Few things drain your energy like the heat and humidity on a sunny spring day in the South, even when the A/C is on full blast. There’s an intenseness to the warmth that hits you like a wave the moment you step outside. The air feels thick and wet and heavy. Heat waves radiate from both the asphalt and the row of black 2019 X4s at the BMW Performance Center near the German automaker’s American production facility. There’s only so much you can do to counteract nature.
Like its big brother the BMW X6, the X4 has always been a bit of an odd duck. The X4 is basically a BMW X3 with a sloped roof past the B-pillar. This obviously compromises cargo space and rear headroom for the sake of styling and a sporty pretense. Despite BMW’s engineer’s best efforts, the dynamics have fallen short of the looks. The last X4 couldn’t quite deliver on what its looks promised. Physics, like the weather, can only be overcome to a point.
The formula seems to work better at the point of sale rather than the apex of a corner. Since the model was introduced in 2014, BMW has sold more than 200,000 X4s worldwide. The design and approach might be divisive among critics, but BMW is far from alone in this trend. Just look at the crossover offerings from automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Infiniti, Jaguar and Porsche. They all offer sporty SUVs that sacrifice a bit of utility for the sake of style.
Both engines are absolutely sublime. The xDrive30i’s four-cylinder feels strong and smooth and is one of the best 2.0-liter turbo engines on the market, and there are many out there. There’s copious off-the-line torque and plenty enough horsepower for passing tractors or trucks on Carolina backroads. BMW lists the xDrive30i’s 0-60 mph time at six seconds, which is quicker than almost everything else you’ll find in regular traffic. Shifts from the ZF eight-speed automatic are quick and unobtrusive.
Like with so many vehicles, buying an X4 comes down to a head versus heart argument. Sure, you can get pretty much the same experience and a bit more practicality from the X3, but cars are an emotional thing. If the design isn’t for you, stick with the X3 or jump ship and go with a Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan. They’re all fantastic options that don’t sacrifice as much in the way of utility as the X4.
If you like the looks and the badge, then you’re getting into a comfortable and quick SUV with a solid interior and a sports car soundtrack. It’s still not — and likely won’t ever be — as good to drive as the equivalent sedan or wagon, but it’s vastly improved over its immediate predecessor. And more importantly, it’s simply fun to drive, a testament to the good fight against physics by BMW’s chassis engineers.