Base jumping. The four-cylinder 2019 BMW X4 xDrive20d G02 might be the most junior model, but could just be the pick of the new range, as Matt Robinson discovers.
First drive: X4 xDrive20d 4-cylinder
2019 BMW X4 G02 might be the most junior model in the new range, but it could just be the pick of the bunch. We explain why…
In a dream world, we’d all have big-engined cars, wouldn’t we? The rangetoppers. The ones with 300hp and more, that can lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife as well as they can trudge around the North Circular. The ones with snarling soundtracks and sub-five-second 0-62mph times, rather modest fuel returns and all the other good things that go with the territory of high-performance cars. The BMW X4, given its remit as one of the sportier SUVs in the Bavarian marque’s line-up, seems to want to tempt customers into exactly this sort of domain. In what will soon be a four-model range in the UK (we’re still waiting for the xDrive30d to land, but it is due imminently), 75% of the engines offered will be six-cylinder units, and 50% of the model line-up will consist of stonking M Performance variants.
“Here in the UK, you can probably expect a good 75% of all X4s sold to be 20d variants”
Indeed, as the full-on X4 M has already been confirmed to be in development (and it will almost certainly use some evolved form of the M4’s twin-turbo, straight-six motor), then it’s likely that the majority of the X4 UK line-up will one day be those high-performance, 300hp+ models I’ve been talking about.
But, while you might be sorely tempted by the 326hp M40d, or the 360hp M40i, are you right in automatically assuming that this coupé-SUV needs a thumping great six-pot engine? And are we about to advocate the xDrive30d, with its 265hp and 458lb ft mill, as a more desirable balance between the power and the parsimony for your big off-roader?
Or are we actually about to go right to the other end of the scale, and check out the only UK BMW X4 that has fewer than six cylinders? Yes, that’s right, this is the G02 X4 xDrive20d M Sport, the model that aims to offer you all the sort of kerb appeal and style that’ll have the neighbours twitching their curtains when it’s parked on your driveway, but for a fraction of the price. Of course, when I say ‘fraction’ of the price, the actual gap between this 2.0-litre model in M Sport trim, with 190hp and 295lb ft, and the M40d, is £9,715, without options – a gap that can very quickly be closed by adding a few choice toys to the xDrive20d.
The test car featured here is a perfect case in point. Start throwing on things like the £1,930 Premium Package (panoramic glass sunroof, electric front seats with driver memory and lumbar support for both front pews), the £495 Visibility Package (BMW Icon Adaptive LED headlights and High-Beam Assist), the £1,040 Comfort Package (Comfort Access, acoustic glazing, anti-dazzle folding exterior mirrors and extended storage), a set of £490 M Sport brakes, the £1,750 Driving Assistant Plus, the £500 Parking Assistant Plus, an £820 Harman Kardon surround sound loudspeaker system and £235 on Apple CarPlay preparation and, all of a sudden, we’re at a place where the X4 xDrive20d M Sport is not actually a fraction of the price of the M40d, but actually is just 960 quid shy of the 326hp model!
Alright, I know this is slightly a case of comparing apples with oranges – the M40d can have options added too, pushing its figure away from the £55,315 base number that you’ll see in your local showroom and on BMW UK’s online configurator – but, in truth, some of the stuff listed above is actually standard-fit on the halo M40d, so it’s not as if the xDrive20d can be described as a conspicuous bargain.
It can, however, fulfil the whole ‘aesthetic impact’ part of its remit. Finished in Flamenco Red metallic paint (+£670) and sitting on a no-cost-option set of 19in, bicolour Ferric Grey style 698 M light double-spoke alloys, the xDrive20d looks every bit as imposing as the M40d variant that’s much higher up the model tree. Shadowline glasshouse detailing helps with the sporty air and, once you swing open the X4’s hefty driver’s door and clamber aboard, the interior ambience continues the theme.
There’s classy black Vernasca leather upholstery with red stitching swathing the seats, a tasteful M Sport steering wheel (but one with a rim that’s simply too thick), those appealing and beautiful digital gauges in the instrument cluster and the familiar appointments of a high-end BMW – such as a tactile, automatic gear shifter paddles on the back of the steering wheel and the reassuring excellence of the iDrive infotainment operating system.
It’s a lovely place to spend some time, clichéd though that is, and the driving position, in particular, is very clever, because it manages to balance the appeal of sitting up high (the SUV part of the X4’s DNA) with the ensconcing, low-in-the- chassis embrace of a coupé. You can hunker yourself down behind the wheel and feel like you’ve only just got your shoulders above the X4’s window line, and yet you’ll still have a perfect view out over the road ahead.
All of the practicality – or otherwise – of the X4 G02 is retained for the xDrive20d, so there’s still an impressive amount of rear-passenger space. The rear headroom isn’t as compromised as you might think, although the centre-rear seat is only going to be suitable for children, making the X4 a kind of ‘4+1’, rather than a true five-seater.
There’s also a capacious, 525-litre boot out the back, with 40:20:40 split rear seats to make the most of the BMW’s cabin space when there are no passengers on board and the driver needs to carry lengthy objects. As a lifestyle ‘coupé’, BMW would have you believe said objects will be surfboards and canoes, but for most people’s reality, it’ll more likely be some lengths of 4×2 timber and Ikea flatpack furniture boxes!
The X4’s drivetrain will be hugely familiar to any fans of the marque, as it’s the B47D20 inline-four turbodiesel. This engine can trace its lineage back 20 years to the M47D20 that launched in 1998; a motor that powered the early E46 320d models.
Delivering 190hp at 4,000rpm and a healthy 295lb ft from just 1,750rpm out to 2,500rpm, it drives all four wheels through BMW’s xDrive traction system and the flawless, eight-speed ZF transmission (ZF 8HP ) that’s branded Steptronic Sport in the M Sport world. The performance of the 1,815kg xDrive20d might look middling by today’s standards, seeing as it falls some way short of the 155mph limiter that most punchy BMWs possess, and it also fails to break the eight-second barrier for the 0-62mph sprint – however, it is anything but.
This 2.0-litre turbodiesel, coupled to that gearbox, is a match made in heaven. The mechanical refinement of the whole kit and caboodle is quite extraordinary, considering there are just four cylinders thrashing around in there. It never once becomes raucous in tune, even if you mash the throttle to the bulkhead and drive everywhere, asking it to ping round to its lowly 4,500rpm redline time and time again. It’s also incredibly punchy in the mid-range, subjectively feeling almost every bit as muscular as its six-cylinder siblings.
So, there’s no shortage of straight-line go with the X4 xDrive20d M Sport G02. And there’s no significant diminishment of its handling, either. Indeed, there’s one area where I think it’s better than the M40d, and that’s regarding the weight of its steering in Sport+ mode. While still not possessing genuinely high levels of feel, or the sort of graduated consistency of an M car’s set-up, it’s a little easier and more pleasant to get the G02 X4 20d turned into a corner at speed.
A couple of theories for this: there’s less weight over the nose, given only two litres of swept capacity in four chambers, rather than 3.0 litres from six; the tyres on the 19in wheels have smaller contact patches than the M40d’s 20in rubber; and there’s simply not the expectation on the xDrive20d to have steering that’s massively sporty, which conversely means it ends up with a more natural tiller than the 326hp X4.
Of course, the grip and traction are still hugely impressive for such a big machine.
The X4 xDrive20d feels nimble, agile and a degree more rewarding and involving than the G01 X3 on which it’s based. What’s more, as I’ve said many times before, the X3 is hardly a slouch in the corners. In short, you can work the four-cylinder X4 into a nice, flowing and yet rapid groove on A- and B-roads, and you soon forget that you’re in a vehicle that’s 1.6 metres off the deck, at its tallest.
Now, I don’t want to get carried away, as this X4 isn’t the most invigorating driver’s car ever to wear the blue-and-white propeller. But, for a big, luxury SUV with a relatively small engine, the xDrive20d is a mighty capable machine… and incredibly likeable, too.
Naturally, it functions beautifully when you’re not driving it in an uncouth fashion. The ride quality is superb, although I should point out that the test car was on £460 Adaptive Suspension, so I can’t say what a passively-sprung X4 would feel like as yet. Either way, it seems like £460 well spent when you end up with silky refinement like this, which is so ably abetted by the aerodynamic shape of the coupé-SUV, allowing it to cut through the air in whisper-quiet fashion.
Knocked out of its Sport modes, the major controls of this BMW take on a lightness of touch that makes placing the X4 accurately on the road an absolute doddle, so you don’t ever do that involuntary ‘tuck yourself in’ motion when you’re threading the vehicle down narrow lanes in buttery Cotswold towns, for instance.
Do I have any complaints about the 2019 BMW X4 xDrive20d M Sport G02? Well, while the suppression of its engine is obviously most welcome in terms of rolling refinement, at no point does it make any noises that are what you might term ‘alluring’. BMW is working with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel here and, short of horrible, OTT artificial augmentation, there’s little that can be done to make such powerplants sound exciting.
Other than the 20d’s slightly anodyne soundtrack, I’ve already touched on the terrific expense of the thing, although that’s highly unlikely to make any difference to its domination of the sales charts – here in the UK, you can probably expect a good 75% of all X4s sold to be 20d variants.
But these are minor gripes. In all other respects, the second-generation G02 X4 is clearly a very fine machine, which is as desirable in its four-cylinder application as it is when it’s packing a 326hp straight-six and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. Even better for BMW, the X4 continues to have the commercial edge on almost all its rivals, because only Mercedes-Benz offers a direct competitor – in the form of the GLE Coupé. So, if your heart is set on one of these rakish, mid-sized 4×4 vehicles, then you’ve only got two places to go – and there’s no doubting the X4 is the better machine in this particular battle with the three-pointed star.
This all means the xDrive20d M Sport is probably the first X4 you should be looking at; not just with your head, but also with your heart. Sure, the dream world is wonderful, of course, and we’d love to say that the M40d is the ideal X4 to have in the UK. But it really isn’t – and, in that boring and frustrating place in which we actually live, the real world, it’s nice to know that the most accessible X4 of the lot is the finest all-rounder of the range, and more than enough coupé-SUV for anyone’s needs.
“The 2019 BMW X4 xDrive20d feels nimble, agile and a degree more rewarding and involving than the G01 X3 on which it’s based”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2019 BMW X4 xDrive20d M Sport G02
PRICE: X4 range from £42,900; xDrive20d M Sport from £45,600, car as tested £54,355
DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, eight-speed Steptronic Sport auto, xDrive four-wheel drive
CO² EMISSIONS: 146g/km
TOP SPEED: 132mph
0-62MPH: 8.0 seconds
MAX POWER: 190hp at 4,000rpm / DIN
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft at 1,750-2,500rpm / DIN
The X4 xDrive20d M Sport has enough kerb appeal and style to have your neighbours twitching their curtains.
This 2.0-litre turbodiesel, coupled to that gearbox, is a match made in heaven. The mechanical refinement of the whole kit and caboodle is quite extraordinary.
The xDrive20d test car had classy, black Vernasca leather upholstery with red stitching and a tasteful, M Sport steering wheel.
The xDrive20d M Sport is probably the first X4 you should be looking at; not just with your head, but also with your heart.
Rear passenger headroom is OK, although the centre position really is best reserved for a child.
For a big, luxury SUV with a relatively small engine, the xDrive20d is a mighty capable machine… and incredibly likeable, too.