BMW's in-your-face styling for the X4 does the job of turning headsT
here’s a lot that life teaches you. Walk before you run, I’ve heard, is a good one. Stop and smell the roses; that’s a good one, too. Wouldn’t want life to whisk past you before you know it, obviously. The one that keeps coming back to haunt me, though, is one that’s oft repeated and, now that I think about it, with good reason, too: You’d be daft to judge a book by its cover.
Sure, I’ve taken a bit of liberty with the phrasing for that particular adage, but it rings true in the case of the BMW X4. If it isn’t painfully obvious, the subject of this piece isn’t quite the, um, boldest looking vehicle to roll off the line at one of BMW’s many plants. It took a relatively experienced set of eyes like mine to hold back before commenting on its overall ability, too, such is the unerring confusion its flow of lines inspire. But the hack, they say, is in powering through, and even though it may not look like it at first, the X4 makes for one beautiful proposition.
Slightly odd-ball proportions, but compact enough for our traffic-ridden roads
How? It’s not that tough. Look past the oddball styling, the relatively taut wheelbase, the swooping roofline and the pointlessly placed roof spoiler, and really dive right into the utility of the X4, and that’s where it starts making sense. It might be hard to believe me, but think not of the X4 as a four-seat SUV coupe or whatever it’s trying to be. Think of it as the second (or perhaps third, even) vehicle in your garage, one that’s meant to indulge you with its well-crafted seats, its divine 30d engine, and its innate ability to drive our roads as though it were purpose-built for them (which, admittedly, it’s not). Think of the X4 as a luxury two-seater, with a bit of usable back seat space and a boot, and as a car that sits high up on the road and gives you enough street cred because, well, it’s still a BMW at the end of the day.
Think of the X4 in these terms, and everything starts looking so much better. Now, I don’t want to speak on behalf of BMW, but I wouldn’t deem it out of the question that this is, in fact, what it was going for in the first place.
Not the most sophisticated view, but unerringly high quality stuff here
Where the X4 excels is in a few key areas, which isn’t hard to see once you spend some time in it. As an instance, once you step in and get behind the wheel, getting a lay of the land comes easy because BMW hasn’t tried too hard with the cabin layout. It’s simple, well defined and downright minimalist, to be honest, but I mean that in the best possible sense. The cabin is littered with high quality materials, be it the switchgear, the inlays or even something as simple as the way the seats envelope you in quite possibly the most perfect way there is: Supportive yet freeing, and enormously comfortable for long distances.
Simple, clean and fuss-free. This will age well
There’s no denying the fact that a lot of bits and bobs in the X4 can be deemed opulent and quite luxurious. The head-up display is quite nice to behold, even if it is a bit expected in this segment of cars. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it’s bright and legible even in the harshest of sunlight. Then there’s the leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels just perfect to hold, and might I add is just the right size as well. What’s also cool is the way the metallic inserts feel on the steering wheel. It’s quite easy to end up having buttons that feel cheap and low-rent, but BMW’s side-stepped that quite nicely. Similarly, the paddle-shifters behind the wheel feel sturdy and hefty every time you grab at them. Again, a very easy task to get wrong.
And like I said earlier, everything feels so premium and luxurious; it’s hard to spot anything that’s badly put together. The touchscreen, the iDrive knob to control it, voice commands and even the gesture control: they’re all there and ready to use with the simple objective of making your life easier. It’s very easy to get used to it all.
But it’s not perfect. For a start, the view out the back is terrible thanks to the extreme angle of slope on the rear windscreen and the rear seats obstructing most of the view.
That rear takes some getting used to, no doubt
Then, there’s the fact that, despite the wheelbase which gives you a good amount of legroom, headroom is always at a premium. You can blame the shape of the roof once again, and while it is possible to seat three at the back, it’s not always the smartest decision to do so. Especially not if you’re on longer trips. Like I said, think of this as a luxury two-seater that has a usable rear seat, and you’ll be much better off.
Where I was sold, though, was when I drove it. This X4 comes with the 30d engine. That means that there’s a straight-six diesel under the hood that makes a good amount of power at 265 hp and a whopping amount of torque at 620 Nm. That much torque has absolutely no right being in a car of this stature, but here we are. Power goes to all four wheels, thankfully, so the power is put down to the tarmac in the right way, and the 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox is absolutely divine. There’s a surge of power that wakes you straight up when you floor the throttle, and the best part is it comes at as low as 2000 rpm. Stick it in Sport mode, find a road that can handle that amount of power, and watch yourself make involuntary sounds that you never thought you’d make in this car.
But it’s the way the car comes together that absolutely blew my mind. It’s not just the raw power; it’s the way the car hugs corners hard, no matter the speed. The way the chassis barely rolls when it’s shown a corner, the way the steering transmits every single thing the wheels are doing, and the way it just eggs you on to keep pushing harder and harder… that’s where the magic lies. For the record, BMW states this will do the 0-100 kmph run in a scant six seconds. I didn’t test that claim, but I have no problem believing it.
Touchscreen infotainment is intuitive, fluid and lovely to use
And what sealed the deal for me is the ride at slow speeds. For a car that’s so great at the fast stuff, you’d think it would suffer at crawling over potholes and doing the daily grind. You’d be well off the mark in thinking that. It handles bumps like an absolute star, and there’s never a question of scraping the odd speed breaker here and there; it’s got more than enough ground clearance for that.
So that’s the BMW X4, then. A particularly odd looking vehicle at first, but admittedly one of the easiest to fall in love with. Sure, it’s not too versatile, but if you shift your perspective slightly and view it in the light it’s meant to be viewed in, it makes too much sense to ignore. I’m just wondering what BMW will do with the X4M. Now that’s something to look forward to.
BMW X4 xDrive 30d
Power: 265 hp
Torque: 620 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed, automatic
LxWxH (mm): 4752x1918x1621
Price: Rs 87.15 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)