2019 BMW X4 Review

2019 BMW X4 - Curvy cousin of the X3 makes more sense now that it's all new.

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The BMW X4 is a compact 4-door crossover that shares engines and chassis with the slightly larger and more upright BMW X3. For 2019, the X4 is all new, with slightly larger dimensions, more powerful engines, and a host of new convenience and safety features. The only direct X4 competitor is the Mercedes-Benz GLC, however, similar vehicles include the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar.

First appearing in 2015, the new X4 rides a wheelbase that's been stretched 2.1 inches and is 3 inches longer overall than the model it replaces. It is also a couple of hundred pounds lighter. Two engines are offered: a 248-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 355-hosrpower turbo inline 6-cylinder. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic and come standard with all-wheel drive.

As you might imagine, two distinct models are offered. The xDrive30i lists for $50,450 and the M40i lists for $60,450. Other than the engines, differences include the addition of sport exhaust, 19-inch wheels, M Sport brakes, sport suspension, upgraded interior trim, full LED headlights and automatic hi-beams on the M40i. There's an M Sport package on the xDrive30i that adds many of these features.

The turbocharged 4 in the xDrive30i is plenty powerful, pushing this compact crossover from 0 - 60 MPH in about 6.5 seconds. Providing plenty of low-speed torque, it's tuned for American driving tastes and will likely meet the needs of most drivers. Those wanting more performance, will be happy to fork over $10 grand for the M40i's buttery smooth turbo six. Not only is it more powerful than the base 4, but makes beautiful music while doing it. Most peg the 0 - 60 MPH time of the sweet six at about 4.5 seconds.

Performance can sometimes come with a penalty at the pump and the X4 is no exception. EPA ratings for the 4-cylinder are 22 MPG city and 29 MPG highway. Six-cylinder ratings are just 20/27 MPG. Adding insult to injury is the fact that both engines require premium-grade fuel. That said, it's not all bad. Using a light throttle foot and sticking in the transmission's fuel-saving economy mode (more on that in a bit) you can average close to 25 MPG overall, perhaps a few MPG less on 6-cylinder models.

There are three, driver-selectable, driving models: Performance, Normal and Economy. In Normal, the engine and transmission try to find the best balance between fuel economy and power. That's the default when you start the X4 and likely where most will leave it. Switching to Sport brings significantly better throttle response, gear holding and even some engine braking. It's fun to play around in Sport mode, but shouldn't be used all the time as it's hard on both the engine and overall fuel economy. Opt for Economy and a host of electronic gadgets kick in to help boost overall fuel efficienty. Engine power is reduced, the transmission upshifts more quickly and there's an electronic disconnect when coasting. In addition, the engine more readily shuts off at stoplights. The experience isn't bad, but it is one of the more invasive Economy modes out there.

The X4's all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. It is designed to provide additional security when the road grows slippery and also boasts a performance mode that's designed to improve handing at the extremes. For example, it can lock the differential and also push power to the inside wheel when rounding corners to push the car into a more neutral dynamic. While the process can be confusing, the end result is unsurpassed dry-road handling for a crossover.

Over the road, the X4 feels as solid as a bank vault. The steering, though quite firm, feels exacting and accurate. Brakes have great stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. The taught suspension does an excellent job of keeping the tires in constant contact with the road, regardless of road surface. That said, there's little doubt that the X4 is one of the best handling crossovers on the market. Step up to the M Performance and it might just be the best.

Thankfully, all of that sophistication means the ride isn't overly firm or harsh. There's good impact absorption and enough compliance in the tires to soak up minor road imperfections. If the road is rough, things can get a little busy, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

Interior noise levels are low. Wind rush is minimal and tire noise is well muted. The 4-cylinder engine can get a little buzzy in hard acceleration. The six is likely the smoothest in the class and sounds like a million bucks in hard acceleration. 

Sharing an interior with the X3 has pluses and minuses. The design is flowing and sophisticated though somewhat busy with a myriad of buttons and knobs throughout. Materials are price appropriate, but can seem a bit out of place on the base model. Assembly quality is top notch.

Drivers face a twin dial setup that's mostly digital. Like most, it's highly configurable, but because there are surrounds for the dials, it's somewhat handicapped in overall function. The center stack is dominated by a large display screen for the iDrive infotainment system. It's controlled by a series of buttons and jog dial on the center console. There are conventional controls for some radio functions and climate control. Also available is a gesture control system that's more show than go. Also, the gear shift can be a bit confusing to operate and sometimes takes a double check before the right gear is selected. Apple Car Play is supported at extra cost and Android Auto support is not available.

The front seats, likely the best in the business, are very comfortable, extremely supportive and have about a dozen different adjustments. Head and leg room are good. Entry and exit can be a bit of a challenge because of the lower roofline of the X4. That swooping roofline also eats into overall visibility, which is fine forward but somewhat challenged to the rear. Much of the 2-inch wheelbase gain went into the rear seat, which now can comfortably accommodate two adults. Though, knee room grows tight if the front seats are pushed all the way back.

Cargo space is a plus, but only if you compare it to a sedan. With the rear seats in use total capacity is a shade under 20 cubic feet. Flip down the seats and capacity grow to 50 cubic feet.  Compared those numbers to the X3, with which the X4 shares its platform, at 28.7 and 62.7 cubes. Interior storage is average with a few open and covered bins throughout. There's a nice cell phone charging tray and capricious center console bin.

Bottom Line - It's hard to fault BMW trying to capitalize on the market's trend from sedans to crossovers. The brand offers the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6 and now the X7. The odd numbers are more like traditional crossovers and the even numbers signify coupe-like styling. The X4 hits the sweet spot of the market with it's compact-to-midsize dimensions. There's a lot to like in terms of the BMW-ness of the X4 as well. It's surprisingly athletic, offers a powerful engine option and feels as if was hewn from a single block of steel. Downsides include mediocre fuel economy, fussy control layout and high prices. The competition is pretty stiff amongst upscale compact crossovers, but this BMW might just have the overall edge when it comes to balancing design, comfort, performance and price.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.