Unlike a decade ago, now everywhere you look, you see different kinds of crossovers. Small crossovers, big crossovers, and nowadays we have “interesting looking” crossovers that look more like a raised coupes. Actually, the coupe-ish SUV era started with the BMW X6, which was a hate or love choice for most people. In BMW’s model lineup, there are 8 different types of SUVs, not even including different engines and variations. X4 is one of the later additions in BMW’s SUV model lineup, which was first released in 2014.
The second (current) generation is released in 2018 and it has the same platform as the current-gen X3. The only difference aside from the small design difference in the front is, it comes with the slope in the rear, looking much more like a jacked-up coupe. In today’s test, we’ll explain how it feels like to drive the X4M Competition, not only from the performance point of view but everyday drivability and practicality.
Exterior and Interior
Front end looks very sharp and sportyThe exterior of the X4M is a double edge sword. I personally like how it looks, but having M badge adds a lot of value in terms of overall design. Compared to regular X4, X4M Competition comes with special rims, bumpers, hood, fenders, almost everything looks sportier. Front end looks very similar to X3M Competition, there are few small changes only few people would realize the difference.
The rear design of the X4M is where it differentiates itself from the other Crossovers. Granted, it still has traditional BMW body lines and design languages, and being an X4M, it comes with 100 percent real exhaust tips. Personally I am not a fan of non-M X4 rear design, but with the addition of spoiler, different bumper and exhaust tips, X4M gets a “Pass” in terms of how it looks from the back.
When you look at the X4M Competition from the side, it is not the best looking SUV in BMW’s model lineup. It has a long hood, and the slope in the rear makes the overall design look weird. The gray colour is also not our favourite for an M car, maybe a darker tone would make the car look better. We would prefer X3M Competition over this one, in terms of how it looks.
No matter if you find it ugly, or beautiful, it is a love or hate design. This love or hate design affects interior space in a bad way, unfortunately. The good thing that you don’t feel that much when you sit in the driver’s seat. You get a typical BMW interior. Lots of leather, soft touch plastics, carbon fiber and metal parts used throughout the cabin. If you are coming from other BMW model, you would feel yourself at home.
Love or hate part about the interior is that there are lots of common parts used in other BMW interiors. Compared to the regular X4, this one comes with sportier seats, few more carbon fiber parts, and M buttons that are integrated into the steering wheel. If you like overall design of this interior, this would be perfectly fine for you. However, it has been several years BMW has been using same design and similar parts in almost all BMW models which makes higher tier models less unique and boring.
Our tester had the gray color that we would definitely not choose, but the red interior makes the car look much more sporty and it matches well with the M character. Seat comfort is not as good as regular BMW seats, but the adjustability is pretty good for the driver and front passenger seats. They are perfectly fine for few hours of trip, but if you are going to sit for the whole day, you may want to take extra breaks.
The rear seats of the X4 M are comfortable but you should not expect tons of legroom or headroom. It is not the biggest crossover in BMW’s SUV lineup, but it offers significantly less rear legroom and headroom compared to X3, which is actually the same platform. The main reason why this one is more cramped in the rear is the coupe-like exterior design and slope of the C pillar. Some people really like the way it looks, at an expense of overall practicality. I personally would prefer X3M just because of the fact that if you are buying an SUV you should prioritize practicality over looks.
The trunk space is unsurprisingly below average for the premium compact crossover. The X4 M Competition comes with a standard 18.5 cubic feet (520L) of cargo space. This number is not impressive at all, considering almost all compact sedans have similar or more cargo space behind the rear seats. To be more accurate, X3 has 28 cubic feet (810L) of cargo space, which is more than 50% than the X4. Not to mention due to sporty design, loading is much harder as the trunk floor is located higher than the X3.
Engine & Drivetrain
This is where it gets fun, and make you ask yourself if this is a sports car or a crossover. The X4 M Competition has a 3.0L inline-6 turbocharged engine that pumps out 503 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. The engine sounds great, and can also be good on gas if you take it easy. We were able to get 12.5L / 100 km average, which is even better than official BMW specs. It is matched with 8 speed torque converted automatic transmission which has been on the market for few years. It is a proven transmission and like the other BMW models, it works very well. It is a very predictable and smooth transmission that can also be very fast when needed.
Of course it comes with xDrive All Wheel Drive system that prioritizes rear wheels. The engine is placed longitudinally and it sends power to the rear wheels all the time, and sends power to the front wheels depending on road conditions and throttle input. You can disable traction control and switch All Wheel Drive system into the sport mode, which sends less power to the front wheels and even prioritizes rear wheels more to make it feel more like rear wheel drive sports car. It doesn’t come with mechanical limited slip differential, but Active M differential works very well to send the power between the wheels as required for the optimal traction.
As mentioned above, engine and transmission is an excellent match. In fact, I like it so much that I believe this is the best engine and transmission combination in all BMW model lineup, because it offers everything in one great package. It is fast if you want sporty driving, it is smooth if you want comfort, and it is good on gas if you drive it slowly. Of course, there are more powerful engines or other platforms that can be more efficient in terms of gas consumption, but this can do it all.
Having said that, the car does not feel 503 hp “fast” due to excessive weight. At the end of the day, this is an SUV and there is a weight penalty. It can still do 0-100 in 4.1 seconds, which is pretty impressive considering it’s weight. As a result, you must have great brakes and X4M Competition is really good at it. It comes with BMW M callipers that can stop the vehicle extremely well, but it can be touchy and overly sensitive during daily driving.
Handling characteristics of the X4 M Competition is excellent. There is no body roll when you take the corners fast, it makes you feel like you are driving an M3 instead of X4 M. However, it is really harsh and can’t handle road imperfections well. You can adjust suspension settings, it comes with three different options called Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, and even in Comfort mode, it is overly dampened for public roads, especially for an SUV.
Pricing and Specifications
For pricing and details of specifications, please see the window sticker below:
Our takeaway from the BMW X4M Competition is that it is a great sports car, but not-so-good daily driver, which totally contradicts the definition of SUV or an utility vehicle. Last year, we had a chance to review X3M Competition and that car was one of our favorite SUVs. X4M Competition is a slight step-up in terms of driving dynamics, at an expense of a huge step down in terms of daily drivability and practicality if you are driving with your family most of the time.
X3M Competition keeps it’s place for being the best “all rounder” that you can take it to grocery shopping, or a race track. It is still a great performance car that is very practical, and daily drivable. However, if you are into coupe looks in an SUV, BMW still got you covered with the X4M. No matter which one you choose, you are still getting a proven platform: an excellent drivetrain, BMW’s typical high quality interior and driving pleasure.
If you somehow don’t care about practicality and need a raised sports car, X4M Competition is still a great option that you should consider. It is faster than many cars on the road, handles like a dream. X4M starts at $84,800 CAD and X4M Competition starts at $95,600. With all the options included, our tester had the price tag of $108,095. For more details please visit www.bmw.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay