Back in the 1970s BMW’s motto was “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. While this crystal clear mission statement has become lost in today’s fluffy “lifestyle and image” advertising, you only need to get behind the wheel of any rear or four-wheel-drive BMW model to understand that their engineers are driving enthusiasts.
More recently the BMW M badge has taken on a life of its own, and is doing particularly well. In fact, from January to May of this year a total of 14,043 M cars were sold, with a further 17,113 under the M Performance banner. The 31,156 total represents a 25% increase in sales over the same period in 2017.
Right from the launch of the original X5 in 1999 BMW have always preferred the term SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) to describe their machines, over the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) appellation normally used for the 4x4 genre.
Their second generation X4 is certainly no hulking SUV, and its sleeker lines, less fussy details, and more purposeful stance are a huge improvement over its predecessor. It also looks like a model in its own right now rather than a scaled down poor man’s X6.
Bi-LED headlamps are standard with full LED ‘iconlights’ as an option, while the front laminated windscreen is made from acoustic glass for reduced cabin noise. The base wheel size is 18-inch and optional wheel sizes go all the way to 21-inch. Our X4 30i test cars wore the 20-inch wheels with 245/40ZR20 and 275/40ZR20 Bridgestone Runflat rubber front and rear respectively.
The cabin architecture takes its cues from the X3 that we drove a few months ago in Portugal, with the dashboard a direct transplant. It also shares the ‘X’ logo embossed into the aluminium panels on the inside of the front door trims and only seen when the doors are open.
Since the use of LED lights has become more prolific with both exterior and interior lighting changing the colour of the cabin lighting at the touch of a button has become easy. The new X4 also offers a choice of six colours for its ambient lighting, with the control accessed through the telematics.
BMW has always been at the forefront of lightweight materials and consistently chips away at making each generation of their cars larger yet lighter. The new X4 is 81mm longer on a 54mm longer wheelbase, is 37mm wider, 3.0mm lower, and weighs 50kg less. The drag coefficient has also been reduced to an impressive 0.30.
The larger dimensions free up an extra 27mm of rear seat legroom, while maximum cargo space is increased by 30 litres to 1,430 litres, with the 40/20/40 split rear seat folded flat. This is partly accounted for by the additional underfloor storage compartment, while the boot area alone is now 525 litres. The powered tailgate is now a standard feature, with the adaptive load fastening system an option.
The X4 is made in BMW’s Spartanburg factory in South Carolina alongside the X5 and X6, so it was no surprise that BMW brought us there for a first drive on the picturesque local country roads and their in-house test track.