We could have taken a sure-footed sedan or a boxier SUV up Pennsylvania’s twisty mountain roads on a recent trip, but instead, we buckled into the BMW X4—which blurs the lines between the two—to see what all the fuss is about over crossover coupes.
Day 1: Packing Out
When we backed into the driveway, popped the trunk and started piling in the bags and gear for a long weekend for a family of three, the consequences of the X4 raked roof weren’t immediately clear. Sure, that detail, which aesthetically separates a crossover coupe from a larger, squared SUV or a curvy, traditional crossover, whittles cargo space down to 18.5-cubic feet behind the rear seats, but we had enough room for all our bags or your standard grocery store run. That figure jumps to 50.5-cubic feet with the rear seats folded, which isn’t large enough to swallow a massive Home Depot haul of lumber, but it will get a big-screen TV home without a problem.
Hopping in, the leather front seats are supportive, but the headroom in the rear is cramped for anyone on the taller side nearing 6 feet. There is plenty of rear legroom, though. We figured the allure of the crossover coupe can’t be the cargo space, which, while not overly lacking here, is easily remedied by a standard crossover. We expected the next morning’s drive would really have to prove the X4’s worth.
Day 2: Hitting the Highway
While BMW invented the crossover coupe category back in 2009, the market has grown with options from Mercedes-Benz, other versions in the BMW X stable, and competition from crossover rides like the Range Rover Velar and Porsche Macan. What sets the X4 apart from BMW’s less expensive and more popular X3 is the driving experience. Here the M40i didn’t disappoint. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six, pushing 355 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission, felt responsive and quick to accelerate. Shifting out of park takes some getting used to, but the center cluster’s Sport driving mode feels like a cheat boost in a video game: It gives you an instant pop of power that makes you want to use the paddle shifters.
Compared to the older generation X4, this version is wider, a touch longer and lower, with a lighter weight and more aerodynamic shape. We wouldn’t say it looks fast, but the lines are more refined and sportier than the previous version. The all-wheel-drive X4 has a few driving safety features baked in, like forwarding collision warning and automatic emergency braking, but it’s the lane-keeping assistance that we used most during testing.
It’s not overly aggressive—it feels like a gentle nudge on the wheel when it sees something it doesn’t like—but it has what we’d call a really tight tolerance for conditions it deems unacceptable. Still, it’s not so obtrusive that you’d want to shut the feature off. The X4 gobbled up twisty mountain roads with larger breaks, a responsive suspension, and an engine quick to accelerate out of corners. This would make one spirited daily driver.
Day 3: Running Around Town
The issues with rear-seat headroom aside, there’s a lot to like about the X4’s interior. BMW’s overhaul is an improvement from the previous X4 and more in line with the X3’s styling. Our test model had the optional $1,000 convenience package that included a surprisingly comfortable lumbar support. Kids will enjoy tweaking the interior lighting color which, like many of the settings, is controllable from the central iDrive screen, which we found to be fast and intuitive to use.
The X4 M40i was a fun ride, but is it for you? If buyers expect to have backseaters often, there are roomier (and less expensive) options even from within BMW, like the still sporty X3. Still, the X4 looks impressive, athletic, and certainly stands apart from boxier SUVs.
If the crossover coupe category is to continue, we hope it moves towards clearly defining itself away from the murky mix of sport-tuned SUV or modern fastback.
[From: $60,450; bmwusa.com]
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