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We have driven so many BMWs in the past and in the recent past too, that whenever it comes to having a car to accompany us and be the vehicle of choice for a roadtrip, in addition to the motorcycle, of course, we think about BMWs. So when we were looking forward to a roadtrip that encompasses the hustle and bustle of New Delhi and the vast nothingness and minimalistic charm of Rajasthan, we thought of having a car along with our Vitpilen 250. We thought of a BMW. And the kind folks at BMW obliged. This time around, with the X4. The journey was awesome and full of many realizations. What about the BMW X4? Well, it was just as awesome and just as full of realizations.
First off, the BMW X4 follows a design language that is quite popular nowadays but it was introduced and made famous by… yes, BMW. The design language is a crossover between an SUV and a coupe. The origin of the design goes back to the BMW X6, first of the kind. And the name given to this design by BMW is SAC or Sports Activity Coupe. And out of respect for coming up with an entirely new and radical concept, we’ll be referring to the X4 with just that… an SAC.
We laid down the basics of this peculiar design language quite a few times. Like when we drove the X6 M in the Balkans or more recently when we drove the X6 right here in India. You can check out those pieces (hyperlinked above) for more details. But for the sake of simplicity and knowledge, we’ll put it out there again, briefly. Combine the dimensions of an SUV, add the roofline of a coupe and let engineers figure out a balance between the dynamics of each of them for one car. There you have it, an SAC.
The BMW X6 is without the doubt the OG SAC but it was its popularity that perhaps gave BMW an inkling of the fact that there was more to be had where those sales came from. Not exactly there but around there somewhere. So while the X6 is the super-premium (and super-sized) SAC, the X4 is aimed at the upper or premium end of the mid-size class. So is it just an X6 with everything toned down? Not really. And that was realization number 1. BMW X4 is its own car. It has its own identity.
Our roadtrip was to involve a lot of kilometres and we were not sure if the X4 was the right car for practical reasons. Reasons like space because we had to carry a lot of stuff and at least 3 people including the driver. Reasons like comfort that you need when you spend most people have to work while sitting in the car. One look at the BMW X4 and all our apprehensions were washed away. It seemed big, it seemed purposeful, it seemed practical (for the most part), but most importantly, it looked ravishing.
If you really look at it, it is nearly as big as the X6. Nearly. It is 4.7m long. It is nearly 1.5m wide. It is nearly 1.6m high. And it sits well above the ground with those large wheels. The looks of the SAC design have always been polarising but it is about getting used to it and it does not take long. We are. It is a BMW after all. We love the design of the car. The sloping roofline, the steeply raked windscreen (on both ends!) and the bold stance. While the proportions shout Gargantua, the lines scream elegance. It is a heady mix.
On the front, the large kidney grille takes the centre stage, literally and figuratively. Flanked by all-LED headlamps and supported by a rising hood. Then there are LED fog lamps that flank the intakes. Overall, it looks neat. The finish is typical BMW; flawless. The side profile looks pretty dashing too because it is slightly shorter than the X6 and the taper is also a bit smoother.
The rear is a bit odd. The end cans on either side is a neat touch. The taillights are sleek and look wonderful but individually. In order to deal with the slightly odd SUV-coupe combo that makes the rear look a tad too bulbous, taillights could have been bigger. That may have helped. Or maybe not. Anyway, let us move on.
We had our bags packed and we were ready to hit the road. The X4 was too. Since we are talking about luggage, let’s talk boot space and boot space without the rear seats folded since we needed them. There’s 395 litres of it. In that sense, X3 is more practical and X4 more… good-looking? Perhaps. But the major differentiator here is not the number but the execution.
See that coupe line, takes away some clearance so tall bags won’t let the boot close. You have to lay them flat. But then, there are tethers and tie-ons everywhere so that your stuff does not rattle or move around in the back. Cool stuff. Smart stuff. In case you do not need the rear seats, they are in a typical 40:20:40 split, so fold them and you have 1,430 litres but if you prefer to carry stuff over people, you will be labelled materialistic.
Bad jokes apart, after loading our stuff, it was time to get in the car. Before we discuss the interiors, we’d like to point out that, and it has happened every single time, once you enter a BMW all the shortcomings and all the niggles are forgiven. Considering the X4 already has very few, well, it’s near-perfect for roadtripping… roadtripping in style. We started off as being passengers in the backseat.
The backseats are roomy in terms of leg-room and the width of the car makes it roomy horizontally as well. Vertically, it’s quite alright but people over 6’ may need to wiggle around a bit. There’s climate control in the back as well so that’s a good touch. Then there’s the usual deal with the cup-holders and such. What we really liked was the size of the door pockets. They can easily accommodate a big water bottle with no difficulty at all.
After getting comfortable, we were on our way. The one thing that you’d really like in the BMW is how quiet the cabin is despite the car having to battle traffic and with traffic comes honking. But inside the X4, it is nearly whisper-quiet and that is a major plus. The variant we drove was the xDrive30i. Petrol engine which means refined engine which means quiet engine. So is it all good? For the most part. The only fly in the ointment here is that as soon as we hit the highway, the only noise that bothered us a tad was the tyre noise.
It was not very apparent during our jaunt from Delhi to Jaipur as it is still a decently busy highway. But after crossing Jaipur, we went to Jodhpur, then Jaisalmer, then Bikaner and then back to Delhi. After Jaipur, the traffic was scarcer and the nothingness began to take over. No noise from the traffic or the wind. With a setting like that and a car like this, you can nearly meditate. Only, you have to pretend that the slight tyre noise is the sound of flowing water. If you can…
Moving on, the BMW X4 is a car that wants to be driven. If you are a petrolhead, even more so. So it was inevitable that we could not resist the urge to take the proverbial wheel for too long. BMWs are drivers’ cars after all. Moving to the front, it gets even better. Once you have the wheel, you don’t bother about the slight lack of headroom or the slight lack of boot space. It is a proper BMW now and it just wants to be driven.
Another thing that we really like about the BMW X4 and it is something that we realized only after driving it, is that the ‘coupe’ thing is not just a gimmick. BMW has spent a lot of time in calibrating the dynamics on this car to make it drive like one too… despite its SUV proportions. It is quick and planted in a straight line and for the most part, it is quick and planted through the corners too. In addition to that, it can also handle some off-roading. Not the hardcore stuff but still, what it can do is quite impressive for a car like this.
Let us start with the technicalities first. We have a 4-cylinder twin-turbo petrol engine that displaces 1,995cc sitting under the hood. It is rated for 252 bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to the famed 8-speed Steptronic transmission sending the power to all the wheels but keeping it biased towards the rear unless needed at the front. This is important but we’ll come back to that later. The X4 also gets adaptive suspension with its weight distribution being 50:50 front and rear.
That was a very specific list of specifications that we listed out, right? It is because those are the things that matter the most in making the BMW X4 a really, really fine car to drive. First off, engine. BMW says that the X4 xDrive30i does 0-100 km/h in 6.3 seconds. Fair enough because it feels quicker than that. We love how refined the 4-pot petrol engine is and how freely it revs. The transmission is also pretty quick and that also helps the acceleration.
The 4-wheel drive system also helps with the acceleration since the launches are near perfect. With the xDrive system being so evolved and advanced now, one may not feel the need for launch control here if they are a seasoned driver. This also lends the X4 the ability to deal with slight off-roading in which the large wheels help too.
Now, with the power being transmitted to all the 4-wheels and the wheels themselves being large, there has to be some understeer to the X4. But those effects are mitigated well by the variable torque split which keeps it rear-biased and that gives the X4 an edge in the corners. The engine has enough grunt so that when you gas out of the corners, it really feels like you’re doing so in a car much smaller.
Now, the suspension. The adaptive kit despite being in the comfort mode is a tad stiff. Undulations and rough surfaces are dealt with easily but big potholes and broken roads are still felt. The stiffer setup is not a deal-breaker by a long shot but it does exist. Another thing that exists is the sharp handling that the stiffer setup brings with it. Change the mode to Sport and in addition to the engine and transmission being dialled to 11, the suspension is also much firmer. That means in corners, the car feels planted and never too nervous even in the sharpest of corners. Body roll is also very well contained.
We also visited Sam Sand Dunes, a place not too far from Jaisalmer where we had some fun with the X4. See, it is not an outright off-roader but it is far from being afraid of some action either. The cabin is also sorted with the iDrive system, heads-up display and multiple ways of control including dials and knobs, gesture, touch and voice. It is loaded with nearly all the amenities one could ask for in an SUV… and a coupe.
So the X4 is a car which is quite a bit peculiar, quite a bit practical, quite a bit sporty, quite a bit enjoyable and… every bit a BMW. A BMW meant for soulful trips. A BMW meant to exude panache. A BMW meant to get sh*t done. It is refreshing to see that the X4 does not try to mimic every other car that is out there to be the best. It is content with itself and that character that BMW has inculcated in it… shows. If you want an SAC or a coupe-SUV crossover, X6 may be your best bet. If you cannot afford it, X4 is the next best thing.