Some cars are just born with controversy as one of their defining characteristics. The Porsche Cayenne, the New Beetle and Mini Cooper, the Prius and almost any hybrid or electric car for that matter. Well, these days it seems like every other model in the BMW lineup is designed to generate as much rhetoric as profits. If it’s not a spectacular tribute to BMW’s sporting roots like the M235i or M4 generating hate for the naming conventions, it’s the awkward styling of futuristic electric i3 or the niche-filling redundancy of Gran Coupe and Gran Turismo models. And in our little community on Autos.ca, the 2015 BMW X4 (and its X6 progenitor) is perhaps the most controversial.
First of all, there are only a staunch few of us that embrace its look. Like the X6 before it, I find the odd mixture of tank-like solidity and fluid coupe-like grace of its roofline captivating. However, it should be noted that I’m in the minority. Most pan its looks outright, while some cannot get past the practicality compromises inherent in a sloping roof. Well, recall that BMW makes no claims regarding the utility of its SUVs, calling them Sports Activity Vehicles (SAV) in their literature and emphasizing the Active component in this SAC (Sports Activity Coupe). A SAC of what exactly, I can’t say.
Anyhow, there’s a lot of hate for this vehicle, but those that like it, like it a lot. This works well for this niche vehicle, needing only marginal sales from a few fashionistas to recoup the modest changes from the X3 SAV from which it is derived, amounting to refashioned body work, lowered suspension and a refreshed interior that is shared by many other BMW products. This is hardly the kind of investment BMW sunk into its electric vehicle and carbon fibre program, and while it may not go down in history as the kind of gem the 2002 or M1 were, it will still help BMW continue to expand its empire. In order to build legendary cars, you must first make obscene amounts of money (case in point: Cayenne).
Moving on, and evaluating it for what it is, and not what some people want BMW to build, it’s spot on. In our comparison of the X4 with the Evoque and MKC, we found it the most well rounded as a style over practicality small luxury SUV. Its key attribute, an improved driving experience (“ebullient” even, according to the press release) over the X3 is especially easy to appreciate in xDrive35i trim. AWD is a given in this premium ute segment, but six-cylinder powerplants seem to be getting rarer every year, and this signature BMW straight-six configuration is a sweetheart.
2015 BMW X4 xDrive35i, driver’s seat. Click image to enlarge
In case the car’s name isn’t enough of an alphabet soup, this single-turbo 3.0L inline-six engine goes by secret-agent code name N55, helping it reach 300 hp from 5,800 to 6,400 rpm and a peak 300 lb-ft of torque at 1,200–5,000 rpm. Okay, the code name doesn’t help much, but direct injection, variable camshaft control and variable valve timing do, metering fuel and air to deliver excellent torque early on, and build power for a screaming good time as you blast up to speed. Although this vehicle may be labeled a compact, it’s awfully close to that 2,000-kilo mark at 1,932 kg, so its mass clearly hampers any feelings of exhilarating acceleration, officially estimated at 6.4 seconds to 100 km/h, but feeling bulky as it motors up to speed and into corners – more on that in a bit.