The BMW X4, with its latest Life Cycle Impulse (LCI), comes with redesigned LED headlights, kidney grilles, body apron styling, and an updated 12.3 inch infotainment unit on the interior. Most importantly however, is the introduction of a mild hybrid system, as well as all wheel drive, which is now standard across all models in the range, regardless of whether you are going for the X4 xDrive20i or the X4 xDrive30i. Both provide a wonderful and sporty driving experience that matches up well with its stature as one of the most striking Sports Activity Coupes (SAC) from BMW, as well as one of the most recognisable SUV coupes on the market.
To address the elephant in the room, and to set the context for this review, let us say that the X4 is a car that has always been about its styling - for underneath its fancier facade, the X4 is quite essentially a dressed up X3. That is not to say that the X4 is all form without function - although, if you were the type of consumer who just wanted function, you'd probably just buy yourself a BMW X3, save yourself some money, and this review would be over - But alas, consumers aren't so simple, along with the desire for a capable driving machine, consumers also wanted something that was visually stunning and different. Enter the X4 - which provides all the driving dynamics and capabilities of the X3, has a looser definition of practicality than the X3, and arguably looks a lot more special than the X3.
With the latest LCI, this difference in visual appeal is emphasised, as the X4 gets newly designed kidney grilles that are exclusive on the X4, and they come in this lovely matt chrome finish that is all the rage these days. The car also gets redesigned headlights and taillights along with redesigned front and rear aprons, which gives the car a look that is more futuristic. I think the X4's new features give the car a different personality than before - and is sporty in a different way than before. Before, the X4 had a sportiness that felt more "gym jock" - like the car was perhaps consuming creatine and protein powder each chance it got. The new X4 feels softer but smarter - like an avid golfer who spends more time reading his TrackMan statistics than actually hitting the ball.
Whatever your preference, it is clear that the redesign aligns the car better with what is perceived as modern by today's consumer.Put it simply, the car has an avant-garde cleverness about its demeanour, and I can see why some people would find that sexier than its predecessor.
Inside, the car gets a new massive 12.3 inch infotainment unit that thankfully still runs OS7, which surprisingly, does wonders at keeping the interior of the X4 relevant until a completely new X4 is released. The screen dominates the dashboard, and immediately lets you know that you're in a premium car. In today's car buying context, its almost like the size of your infotainment unit determines how premium your car is - good thing the X4 now has a massive one then. Aside from the obsession with size, OS7 performs beautifully as usual, and beloved functions like the BMW reverse assistant seem even more impressive with the larger screen.
Some people may find it annoying that the save for an interior emblem on the centre console, the car looks identical to the X3 - but I think its fine. I like the X3, and therefore I like the X4. Build quality is absolutely top notch as we have come to expect from this generation of BMWs, and everything just feels like it would still be perfectly in place in years to come. I'll agree to an extent that the X4's interior is starting to feel a little overplayed, but honestly, I'd pick a well built interior over a fancy one any day.
Another major update with the LCI is for sure the introduction of mild hybrid technology into the drivetrain, which doesn't seem to aid power all that much. Instead, what it does really well, is to smoothen out the gear changes especially on lower gears and around town, so that low speed lunging and lurching are kept at a minimal - something that some other large continental SUVs haven't exactly figured out yet. This makes for a very easy and pleasant driving experience around town, while also aiding fuel efficiency. Otherwise, the time tested B48 power plant in our xDrive20 test unit remains quite faultless and produces more than ample power for use on Singapore's roads, and delivers its performance in spritely fashion. In fact, I personally do not see a need to go near the xDrive30, especially since the base X4 already comes with all wheel drive.
I'm not suggesting that anybody attempt anything epic in this soft off roader, but we do get a lot of sudden rain in Singapore, and the presence of all wheel drive does provide this subtle assurance under moderate acceleration, especially around those long and sweeping expressway exits and entrances - where your throttle application feels like its delivered more moderately throughout the drivetrain as in a traditional rear driven BMW. The downside here is that through corners, the steering wheel feedback does resemble that of a front wheel drive vehicle more than a rear wheel drive one.
Who should buy this car? This is a simple one. I've long maintained that the X3 is pound for pound, one of the most versatile and well rounded vehicles on the market. It does a little bit of everything, and it does everything relatively well. If that is good enough for you, then buy the X3 - it is an awesome car. However, if for some reason, the X3's styling offends you, or for some reason your estate is flooded with X3s and you just want something a little bit more special, the X4 provides a nifty styling upgrade that offers you the unique opportunity to attain a great looking car, without having to sacrifice any of the X3 driving DNA that has made it one of the benchmark drives in its class.
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