes seem to suit the X4 well.

Handling and running costs

The lowered, stiffer M Sport suspension certainly makes for flatter cornering especially at speed. On smooth, twisty A-roads it delivers accurate cornering and responds really well to inputs from the sports steering wheel.

The downside is rutted, potholed roads, particularly in town, where the hard suspension struggles to soak up the bangs and bumps as the wheels drop into the chasms. It means care is needed to steer round rather than risk those rather lovely looking-alloys getting bent.

BMW X4 Sport Mode

While the claimed fuel economy average is 52mpg, I am struggling to get anywhere near it, probably because I am enjoying using the Sport mode a little too much. That means the indicated fuel consumption is the lower end of the 30s – 33.8 being the best average at the moment.

With the test on-going I suspect we will see better figures yet as I explore the other driving modes.

Mileage: 1,564 Economy: 33.8

 

First Report: Welcome

Many of you will be familiar with BMW’s better-known SUVs such as the X5 and the X3, but what about meeting in the middle? Here's our chance to live with the quirky BMW X4 in-betweener.

What’s it all about?

It seems there are customers out there who love the idea of a go-anywhere 4x4 but would like it with a bit more attitude and an ability to tackle twisty roads without rolling about at every corner.

The first set of wheels BMW unveiled designed to meet this brief was the X6 – as large as the X5 but with a sharper sloping roofline, rakish boot lid, stiffer suspension and more power under the bonnet (especially if you choose the X6M version).

BMW X4 exterior

Well, it must have been a success, because BMW has decided to repeat the trick but on a smaller scale. So please welcome with a giant fanfare the BMW X4.

Four-seat family car

It’s a family car with room for four adults, boasts a beautifully crafted cabin and mixes the looks of an off-roader with the sporty lines of a coupe.

BMW X4 engine

 

We have gone for the 2-litre diesel with six-speed manual. This should offer a good mix of performance and economy. On the running costs front the official claimed average is 52mpg while 142g/km of CO2 puts it into VED Band F – so £145 per year.

Strong performance

Performance isn’t bad either given this is a large 4x4 in terms of footprint and not exactly light on the scales either. Despite that, the car can cover the 0-60mph sprint in just 7.7 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 132mph.

BMW X4 interior

 

The X4 is offered in three flavours: SE xLine and M Sport. We’ve gone for the latter top-of-the-range trim, which secures a sportier-looking body kit, 19-inch alloys, firmer M Sport suspension, sports seats and steering wheel, aluminium trim inserts plus a large smattering of M Sport logos both inside and out.

Ivory interior impresses

To contrast with the deep black exterior paintwork is the rather lovely looking Ivory White/Black Nevada leather upholstery that features rather natty 'X' embossing and contrasting red stitching. Just how clean the interior will stay is another matter...

There is a host of optional extras including glare-free High-beam Assistant (a system that alters the high-beam lights to prevent them blinding other drivers - £990), upgraded 20-inch M Double-spoke style alloys (£995), interior comfort package (£1,350 - electric front seat adjustment with memory function, more interior storage and protective glazing for windows), Harman/Kardon surround sound system (£895), and fully electric, deployable tow bar (£765).

I’ll look forward to testing all of these as well as the long list of standard kit, which includes heated seats, park distance control (parking sensors front and rear), sports suspension and infotainment system to name just a few. So there’s plenty to test and keep you updated on.

Mileage: 656 miles Economy: 34.1mpg (indicated)