The 2015 BMW X4 represents the brand’s second answer to a question that no one really asked. First came the X6, a large, squat crossover with coupelike lines. This odd duck has the bulk and weight of an SUV coupled to relatively modest cargo capacity and the limited rear seat space of a sport coupe. The company fittingly calls this new vehicular breed a "sports-activity coupe." Now there’s the 2015 X4 that delivers the same theme, just in a smaller, more affordable and slightly more sensible package.
The X4 shares its basic platform with BMW’s X3 compact crossover, but sits 1.5 inches lower and wider. A long hood, short overhangs and that fastback-style roof line give the X4 a dynamic stance. Whether you choose the turbocharged four- or six-cylinder, you’ll get spirited performance that’s more sport coupe than sport-utility. Even the turbo-4 will hustle this rig up to 60 miles per hour in about 6 seconds while still earning an extraordinary EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon combined. Handling capabilities, while certainly not as sharp as a sport coupe’s, should still be athletic enough to satisfy most folks.
But when asked to play a more practical role, the 2015 BMW X4 expectedly comes up a bit short. Although technically a five-passenger vehicle, the X4 is more a four-seater, as three across the rear seat would be tight. Also, at about 18 cubic feet, the cargo capacity behind the seats rates about 10 cubes less than in the X3, a price paid (along with less headroom) for that sleek, wind-swept roof line. Still, that’s more space than you’ll find in the trunk of most sedans, and of course you can always fold the rear seats down for significantly more space.
Although the X4 may have some BMW showroom visitors scratching their heads and raising their eyebrows as they check out the X3 and X5, there’s certainly nothing wrong with offering additional choices. Although we’d be quick to first recommend a more conventional and practical compact crossover, those who place pizzazz above practicality may want to consider the X4. As expected, competition in this specialized segment is minimal, with the 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque being the most direct competitor in terms of performance, price and similarly themed styling. Although both have earned an SUVS "B" rating, in this two-horse race we’d have to give the edge to the Bimmer for its greater performance and refinement.
Whether jockeying with downtown traffic or running up an on-ramp to merge onto a fast-moving freeway, the X4 xDrive 28i impresses. Coupled to a smooth-shifting and on-point automatic, the "base" turbo-4 packs a punch that makes you wonder if there was a typo when BMW made up the spec sheet. Really, there’s no need to opt for the more expensive turbo-6 in the X4 xDrive 35i, given the turbo-4’s eager and refined nature. But either way, you can’t go wrong.
Driving enthusiasts expecting razor-sharp handling from the X4 may be disappointed, however. Pressed hard on a curvy road, the X4 has more body lean than we’d expect from a BMW. Dynamically the X4 is not as light on its feet as other BMW SUVs, but it should still deliver enough sport for most folks, as it changes direction confidently and boasts a compliant yet controlled drive over broken pavement. Out on the open highway, the X4 effortlessly and quietly gobbles up the miles, making it a good choice for long road trips.
The 2015 BMW X4 is a four-door crossover with coupelike styling. There are two trim levels: xDrive 28i and xDrive 35i. The "xDrive" moniker indicates all-wheel drive, while the numbers denote whether the engine is a turbocharged 4-cylinder (28i) or a turbocharged-six (35i).
The X4 xDrive 28i comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, a power tailgate, adaptive xenon headlights, LED foglights, LED running lights, power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, "SensaTec" (premium vinyl) upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel (with paddle shifters on automatic-transmission models), eight-way power front seats, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and auto-dimming mirrors. Standard electronic features include Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, BMW Assist eCall emergency telematics, BMW’s iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch display and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB/iPod interface.
Aside from its more powerful 6-cylinder engine, the xDrive35i adds 19-inch wheels.
There are a number of option packages available for the X4. The Premium package includes keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery (available separately), front seat power lumbar adjustment and satellite radio. The Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel and heated front and rear seats. The Lighting package features full LED headlights with automatic high beam control.
The Driver Assistance package features front and rear parking sensors as well as a rearview camera. Spring for the Driver Assistance Plus package and you’ll also get adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a top-down camera system, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
The Technology package features a navigation system with traffic reporting, an enhanced driver information display, a head-up display, BMW Apps (including Pandora and Facebook integration) and BMW Remote Services (allowing smartphone control of remote start and climate settings as well as stolen car location and notification).
The M Sport package adds 19-inch wheels (for the 28i), styling tweaks that include "Shadowline" (black-out) window trim, front sport seats, a sport steering wheel and a choice of aluminum and wood cabin accents. The xLine package features 19-inch wheels and a choice of cabin accents, including dark copper.
Stand-alone options include some of the above items plus active suspension, a self-parking system, Enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
The front compartment of the X4 features a somewhat intimate design, with a wide center console making for a sporty, dual-cockpit feel. Overall, there is a classy ambience within the X4, with top-notch materials throughout and attractive metallic and/or wood accents sprinkled about. The sport seats that come with the M Sport package are well-bolstered, firmly supportive and cozy on a long drive. The rear seat is well shaped for two, but headroom for taller passengers can be tight due to the sloping roof line. The latter design cue also contributes to compromised rearward visibility. As such, we highly recommend springing for the Driver Assistance package, as it includes parking sensors and a rearview camera.
Wrapped up in the optional navigation system is a suite of smartphone-connected apps including Pandora, TuneIn and the Amazon cloud player. Controlling it all is the iDrive infotainment controller, which with navigation includes a touchpad for letter and character inputs. While iDrive responds quickly to commands, we’ve found it often takes a few more clicks and spins of the knob to access desired functions as compared to some other competitor interfaces.
For cargo-carrying duties, the X4 offer nearly 18 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat or 49.4 cubic feet when folded. These are both considerably less than in most other compact luxury crossovers. That split rear bench ostensibly seats three passengers and folds in a versatile 40/20/40 configuration. A power tailgate comes standard and can be equipped with a hands-free feature that opens it when you swipe your foot under the bumper.
Standard safety equipment on the 2015 BMW X4 includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is BMW Assist eCall, which includes automatic collision notification and an emergency assistance button.
Optional safety equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a top-view camera and a lane departure/frontal collision warning system.
During SUVS testing, an X4 xDrive 28i came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 122 feet, an average performance for a midsize luxury crossover.
The X4 xDrive28i uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while the xDrive35i gets a turbocharged 6-cylinder that packs 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. Both send power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles.
At the SUVS test track, an X4 28i sprinted to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds which is pretty quick for the entry-level trim. BMW claims the X4 35i requires just 5.2 seconds to hit 60.
As far as fuel economy goes, the 28i earns EPA estimates of 23 miles per gallon combined (20 city/28 highway). It achieved an extraordinary 28.1 miles per gallon on the SUVS mixed-driving fuel economy evaluation route. The 35i, meanwhile, nearly matches that efficiency at 22 miles per gallon combined (19 city/27 highway). All X4s come with an automatic stop-start function, which shuts off the engine when you’re stopped to save fuel.
Distinctive design; powerful and fuel-efficient engines; cozy ride; solid construction.
BMW continues to create new automotive niches, this time with the 2015 X4. With coupelike styling on a crossover SUV body, the X4 certainly looks more sporting than other luxury crossovers. But the diminished utility shouldn’t be ignored.