To understand the 2019 BMW X4, it helps to start with BMW's naming parlance. Odd-numbered vehicles represent traditional four-door sedans and SUVs, while the even-numbered ones take after two-door coupes. Sometimes they have that many doors, but mostly they adopt a swoopy, fastback-style roofline.
That happens to be the case with this fully redesigned second-generation X4, which is a stylized, sportier version of the BMW X3. Both luxury compact SUVs share the same underpinnings, including engines and transmissions, and come from the same factory, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The trimmed roofline and added standard features mean the X4 offers less functionality and costs more, intentionally limiting its appeal to shoppers who want a compact luxury SUV that emphasizes sport over utility.
Keeping consistent with the sporty theme, all X4s ride on a firmer suspension than the X3 and come with front seats that have larger side bolsters. The two available trim levels — the xDrive30i and the M40i — are differentiated by their engines and standard equipment, with the latter being more powerful and engaging to drive. The M40i has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 355 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque, while the xDrive30i uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 248 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque. At a recent press event, we grabbed the keys to an M40i and didn't let go.
The six-cylinder makes pleasing sounds and eagerly spins up to redline. Activating the Sport mode makes it even louder, and you hear pops and backfires from the optional sport exhaust when you lift off the gas pedal. Like in the X3, the eight-speed automatic has a launch control function. When engaged, BMW wagers an M40i can rip from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. That's quick acceleration from any vehicle, let alone a compact luxury SUV. The xDrive30i, lacking launch control, takes 6 seconds.
The X4 M40i's steering and handling make an equally strong impression. The ride is firm, owing to the sporty capabilities of the chassis, but can be smoothed out with the available adaptive dampers. The steering wheel relays agility and nimbleness at all speeds. Yet its variable ratio changes so that the X4 is easy to maneuver in parking lots and stable on the freeway.
Shoppers can outfit the all-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled locking rear differential that enables greater traction and speeds while exiting corners. While the real-world usefulness of such a feature in something that's not a sports car is debatable, the differential's availability reinforces the X4's sporty intentions.
While the X4 is based on the BMW X3, there are key differences in the overall shapes of these two vehicles. The X4 is slightly longer, much wider, and shorter in height, giving it a tauter overall look. Its rear track width — the distance between the middle of each rear tire — is also 1.2 inches wider compared to the X3's. The increase primarily benefits style, but BMW also says it helps improve the X4's overall agility.
We imagine it would take some back-to-back seat time with an X3 to feel the difference in handling, but the X4's width and the design of the rear end have a strong visual presence on the road. The wide and narrow taillights emphasize a spoilerlike bulge at the bottom of the rear glass where the BMW badge stands prominently.
We just aren't so sure about the profile. While increases in overall width and length give this new X4 more interior and cargo volume than last year's model, that cut roofline reduces space versus the current X3 in key areas. Rear headroom shrinks by nearly 2 inches, so folks of average height will find their hair brushing the ceiling. There's still plenty of rear legroom and shoulder room, though.
Compared to the X3, cargo space drops to 18.5 cubic feet, which is less than some subcompact SUVs offer. Flip down the 40/20/40-split rear seats, and that space opens to 50.5 cubic feet. That's enough room for a couple and most errand-related needs, but families might run out of space.
The scrunched roof also reduces the size of the rear window, and the rear headrests crowd the view through the rearview mirror. Fortunately, there's a range of cameras and proximity sensors available, but shoppers sensitive to outward visibility could find the view problematic.
Inside, the front seating area looks and feels similar to a well-optioned X3. The seats feel large and roomy, and the bolsters hold you in place when you're going around turns without hampering the process of getting in and out. Outside of the pleasing sound of the turbocharged straight-six, the interior is largely quiet, too.
All X4s come standard with an attractive and powerful 10.3-inch entertainment and navigation system that's optional on the X3. For phone integration, Apple CarPlay works wirelessly, but it's now offered as a subscription service with the first year free. Android Auto is unsupported, too. Competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC offer both as an option, while the Audi Q5 has them standard.
Not for Everyone
The BMW X4 arrives at dealerships in July 2018 with a starting price of $50,450 for the xDrive30i and $60,450 for the M40i (destination included), representing around a $4,000 to $7,000 jump over the equivalent X3 trim levels. To be sure, the X4's higher price and reduced utility make it a real head-scratcher to most shoppers. But that's why the BMW X3 exists.
The X4 caters to a niche audience who wants extra standard features, something that looks different from most compact luxury SUVs, and enhanced driving dynamics. If you fall into that group, the 2019 BMW X4 should serve you well.