Amidst a multitude of launches during last week’s Geneva motor show, BMW revealed a new edition to their X family – the X4 Sports Activity Coupé, due to make its debut at next month’s New York Auto Show.
Like the X6, which built upon the X5’s underpinnings, the new X4 is based on the X3, which was recently revised in line with the car maker’s Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) or mid-life facelift strategy.
It goes on sale in July priced from £36,590 for the 187bhp xDrive20d SE, rising to £49,985 for the 309bhp xDrive35d M Sport — in between the two fits the 254bhp xDrive30d xLine priced at £44,855 – which incidentally is just £1,555 more than the identically powered Porsche Macan S Diesel.
The X3 by comparison is available in entry-level sDrive18d SE guise (rear wheel drive) and is priced from £2,605 to £3,565 less than the X4. The X4’s standard equipment is higher though; including an automatically opening tailgate, Variable Sport Steering, 18-inch light-alloy wheels, front and rear Park Distance Control, Performance Control and Xenon headlights — all as standard.
Customers outside the UK can choose from three petrol-engined models; the 181bhp xDrive20i, 242bhp xDrive28i and 301bhp xDrive35i.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so let’s skip the subjective debate about whether BMW’s X4 looks good and move on to the more relevant question of whether it offers anything worthwhile over the X3 – or indeed its main competitor the Porsche Macan.
Let’s compare with the X3
We spoke with BMW’s Christophe Koenig about the differences between the X4 and the newly revised X3.
We’re told the new BMW X4 displays a sporting character all of its own, what are the key differences between the X3 and X4?
The X4 has another suspension set up as the X3 and comes with standard Variable Sport steering, Performance Control and 8 Gear Automatic Sport Steptronic. All in one, makes the car more dynamic, and a bit faster than the X3 with same engines.
At 1,624mm high the X4 is 36 millimetres lower to the ground, is this reflected in its ride height and are there any differences in the positioning (and length) of its suspension links and wishbones?
The body is 36mm lower than the X3, but the seating position in the front is 20mm lower than the X3 which also gives another driving feeling. The 36mm less are mainly due to the Coupé shaped roof. The car has the same ground clearance as the X3.
Unlike the X6 and X5, the X4 features the same 2,810 mm wheelbase and front and rear track as the X3. Both models weigh exactly the same, tipping the scales at 1,730kg (DIN) for the xDrive 20d manual and peaking at 1,860kg for the xDrive35d. So why would the X4 be quicker than the X3?
Is there anything else about the X4’s DSC or xDrive systems that make it more dynamic to drive such as stiffer anti-roll bars or faster steering?
DSC and DTC have a proper set up on the X4 which makes the car together with the above mentioned features more agile, faster and more dynamic than the X3, even with the same xDrive system. In addition the body of the X4 is stiffer than the body of the X3, which allows for an even sportier set up. The X4 also features Variable Sport steering as standard with a shorter ratio of 16.4:1 compared to the X3’s 17.8:1.
Is the X4’s Performance Control system (optional on the X3) the same as ‘Dynamic Performance Control’ fitted on the X6? And does it therefore perform in the same way, namely torque vectoring under load and on the overrun?
The Performance Control is an electronically steered Torque Vectoring system which works together with DTC and DSC. The result is that we can distribute the available torque between left and right on the rear axle, increasing the agility of the car. The Dynamic Performance Control on the X5 and X6 is an active differential lock which works mechanically.
And what about the Porsche Macan?
As you can see from the diagram below, the X4 and Macan are remarkably similar in size — although the Macan is wider and heavier resulting in a lower power to weight ratio which shows in its slower 0 to 62mph time of 6.3 seconds versus 5.8 seconds for the X4.
This translates into slightly better fuel figures for the X4, with 47.9 mpg and 156 g/km of CO2 emissions against 46.3 mpg and 159 g/km for the Macan S Diesel.
When choosing between the two, bear in mind that Porsche offer air suspension as an option on the Macan, with self-levelling ride-height adjustment and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). In this form the Macan sits 15 mm lower and is said to offer a more dynamic drive than a steel-sprung car.
Both cars offer their own interpretation of a torque vectoring rear axle, which is a must if you enjoy driving an SUV in a spirited manner. In the Macan it’s called Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) while the X4 features BMW’s Performance Control system. Both apply a subtle measure of brake pressure to the inside rear wheel which diverts a proportionately greater amount of drive force to the outside rear wheel — the resulting turning force makes for greater agility and control.
In the X4’s case, the system is clever enough to do so on the overrun which simulates a degree of lift-off oversteer when driven at the limit. If that sounds a little scary, don’t worry, BMW’s traction and stability control systems (DTC & DSC) are never far away, but it virtually eliminates understeer under normal conditions and makes the 1.8 tonne SUV feel genuinely sporty.
The fastest Macan is the 394bhp Turbo which deploys its 550 Nm of torque to accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 4.8 seconds. The closest X4 is the xDrive35d which covers the same increment in 5.2 seconds and while the Macan might offer 85bhp more, the X4 wields an extra 80Nm (59 lb-ft) of torque. The Porsche is also heavier; 1,925 kg compared with 1,860 kg, or 205 bhp/tonne against 166 bhp/tonne.
SEE ALSO: Porsche Macan vs. BMW X4 (Autobild TV)
So which to go for? Porsche have already sold their first year’s allocation of 50,000 Macans, so the X4 will no doubt be the rarer sight on our roads, while Porsche have undoubtedly stolen the ‘performance’ mantle with their Macan Turbo. Meanwhile there are rumours of an M Performance X4 fitted with either the 376bhp/740Nm engine from the M50d or a detuned version of the M3/M4’s 3-litre twin turbocharged straight six.
And while the Germans slug it out for class honours, the hugely underpowered Range Rover Evoque will be left to lick its wounds. Will JLR respond?
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The all-new BMW X4 goes on sale in the UK from 12th July, 2014. You can build your own by visiting the BMW UK configurator.