By on April 20, 2015

Lately, BMW has been accused of answering questions nobody was asking. Looking at things a different way, however, BMW has taken personalization of your daily driver to a level we haven’t seen before by making an incredible number of variations based on the same basic vehicle. Once upon a time, BMW made one roadster and three sedans. If you asked nicely, they would cut the top off the 3-Series, add a hatchback, or stretch it into a wagon. If you look at the family tree today you’d see that the 2-series coupé and convertible, X1, X3, X4, 3-Series sedan, long wheelbase sedan, and wagon, 3-Series GT and 4-Series coupé, convertible and gran coupé are all cousins. (Note: I didn’t say sisters, but they are all ultimately related.) That’s a product explosion of 400 percent since 1993 and we’re talking solely about the compact end of their lineup. You could look at this two ways. This is insanity, or this is some diabolical plan. Since sales have increased more than 300% since 1993, I’m going with diabolical plan.

Exterior

The “same sausage in multiple lengths” concept has been a staple design philosophy of the luxury industry for decades, but BMW’s “something for everyone” mantra takes that to the next level. You see, the X4 and the 3-Series Gran Tourismo are two entirely different sausages that (although related) manage to look the same yet share very little. Stranger still, the same shape elicits two different responses from people. Some see the GT and think “that liftback looks practical and roomier than a trunk” and then they look at the X4 and say “that’s less practical than an X3, why would I want it?”

To create the X4, the X3’s rear was raked and the bumpers were tweaked but it still retains the same hood, headlamps and ride height. You’d think that would make it a crossover, but BMW prefers “Sports Activity Coupe.” Whatever. The GT is a 3-Series that has been stretched and a liftback grafted on. The GT is lower to the ground and actually longer than the X4, but the differences don’t stop there. The GT is built in Germany, the X4 is made in South Carolina. Like many Americans, the X4 is 2-inches wider, has a more aggressive look up front and weighs 200 lbs more. (Before you ask, I was born in Ohio and that describes me as well.)

The trouble with making so many models is that it makes comparisons difficult. (Or is that part of BMW’s diabolical plan?) Aside from the GT, the X4 lacks any natural competition, especially in our xDrive28i trim. The V60 Cross Country, Macan, allroad and Evoque all come to mind, but only the Macan uses a similar silhouette. The Volvo and Audi are lifted station wagons, the Evoque is much smaller and front wheel drive.

IMG_9786

Interior

The X4 shares the majority of its interior with the X3. Likely because the X3 and X4 are a little more recent than the current 3-Series, I found the interior to be more harmonious in terms of plastics quality. Instead of the iDrive screen perched atop the dash like in the 3-Series, it’s nestled into it. Perhaps because the X4 is made in America, the cup holders are larger, more functional and lack the funky lid 3-Series owners always lose track of.

Because the X3’s roofline was drastically altered to create the X4, BMW opted to drop the seat bottoms in order to preserve headroom. The difference isn’t too noticeable up front, but in the rear the X4’s seat bottom cushions ride much closer to the floor than in any of the competition. Despite lowering the seating height, headroom is still very limited in the back and best reserved for kids or shorter adults. This is a stark contrast to the 3-GT which has an inch more headroom in the rear, seat cushions that are higher off the floor, seat backs that recline and a whopping 7 inches more combined legroom.

At 17.7 cubic feet, the X4’s cargo area is about 33% smaller than the X3 [The Porsche Macan loses almost 40 percent of its cargo volume in comparison to its platform mate, the Audi Q5. -Ed.]. On the flip side, this is a hair larger than a 328i sedan and the cargo hatch is a more convenient shape. Once again, however, the 3-GT comes out more practical with a larger cargo hold and the same practical liftback for accessing it. Interestingly enough, the V60 CC and the Porsche Macan have cargo areas nearly identical in size.

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Infotainment

iDrive has long been one of my favorite infotainment systems and that continues with the latest version. Our tester included the full bevy of infotainment options including smartphone app integration ($500), navigation ($2,150) and the iPhone snap-in adapter ($250). If that sounds expensive, you’re right. However, it is less expensive than the options list on the Macan. Like Audi and Mercedes, BMW has inserted a cell modem into top end iDrive systems allowing online service access.

iDrive’s interface has received continual tweaks over the years to improve usability and I find the interface easy to navigate and intuitive. A little less intuitive is the finger-writing input method which allows you to “write” on the top of the controller knob to enter addresses. While that sounds like a good idea, I discovered it took 25% longer to enter a destination vs rotating the dial. All the latest in connected infotainment can be had in the X4 (for a price) including integrated Pandora, Stitcher, Audible, pass-thru voice commands for iOS and Android, and Wikipedia integration which will read Wiki articles to you via a built-in text-to-speech engine.

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Drivetrain

X4 xDrive28i models get a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (N20) good for 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque at just 1,450 RPM while xDrive35i models get the 300 horsepower, 300 lb-ft 3.0L turbo (N55). Both engines are mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic and standard AWD. Sound familiar? That’s the same lineup in the 3-GT. Oddly enough you can get the X3 in RWD, but the X4 with its (in theory) sportier image is AWD only.

If you’re shopping for the X4 outside of the USA, you get more choice with an available 181 horse 2.0L gasoline turbo, a selection of diesel engines ranging from 187-309 ponies and a manual transmission on some engines.

IMG_9779

Drive

I’m no track junkie like Jack Baruth, but I do appreciate a well-balanced vehicle. That said, I am frequently distracted by straight line performance and “moar powah.” X4 shoppers will need to choose between these two. The 2.0L may be down on power vs the 3.0L , but it is also 33% shorter and 165 lbs lighter. In addition, the 2.0L sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious when you start pushing the X4 on your favorite mountain road. The lighter 2.0L model doesn’t feel as eager, but it does feel more composed and more willing to change direction. The 3.0L has more low-end grunt and a more refined sound, but because of the added weight, AWD and chassis tuning, it tends toward understeer more readily.

The key to understanding the X4 on the road is simple: it weighs only 20 lbs less than the X3 and despite the sheetmetal changes, the center of gravity isn’t all that much lower. As a result it drives almost exactly like an X3. Since the X3 is one of the most dynamic options in its class, that’s no dig. 0-60 happened in a quick 6.14 seconds in our tester(the 3.0L is a full second faster) and the lateral grip is impressive for a crossover. On the downside, the 3-Series sedan and GT will do everything a hair faster with better grip and better feel. BMW will swap out the 245 width tires our tester had for a staggered 245 / 275 tire package. I suspect that may give the X4 more of a performance edge on the less sporting trims of X3 or 3-GT, but fuel economy and your pocketbook will suffer. Thanks to the wide tires, the X4 took just 119 feet to stop from 60 MPH.

IMG_9839

The standard AWD system dulls what little feel you might otherwise get from the electric power steering system, but in return it allows drama-free launches on most road surfaces and plenty of fun on soft roads. Speaking of soft roads, the X4 reminded me a great deal of Volvo’s V60 Cross Country: both vehicles prioritize style over practicality and both are soft-road vehicles designed for folks that live down a short gravel road and commute on winding mountain highways. The suspension in all forms of the X4 is stiffer than I expected and the M-Sport is stiffer than I could live with long-term on the crappy roads in Northern California. If you’re contemplating the M-Sport, be sure to option up the adaptive suspension system. The $1,000 option doesn’t dull the X4’s responses, but when in the softer modes it may just save your kidneys.

Competition for the X4 is hard to define as I have said. On the surface of things, the styling premium over the X3 will set you back $6,200, but the X4 has around $4,200 more in standard equipment, like AWD and HID lamps, which drops the real difference to about $2,000. That may not sound like too much of a premium for the added style you get in the X4, but the 328i Gran Turismo, despite standard AWD and the panoramic sunroof, is about $2,500 less than the X4.

IMG_9826

Now we must cover the Porsche Macan. In the same way that the X4 is a less practical X3, the Macan is a less practical Audi Q5. If you look at the Macan closely, you’ll see almost the same profile as the X4. Dimensionally they are quite similar inside and out. However, the Macan’s conversion from the plebeian Q5 was much more involved. Porsche also starts their lineup with a 340 horsepower twin-turbo V6, 7-speed DCT, and made major changes to the structure of the Q5 platform. On top of that, they fit wider tires all around. Obviously our 2.0L X4 doesn’t compete with the Porsche, but the X4 with the turbo six is an interesting alternative. The X4 xDrive35i manages to be a hair faster to 60 in my limited tests (1/10th) thanks likely to the ZF 8-speed automatic. The BMW’s transmission is smoother, I think the exterior is more elegant and depending on how you configure your Porsche, the cost difference can exceed $10,000 in the X4’s favor. The Macan handles better and had a nicer and more customizable interior, but the options are so expensive that it’s easy to get a Macan S over $75,000 without really trying.

Although I like the X4’s interior more than the 3-GT, the  GT makes more sense to me. You get more room inside, it’s more nimble out on the road and the fuel economy in the real world is a hair better. The X3 is more practical and gives up little when it comes to performance and handling and the 3-Series sport wagon is probably the best blend of cargo practicality and performance handling. This brings me back to BMW’s diabolical plan: comparisons. No matter how I tried to define or categorize the X4, the competitive set was littered with BMWs. Aside from the xDrive35i being the value alternative to the Macan S, all that can be said of the X4 in the end is that it is a less practical X3 and a taller GT with a nicer dash.

Sound off in the comment section below: what would you cross shop with the X4?

 

BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.14 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.83 Seconds @ 92.8 MPG

Average Economy: 23.8 MPG

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40 Comments on “2015 BMW X4 xDrive28i Review (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Jack’s unimpressed review of a $57K 3-series is sure to generate some controversial dialogue of whether BMW has lost its way. But then this article lands immediately afterwards, about a hideous bloated guppy with a roundel glued to the front. I could see wanting that 335i even if it isn’t as sharp and passionate as some claim the 3 series used to be. This disgusting thing? No way.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I didn’t read the review because it graded on the Alex Dykes curve, which means that no matter how great, good, mediocre or awful this thing truly is, nor no matter how expensive, it earned at least a B grade from Alex.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    I wish I had the business/marketing education to articulate my admiration for BMW’s ability to within 30 years turn what was a brand primarily for technocrat males into a broad-spectrum status drug luring every segment of American society.

    I know several people supporting families on <100K combined income who have new BMWs. They sacrifice whatever is necessary to make those payments. The North American discretionary automotive market is becoming like a nearly empty jar of peanut butter but BMW has developed a silver spatula for scraping out what's left.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Utter madness. The fact that you can option a lowly X3 sDrive28i to more than double the price of a spectacularly good base GTI that has as much or more utility speaks volumes.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      and they likely spend every otherwise better used money on the upkeep of these.
      I mean, the recent autoblog review on a BMW talks about the tread wear on its 20 K tires as being close to need of being replaced if it were to be kept. 20K and these expensive run flats need to be replaced?
      This goes for every stinking part on these so called performance cars.
      Forgetaboutit.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Well <100k for a family (even of 5 people) is very normal in the Midwest. Are you talking about NYC or LA families?

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I’m sure it’s regional, but even in what’s arguably the cheapest large Canadian city, $100k to support a family isn’t going to leave enough money for a new BMW, unless you’re really dedicated to having a roundel in the driveway. Friends of mine, starting their family, bought a fixer-up house in the Montreal suburbs under the flight path of the airport for $400k.

        My brother and his wife just bought a 3 bedroom house on a 2,000 sq ft lot in the Toronto suburbs – where the work commute would put a lot of daily miles on that BMW – for about $800k.

        • 0 avatar
          VenomV12

          As someone who has a lot of family in Canada and we have talked about this before, I am baffled how these people afford these homes? I feel sorry for your brother for what he got for that kind of money. My neighbor’s house in comparison cost the same except her house is 6700 sq.ft, plus another 3,000 in the basement, with an elevator and sits on a half an acre lot that overlooks a golf course with multiple ponds and the neighborhood is gated. $400/sq.ft will get me ocean views in Miami Beach, that makes sense, $400/sq.ft in freezing cold, traffic congested Canada, not so much.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good grief, that’s a lot of money. In Ohio you will easily find a quite large, all brick house in perfect condition, in a very nice subdivision for $400k.

            $800k will get you 6 or 7 bedrooms in a gated community. I hope you like a large pool.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            Then again, there’s money to be made in Toronto. My brother alone is into a six figure income, and the first digit isn’t a 1. His wife isn’t earning too badly, either. I’d be shocked if, at 36, he put less than a 25% down payment onto his mortgage.

            I don’t know what the salaries are like in places like Ohio.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The typical family home in the Greater Toronto Area seems to run $600-800K CDN. Just watch one of those HGTV type shows from Canada on cable. One needs to pull in probably $200K CDN to afford all taxes and still have enough to buy the atypical family home. On my last visit in 2012, I saw billboards proclaiming $300K CDN for new condos still under construction (I believe 1BR but I can’t recall now)

    • 0 avatar
      hachee

      @RideHeight
      I’m late to the party here, but it’s not just American society….it’s the whole world. BMW’s are just as popular and desired, if not more so, in many other countries.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Hachee,
        As someone entirely uninterested in whatever it is BMW offers I am paradoxically all the more impressed with the slavish market they’ve grown during my adulthood.

        They were merely hobby cars for higher tier professional males when I graduated from high school (admittedly, back then there were very few women in that demographic) and now they can own the apex of any segment they choose to enter.

        In spite of BMW having “whored” themselves to the broader public, as many at TTAC complain, they are also paradoxically a vindication for the acerbic snobbery of their original enthusiasts. Without the decades of associating BMWs with affluent “pricks”, how could so many people today of much humbler means and prospects so crave one?

        Masterful brainwashing of status-mad dweebs it may be, but credit where it’s due.

  • avatar

    The X3 (and, consequently, the X4) *isn’t* more-recent than the 3-Series. The current 3-Series debuted for MY2012, while the X3 arrived a year earlier, MY2011. In fact, that’s the reason the iDrive screen is integrated into the dash on the X3 and X4, while in the 3-Series, it sticks up like an iPad. The 3-Series started the iPad-screen thing for BMW. Most of the designs that are slightly older than that (like the 2009-present 7-Series, the 2010/2011 5-Series, 2012-present 6-Series and indeed the 2011-present X3) still have the integrated screen that ultimately debuted in the MY2002 7-Series. But if you notice, BMW added the silver rim around the screen for MY2014 in those models (when the third-gen “NBT” version of iDrive debuted) in order to somewhat echo the idea of the screen being separated from the dashboard. The newer designs have the iPad-like screen that the 3-Series does, like the 2014-present X5 and 2015-present X6, and BMW will continue that trend. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are also doing variations of the iPad screen. And it’s only a matter of time before it trickles down to the plebes, because anything to come out of Munich, Ingolstadt or Stuttgart is considered the pinnacle of taste.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      To my eyes the front of the X4 looks dated already. It has the old headlamp design which isn’t aging well. And the bright work grille stands out for the wrong reasons as well.

      • 0 avatar

        Ironically, the X3 did get a face-lift for MY2014 that included new headlamps, and those are being used on the new X4. So if those look dated, that isn’t good for BMW.

        If, on the other hand, you’re talking about BMW’s LED headlamps, those are optional on certain vehicles (X5, 5-Series, X6, 6-Series, possibly the 7-Series), and I’m not sure the X4 offers them.

        http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1706624.1393618085!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_635/2014-bmw-x5-exterior.jpg

        As for the grille, yes, it looks goofy.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I think it’s because it’s missing the center thinner connect between grille and headlamp lens. Between the headlamps and the chromey grille, it just reminds me of the oh-so old first version of the X3, way back in 2003.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_X3#/media/File:06-07_BMW_X3.jpg

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I really would like a hatchback 3- or 4-Series. I quite liked the 318ti.

    I’m not sure I like this.

  • avatar

    I really like the video and images are awesome too.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Only BMW can take a 4 cylinder and cram it that far back into the firewall and under that overhanging firewall ‘lip.’ I guess I’m just not as concerned about that magical 50/50 weight distribution as typical X4 buyers are (/sarc)

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    seems to me they lowered the rear seats to give headroom and caused a terrible thigh issue. I think you gave this car a pass on this.
    So, what about the horrible BMW start stop system? It was ridiculously in your face red light after red light on the sedan 3 I tested. Is it better here?

    What is the point of making a car so stiff you need to get the $1000 upgrade to soften the suspension? Why not just make it feel good at the starting price of 44K? Is this car expected for track duty so a hard suspension will be the default?

    Lastly…is it REALY true that engines sitting on top of the front axle can be so easily felt on the road as you suggest? Really? This car has its engine partially on the axle. You say this sets it apart from those fully set on so much you can feel it on the road? I do not believe this. Perhaps this is the result of a better AWD system more than the set of the motor.

    As you can tell…I am not a fan of the BMW and the extra cost to purchase and then own. The run flats alone are good for less miles, feel bad and then kill you at replacement. I can’t forgive BMW for forcing these upon the consumer.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    “What is the point of making a car so stiff you need to get the $1000 upgrade to soften the suspension?”

    Unscrew that sentence and dump out the right half. That’s your answer.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I’ve know of a few people who bought some European sport sedan/coupe and then complained about the stiff ride. Maybe it’s because I’m old and equate stiff rides with performance cars. You want a soft ride maybe you should look at a Buick or something else.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    When someone reviews the 428i Gran Coupe, I will really unleash the sarcastic comments, but the answer to the question “Has BMW lost its way?” is an emphatic “Yes”.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      They lost their way because they got stuck counting their money at the bank.

      It’s a for profit company who happens to make cars. I’m not talking about the i3, because it looks like they’re losing on that, but BMW seems to do just fine selling their other wares.

      • 0 avatar
        chiefmonkey

        Selling, or leasing at $400 a month?

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        At one time BMW was on a shaky financial base. Either they would of been absorbed by a larger concern or worse. Fortunately they survived, and still make a nice car. Unfortunately if you want a REAL BMW then you have to fork out for a expensive M car or check out the classic car market.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I think BMW’s ‘diabolical-plan’ was to get all those tire kickers that couldn’t afford new BMW’s but still test drove them. Especially those who could not admit to the dealer that they couldn’t afford it.
    ‘Back in the day’ you could always try the good old ‘it’s too small’ or ‘I need 4wd’ , now the dealer can always say ‘yes, we have that too’

    -Sorry , I need a bigger car with a rear hatch; -Oh, we have one with that.
    I ment like a wagon; -Oh yes, we have that.
    -Yeah, but I need all wheel drive; -Oh, we have one with that too.
    -Oh, I ment more like a sports sedan ; Sure, what else do you need?
    Now, I’m thinking fastback actually; Yes, with bluetooth?
    -No, I actually think I ment an SUV; Sure, what color?
    -uh, hu, but I want a sporty SUV ; Yes offcourse, leather interior?
    -Nah, tbh, I was gonna get my wife a small hatchback actually ; Yes offcourse, with the M-package?
    -Oh, I give up…sorry, I was really looking for a compact fwd minivan; Sure, when do you want it delivered..
    uh, doh

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Between this and Macan, I’m going Macan all day. The interior is better on the Macan, and you get MUCH more power as standard, as well as more exclusivity in both brand and looks.

    The Macan just looks so slick and expensive in person. This_does_not. Too much standard BMW here. I see 40 of them every day.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      The Macan in S trim just doesn’t feel all that fast though. And the price of an X4 tops out where the Macan is just getting started – you will have some tough decisions to make as to whether you want a luxurious interior, a bunch of high-tech toys and nannies, or some performance options if you want to stay around the price of an X4.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think Alex is dead wrong that BMW is somehow doing something new by offering a lot of choice. This is simply a return to how cars used to be sold. Back in the day you could get most popular cars in a plethora of different body styles. Sedan, wagon, coupe, hardtop, fastback, convertible, pickups even. And with platform sharing and modern production technologies, with a little helper of very good margins, BMW is able to offer that again. And I really fail to see why so many of the B&B have a problem with this, other than that old issue of jealousy that they can’t afford one. Do I want an X4 – dear God no, but they sell quite well so obviously they appeal to someone. So why not sell them?

    I personally have no interest in driving a car of which there are 9 identical examples on my street alone ala Honda Accord. BMW may sell a lot of “dealer special” black on beige 328i’s, but at least you CAN actually order one the way you want it in some interesting colors. As opposed to “would you like your stickshift Accord in black or blah, sir?”

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    BMW is a goddamn mess. To me the brand becomes less and less prestigious and appealing everyday and most of their models just seem like desperate, overpriced cash grabs. The brand dilution with these companies over the years has been sickening.

  • avatar
    skeeter44

    “Styling Premium” of $2K don’t forget to add in extra depreciation for the pygmy rhino in the used car market. As a longtime consumer of used BMWs I can almost guarantee this beast will suffer vs its 3series cousins come trade-in/sale time.


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