1. What’s new for 2016?
Nothing, but that’s OK because this compact premium crossover is still dewy from its model-year 2015 introduction. Inspired by the German automaker’s midsize X6 – a fastback take on its square-cut X5 crossover – the X4 is a “four-door-coupe” re-imagining of BMW’s compact X3 wagon. The result is slightly bulbous but more upscale and urban than the family-flavored X3. In exchange for some of its host’s passenger and cargo volume the X4 gets a lower roofline and a crouched stance that contributes to sportier handling. It has a more aggressive-looking nose and comes with more features. And while it shares the X3’s four- and six-cylinder engines and xDrive all-wheel drive, it isn’t available with a diesel engine or rear-wheel drive.
2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
Several thousand more than an X3, making it one of the costlier premium compact crossovers. But you shouldn’t have to pay full sticker for the extra attitude.
There are just two models, the four-cylinder xDrive 28i starting at $45,850 and the six-cylinder xDrive35i priced from $50,200. (These base prices include BMW’s $950 destination fee.) Options can easily add $10,000 or more (see below), but an X4 is still well below the $61,000 starting price of an X6.
With a March ’15 release, marketplace data on the ’16 edition was unavailable in time for this report. But research on the 2015 X4 by pricing service TrueCar.com suggests transaction prices should average about $1,900 below base price for an xDrive28i and about $2,000 below for an xDrive35i. That’s roughly 4 percent off sticker to start, a deeper discount than TrueCar was tracking for equivalent X3s. For further comparison, the pricing service says transaction prices for a direct rival, the similarly fashion-conscious Range Rover Evoque, were trending some 6 percent below manufacturer’s suggested retail. As of Spring ’15, BMW was already offering finance rates as low as 0.9 percent to qualified buyers of 2016 X4s.
3. When will the next big change be?
Product lifecycles are condensing. BMW allowed the first-generation X3 go seven model years before a model-year 2011 redesign. Neither the X4 nor any other BMW will go that long again. Look for the next generation in 2019 or ’20. Meantime, expect minor styling updates around model-year 2017, and if the automaker senses demand, maybe availability of a diesel engine or rear-wheel drive.
4. What options or trim level is best for me?
The two X4 models have duplicate standard- and optional-equipment lists, though paying extra for the six-cylinder upfront entitles you to a price break on some options. Every X4 comes with a power moonroof, power tailgate, xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control, burl walnut interior trim, and backup warning. The xDrive 28i has 18-inch alloy wheels, the xDrive35i 19s. From there, pretty much everything adds to the sticker price, including $550 for a color that isn’t basic black or white.
With such features as “shadowline” exterior accents, aero body addenda, an M sport steering wheel, brushed-aluminum cabin trim, sport front bucket seats, and a handling-tuned suspension, the M Sport Package ($2,300 on the xDrive28i, $1,900 on the xDrive35i) suits this crossover better than the prissier xLine trim. Go for it, and put an additional $1,450 toward replacing the standard “Sensa Tec” upholstery with genuine leather, preferably as part of the $2,200 Premium Package, which also includes pushbutton ignition, satellite radio, and enhanced lumbar support.
Twenty-inch wheels are a ride-degrading extravagance; put their $950 toward the Cold Weather Package, which heats the steering wheel and the front and rear seats and adds retractable headlight washers. The final must-haves are the $3,150 Technology Package, primarily for its navigation system, though it also includes a nice head-up display and assorted telematics; the $700 Driver Assistance Package with its rearview camera and park-distance control; and $500 for full smartphone integration via USB and Bluetooth.
That’s a minimum of $9,650 in options, some of which — a rearview camera, smartphone linking – really ought to be standard on a vehicle like this.
5. What engine do you recommend?
Both are good, one is better here. The xDrive28i has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It’s among the better engines of its type, propelling this 4,130-pound crossover 0-60 mph in 6 seconds and furnishing fine midrange passing response. A car-length of sleepy movement off the line is its only real flaw and we consider it the engine of choice in the X3.
The X4’s inner sports coupe, however, is best served by the six-cylinder, a turbo 3.0-liter of BMW’s classic inline design. This creamy six feels as if it’s generating more than its rated 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and it seems quicker than its 5.2-second 0-60-mph clocking implies. It also copes better with the standard fuel-conserving stop/start system, reigniting with less shudder than the four-cylinder as the brake pedal is released.
Both engines link to an ultra-responsive eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel paddle shifters. You can further hone the performance edge with the standard Driving Dynamic Control, using its center-console-mounted buttons to adjust powertrain, steering, and chassis response among Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport + settings. Its Eco Pro mode saves gas but defangs power delivery to a degree that’s very un-BMW.
6. How is the fuel economy?
Better than most rivals, even some with less power. The four-cylinder has an EPA rating of 23 mpg combined, the V-6 a rating of 22 combined. Both engines require premium-octane gas.
7. How does the it handle?
BMW coined the term Sports Activity Coupe to distinguish performance-leaning crossovers from mere sport-utility vehicles. That’s a nod to their anti-boxy styling but also to their anti-SUV road manners. Indeed, the X4 is in league with the Audi SQ5 as the only compact crossover that approaches the handling standard set by the Porsche Macan. The steering is linear and natural feeling. Calibrated for the optimal dry-road distribution of traction, xDrive contributes mightily to cornering behavior that’s balanced and poised.
We think the extra dollop of suspension control built into the M sport package and Driving Dynamic Control negates the necessity of the Dynamic Damping Control option. Other testers swear the ability to further adjust chassis stiffness between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes is worth the additional $1,000.
8. Are the controls easy to use?
Reasonably so. Dials and buttons are well-placed, clearly identified, and move with gratifying precision. The transmission gear shifter moves with precision, too, just not in ways you might find intuitive. You lever it fore and aft and side-to-side and it returns to its original position after each action. You must visually confirm icons on the dashboard or the lever handle to verify you’ve chosen Drive, Park, Neutral, or Manual or Sport modes. You must press a release on the lever’s side to move it, and thumb a button on top to select Park.
Less intellectually demanding are the other controls, ranging from exquisitely sober main gauges to the available informative head-up display to the console’s surprisingly friendly iDrive cluster. You press buttons and manipulate its mouse-like knob to interact with various infotainment and vehicle functions; you can even enter some GPS commands by tracing letters on the knob’s touch-sensitive head.
9. Is it comfortable?
In a way that won’t let you forget BMW assumes the driver is paying the bills. Bumps are taken with sure-fisted action: little float, minimal rebound. You want a pillowy ride? Get a Lexus. Same for the densely padded seats; even the rear bench is molded to keep its two outboard occupants securely in place during fast cornering.
That fastback styling results in cabin space that’s intimate or tight, depending on your mindset. The roofline’s highest point is over the front seats, so headroom there is fine. But there’s less rear headroom and legroom than in the X3, Q5, and Evoque – by two inches or more – impressing upon back seaters this crossover’s sporty-coupe brief. Beneath the hatchlid is 49.4 cubic feet of cargo volume, or 17.7 with the 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks upright. That’s less than in the more squared-off alternatives, but more than in any compact sporty coupe.
10. What about safety?
The X4 has yet to undergo third-party crash testing but it should perform similarly to the X3, which posted strong results in the most recent evaluations. It earned the maximum five stars for overall occupant protection under the government’s 5-Star Safety Ratings system. And it merited the second-highest rating in the more demanding tests conducted by the insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To achieve the IIHS’s highest rating, a vehicle must have frontal-crash-mitigating emergency braking. On both the X3 and X4, that feature is part of the optional $1,900 Driver Assistance Plus package, which also includes surround-view video and lane-departure, blind-spot, and front-collision warning.
11. How’s the reliability and resale value?
The X3 and X4 are built exclusively in BMW’s South Carolina plant, along with the X5 and X6, and while the X4 is too new to accumulate much dependability and resale data, buyers should expect their experience to reflect that of X3 owners. Look for it to score well for initial quality, performance, and design, though midpack for dependability. That’s how the X3 did in owner surveys by J.D. Power, the leading automotive-consumer-assessment firm.
Projected resale value after five years is 33 percent of the original price, according to residual-value-tracking firm ALG. That’s average depreciation, though ALG does project an X3 will retain slightly more of its value after 60 months, at 35-38 percent, depending on the model.
12. Is it better than the competition?
The X4 is the playboy in a field of rivals that cater to more practical sensibilities. And it’s alone – for now. While sales are low, its value as a niche attraction is evident in plans by Mercedes-Benz to field a copycat in the GLC coupe. Expected for model-year 2017, it’s a four-door-fastback take on Mercedes’ redesigned-for-2016 GLC – formerly GLK — compact premium crossover. But don’t let that stop you from trying on a ‘16 X4, you dog you.