The BMW X4, the fastback mutation of the bestselling X3 compact SUV, has been around since 2015 and has proven popular enough to earn a second generation, which debuted for 2019. Like the X3, the X4 offers blistering M and M Competition models, a less insane but still-muscular M40i variant, and, for those who have a lesser need for speed, the four-cylinder X4 xDrive30i tested here.
The current X4 is slightly wider, longer, and 2.2 inches lower than the X3. For 2022, the X4’s look is subtly tweaked with a mesh grille insert in the enlarged kidneys (although their size is still downright modest when compared to newer BMWs such as the iX). At the rear, a reshaped bumper helps the back look less massive, and our test car was darkened with Shadowline exterior trim. We almost hate to admit it, but the X4’s shape is starting to grow on us—or at least the slope-backed SUV thing looks less awkward in this smaller size than it does in the larger X6.
The X4 doesn’t just have a different body shape than the X3—it brings a higher level of content as well. On this base-engine model, for instance, all-wheel drive is standard, whereas the X3 30i can be had also in rear-drive form. Otherwise, though, the powertrains are identical. BMW’s familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, paired as usual with an eight-speed automatic, exhibits fine drivability under nearly all circumstances. This engine also sounds less gravelly than most turbo fours, and when you lay off the gas, the X4 cruises at a hushed 66 decibels at 70 mph.
Well mannered though it is, the engine’s 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque are no longer enough to put it in the front row among its competitive set. Nor do its acceleration times look terribly impressive. The 2.0-liter needs 6.2 seconds to get this BMW to 60 mph. That result unsurprisingly matches the identically powered X3, but it lags behind the 261-hp Audi Q5 45 (5.5 seconds) and the 300-hp Genesis GV70 2.5T (5.6 seconds).
The 30i also stands deep in the shadow of its overachieving sibling, the M40i, which wrings 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet from its inline-six. We tested one in 2019 (back when it had just 355 hp), and it hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. It also hustled through the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 107 mph, versus 14.7 seconds at 94 mph for the xDrive30i. While the X4 30i doesn’t feel particularly sluggish around town, in high-speed passing maneuvers you really miss the M40i’s extra two cylinders. Accelerating from 50 to 70 mph takes 4.5 seconds here, versus 3.3 for the M40i.
The X4 30i is less thirsty than the M40i but not by much. The EPA estimate for the xDrive30i is 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway) versus 23 mpg combined (21 city/26 highway) for the M40i. Our observed 24 mpg overall exactly matched the EPA combined estimate.
When it comes time to scrub off speed, the X4 xDrive30i proves considerably more athletic, stopping from 70 mph in just 157 feet—a mere three feet longer than the X4 M Competition. It also exhibited no fade. Our test car did have the benefit of wider optional tires and the optional M Sport brakes, which at 13.7 inches diameter (front) and 13.6 inches (rear) have rotors that are larger than the standard units and thicker too; they’re also squeezed by four-piston front calipers (versus single-piston) and iron rear calipers in place of the standard aluminum.
In the X4, the M Sport suspension is standard, although the regular suspension can be substituted as a no-cost option. Our car had the M Sport setup, and the ride is stiff-legged. Even with the adaptive dampers in Comfort mode, impacts can be sharp, and the rear wheels sometimes hop over bumps at freeway speeds. We should note that our test car was riding on 20-inch wheels; the base 19s might be more forgiving. All that said, this entry-level X4 is far more tolerable over bad pavement than is the more sportified M40i or the muscle-bound X4 M.
The upside of the firm suspension is that body roll is a nonissue, and on its staggered-fitment Pirelli P Zeros (245/45R-20 front, 275/40R-20 rear) the X4 30i clings to the skidpad to the tune of 0.88 g. Throw a few curves at it, and the X4—its 4184 pounds near equally balanced on its front and rear axles—understeers moderately but ultimately doesn’t feel that much different than a sports sedan. Grip the wheel—its rim is as fat as a German knackwurst, the leather as smooth as a sausage casing—and there’s precious little feel that makes its way through. But we dock more points for the Variable Sport steering’s nonlinear response to inputs, which often had us backing off after initially cranking in too much lock. (Variable Sport steering is standard on the X4; the X3 can be had without it.)
The current X4 is a bit lower than its predecessor, and sitting at the wheel, there’s a notable contrast with the X3. The driver’s seating position is just 0.6 inch lower, but front headroom is 1.6 inches less, and the A-pillar comes in closer, creating a less SUV-ish feel. As you’d expect, the view over your shoulder or out the rearview mirror is compromised by the squashed rear side windows, more obstructive rear pillars, and sloped liftgate glass. Characteristic of BMWs, the driver is well placed behind the wheel, and the pilot benefits from a large dead pedal. The standard Sport seat seems comfortable initially, though as the hours wear on, one becomes aware that the cushion is rather narrow.
Ducking into the rear seat under the X4’s sloping roofline is made more difficult by the intrusion of the rear wheel well. Once back there, one finds less spacious environs than in the X3, although a six-footer can sit behind a similar-sized driver. In a further sacrifice to style, the X4’s cargo hold volume behind the rear seats is trimmed by five cubic feet (some 17 percent) compared to that of the more squared-off X3.
The X4 doesn’t have the latest, curved-screen central display that wows showroom-goers in the new i4, but functionally, this system need make no apologies. BMW’s mix of rotary controller, touchscreen capability, physical buttons, and a volume knob work harmoniously with the system’s easy menu logic to have you finding what you want with minimal fuss and frustration. We might suggest a dedicated button to switch off the heavy-handed lane-keep assist (the function is buried in menus), but once you do so, you needn’t mess with it again.
BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional is standard here (it’s optional on the X3), which means the screen size is 12.3 inches rather than 10.3.
Live Cockpit Professional also brings a digital instrument display. Its graphic layout isn’t the most spectacular, consisting of bracket-shaped bar graphs for speed and revs. A speed readout lives inside the left bracket, so customization is mostly limited to what’s inside the right bracket. We found having audio info here to be the most useful, but other choices include a trip computer, a g-meter, and horsepower and torque bar graphs. A small section of map lives at the center of the display.
Overall, the X4 interior isn’t one that dazzles with its design, but it’s pleasant to interact with. Nor can you say BMW has scrimped on materials. There’s little hard plastic in evidence and plenty of brushed metal trim (other materials are available). Your elbows meet well-padded surfaces on the center armrest and door panels, and most touchpoints have a quality feel.
The X4 xDrive30i starts at $52,795, which is $6100 more than the equivalent X3. Our sparsely optioned test vehicle, which included the M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages, carried a $58,995[ED1] price tag. That price just about matches the $58,795 MSRP of the X3 M40i. So, you can pick the SUV that looks quick, or the one that really is quick.
[ED1]Price is changed to reflect two “feature delete” items on the Monroney that are not available to consumers.
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