Test Drive Notes Library
- It’s an X3. The X4 is every bit as nice as the X3 on which it's almost
entirely based. That means it’s fun to drive, firmly luxurious, and
high tech. You’ll notice the only thing we left out is “utilitarian.”
- Fun. Like the X3, it's certainly one of the best driving SUVs out
there. Handling is excellent, with virtually no body lean. At 4000+
pounds, the X4 is hefty enough to be very stable and solid-feeling at
all speeds. It’s also quick. BMW’s 248 hp, 4-cylinder turbocharged
engine has plenty of power, even for this two ton beast. The 8-speed
automatic is one of the smoothest and fastest shifting we’ve driven.
You never have to wait for it to make up its mind. There’s an available
6-cylinder, twin turbo, 365 hp option, but the 4-cylinder more than does
- Comfort. BMW has improved on the old X3/X4 platform, giving the new one
a more supple, less slappy ride. Despite it’s sporty handling, the X4
soaks up the bumps well. Inside, the cabin is notably quiet, the seats
are very comfortable, and the materials are high end. There’s enough
room for two to sit in back comfortably, as long as they don’t play for
the Warriors. The roof slopes back there and cuts into the headroom.
- Standard AWD. The “SUV” body style has become so common, that you
shouldn’t assume they all have standard all wheel drive. The X4 does.
- Good ergonomics. BMW’s iDrive is at least as easy to use as any other
system on the market. They’ve been improving it gradually for years
now. The large size and high placement of the screen at the top of the
center console helps you keep your eyes on the road (or take them less
far away from the road when you need to use the screen). The horizontal
orientation of the touch screen also helps, letting you see more options
on the screen without scrolling. But spend the money and get the superb
heads up display, so taking your eyes off the road is an even rarer
event. It’s clear, adjustable, and projects all of the information you
need through the windshield so it appears to be floating at the far end
of the hood. It even projects phone and entertainment info momentarily
when you use the steering wheel mounted switches.
- Available safety. Forward collision warning and city speed automatic
emergency braking are standard. High speed emergency braking should be
standard, too, as should blind spot monitoring. Both are optional, but
at least available. Everybody should get them.
- Good fuel economy. We got a surprising 24 mpg overall in the X4. It’s
no Prius, but on the other hand, it’s no Prius.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Use of space. Due to the fastback design (which is the real appeal of
the X4 over the X3), there’s less usable space in the X4. There’s less
headroom in the back for really tall folks, and there’s less cargo room
behind the rear seats (although there is a useful under floor bin back
there). While there definitely IS room for “stuff," especially if you
fold down the rear seats, the capacity doesn’t match the more squared
off rear end of the X3. There’s also a high load lip at the back of
the cargo area that we found annoying. If utility is important, the X3
is your car.
- Rear visibility. We’ve gotten pretty used to poor rearward visibility
these days. It seems that most car makers have just assumed that no
one’s going to look out the back window anymore. We’ll all just use our
back up cameras. But because of the slope of the rear window in the X4,
rear visibility is almost non-existent. And while the back up camera
helps when you’re backing up, it doesn’t help when you’re going forward,
and just want to see what’s going on behind you. Blind spot monitors
help, too, when changing lanes, but we always find it reassuring to see
that a tandem Fed-Ex truck isn’t coming up on our right. We’d love to
see more manufacturers use GM’s excellent video rear view mirror. It
skips the rear window (and the D-pillars) entirely and uses a camera to
show you, bright and clear, what’s behind the vehicle.
- Premium required. If you’re spending $55K on a car, perhaps the extra
25 or 30 cents a gallon to fill up with premium fuel isn’t going to
bother you. But with gas prices historically volatile, there might come
a day when you curse under your breath when you’re paying $80 a tank.
- Option creep. If you’ve shopped for a luxury car recently, you know the
drill. You look at the price and say, “Hey, maybe I can afford one of
those.” Then, by the time you get the safety features you need, and the
options you want, the price is $10-15K higher. The X4 avoids that to
some extent, by making the starting price about $10,000 more than the
base X3 on which its based. With that higher price comes some of the
things that would be options on the X3, like city speed automatic
emergency braking. So some of the options are built in. Still, our
test X4 listed for $50,450, and rang out at $57,895.
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