Hollywood loves a good franchise. The Avengers, Transformers, Fast and Furious, Spiderman, X-men, etc. It’s hard to argue with the logic behind them. Why risk a fortune on a new story and an unknown cast when you already have a proven commodity? BMW operates in much the same way these days. Sure, it’s bankrolling a few fascinating Indie projects, like the i3 and i8, but most of the automaker’s expansion comes from a few profitable body styles. This summer’s blockbuster with a familiar theme is the 2015 BMW X4.
The 2015 BMW X4 is a crossover coupe aimed, as always, at “young individualists.” It expands the theme of the BMW X6 into the fast-growing midsize crossover segment. It’s 7.7 inches shorter and 2.6 inches lower than the X6 but has the same hulking presence. The roofline, sweeping back dramatically over the rear doors, also apes the X6. Its front fascia is what most clearly sets it apart from its big brother, as familiar BMW features have been pinched into a sort of Angry Bird face.
The 2015 BMW X4 makes the same deal with the devil as do all coupe-like crossovers: you’ll need to rely on the backup camera (which costs $700 extra) to see what’s behind you, and the interior isn’t very spacious relative to the vehicle’s size. We feel obligated to note that the lighter and cheaper 3-series wagon offers more rear headroom and more cargo room with the seats folded down. Yet there’s no denying that the X4 is a handsome brute—brawny and sleek all at once. Where other automakers have tried and failed (see: Acura ZDX), BMW succeeds again.
Just as the X6 derives from the X5, so the 2015 BMW X4 shares its mechanical bits with the X3. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a 3.0-liter turbo six is optional. No diesel will be offered in the United States. The 300-hp inline-six in our xDrive35i test car is, as ever, smooth perfection, humming happily up to redline before the eight-speed automatic rips off a lightning-quick shift. Suspension tuning differs very little from the X3, as BMW (rightly) decided the crossover’s ride is stiff enough. Our test car, equipped with adjustable dampers, leaned very little as we drove through northern Spain at speeds comparable to what we’d done the day before in the smaller 4-series Gran Coupe. All-wheel drive comes standard on the X4, but it doesn’t incorporate the torque-vectoring rear-differential that affords the X6 its magical cornering capabilities. The crossover thus can’t hide its bulk on a winding road. The heavy steering probably intends to feel sporty but in fact amplifies the impression of mass.
Mind you, this handling and steering we’re complaining about is better than what you’ll find in the vast majority of crossovers and cars alike. This consistent BMW goodness, which also pervades the high-quality and ergonomically friendly interior, is ultimately what makes all this model proliferation acceptable. Just as movie goers can count on Johnny Depp to put in a good turn in the next Pirates of the Caribbean installment, car enthusiasts can pretty well assume a modern BMW is going to drive well, look nice, and have an upscale interior. Still, we can’t help but wish all this energy and talent were being poured into a more creative script.
2015 BMW X4
- On Sale: June
- Base Price: $45,625
- Price As Tested: $61,275
- Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 240 hp at 5000 to 6500 rpm, 258 lb-ft at 1450 to 4800; 3.0L I-6, 300 hp at 5800 to 6000, 300 lb-ft at 1200 to 5000
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Drive: 4-wheel
- Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 17.7/49.4 cu ft
- Fuel economy (city/highway): 19-21/ 26-28 mpg (est.)