Who knew that the combination of SUV and coupe would be so successful? Apparently BMW did, and its X6 "Sport Activity Coupe" is proof. The German automaker is now looking to capitalize on the segment with the Concept X4.
Although BMW hasn't officially disclosed mechanical details of the production-spec X4 -- this concept is simply a styling preview -- we have a good idea where in the lineup it will fit. Just as the X6 is a swoopier X5, the X4 will mirror the X3 in a similar fashion. Despite the drastic design differences, the X3 and the X4 are almost identical in size: they are both 183 inches long and share a 110.6-inch wheelbase, but the X4 is 1.3 inches wider and 1.5 inches shorter.
Expect to see the X4 mirror the X3 in the powertrain department, too. That means a choice of BMW's spunky N20 2.0-liter turbo-four (badged xDrive28i) or the venerable N55 turbocharged I-6 (xDrive35i). Both engines are likely to be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW has already stated that all-wheel drive will be standard on the production-spec X4. There is speculation that an X4 M is in the works and that it will use the same forced-induction I-6 rumored for the upcoming 2015 M3/M4.
While they share a number of attributes, the X3 and the X4 completely different aesthetically. Where the X3 is boxy and upright, the X4 blends the athleticism of the larger X6 with the sinewy lines of the 4 Series Coupe Concept. Since BMW considers its SAC vehicles to be part of its coupe range, this makes sense -- the automaker wants to create more of a visual link to its slinky two-doors than to its boxy trucklets and conservative sedans. The even-numbered nomenclature is another indication that the X4 belongs in the coupe family.
Exaggerated lines, bold detailing, and a rakish profile define the X4's design. Up front, we see another example of BMW's new headlights that connect to the sides of the twin-kidney grilles. The full-LED units copy the hexagonal running-light rings from the 4 Series concept, and the inner ring is extended horizontally to the grille to help increase visual width. The grille has also been tweaked to draw the eye in: the blades are done in high-gloss black with a milled-down matte-black lower third and have been hollowed-out for "extra visual depth." We think that the hollow grille bars make the X4 look extra-aggressive. Large lower intakes each have a trio of chrome-edged black bars that have also been partially milled. A bright chrome faux diffuser lends a slightly off-road-ready look to the otherwise sporty crossover.
Twenty-one-inch polished alloy wheels fill swollen arches and give the X4 an athletic stance. BMW has reinterpreted its trademark swage line here, splitting it into two pieces -- one line runs from the A-pillar to the C-pillar, and a second line originates at the front of the rear wheel well and sweeps up to the taillights. The front line is a great evolution of traditional BMW design cues, but the rear one looks a little too much like the clunky "ponton" fender that Mercedes-Benz just eliminated from its E-Class. The rear end is a clear evolution of the X6: high-mounted, L-shaped LED taillights; a small backlight; and numerous levels of horizontal surfacing to reduce visual height and increase visual width. The widening tricks work -- in pictures, the X4 looks like it could easily be as wide as an X6 despite being 2.1 inches skinnier.
BMW is aiming to launch the production-spec X4 at some point next year. Unsurprisingly, the German automaker will build the X4 at its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it builds the X3, X5, and X6 for global consumption.