BMW Launches X4, World Baffled

So what am I looking at?

This is BMW's newest entry in the invent-a-niche-and-fill-it range - the X4.

What's new?

While the X4 is ostensibly a new car it is in essence a coupe-styled version of the existing X3 off roader - just like its bigger brother the X6 is a coupe version of the X5. This is actually a pretty good rule-of-thumb for BMW's swollen model range now, where the odd numbered cars are conventional saloons and estates while even numbered ones are coupes and coupe convertibles.

Fortunately this lets you know what to expect - a slightly lower (36mm) car with a sportier and firmer ride, aimed at on-road pleasure at the expense of outright off-road ability. All X4s do come with BMW xDrive 4WD as standard, though you should look upon this more as a winter helper than a green laning machine.

The plunging roofline makes for a marginally less practical car too, sacrificing 50 litres of load space (500) with the seats up and 200 litres (1400) with them down compared to the X3.

What powers it?

The launch range is exclusively diesel, with the same 20d, 30d and 35d engines found in the X3.

In 20d form the X4 offers 190hp and 295lbfft of torque, sufficient to either propel the car to 60mph in 8 seconds or return 52.3mpg - improving to 54.3mpg with the optional 8 speed automatic in place of the 6 speed manual.

The 30d and 35d are, at their heart, the same 3.0 straight six just in different states of tune. The 30d provides a more than adequate 258hp punch and 412lbfft, while the 35d gives 313hp and 464lbfft - both engines good enough to provide a sub-6s sprint and over 47mpg. However these versions are only available with the 8 speed automatic, though this does keep them both in VED Band G.

How much?

When available in July 2014, taking a base model xDrive20d SE away from your local dealership will require 36,590 - 4,700 more than the equivalent X3. Bumping up to the 30d needs 6,800 more, while the 35d is another 4,100 premium.

BMW has already announced intended specifications, with xLine a 1,500 option that brings exclusive 18 light-alloy wheel, satin aluminium exterior trim, dark copper interior trim, sport seats and exclusive xLine leather upholstery. Top of the tree is the M Sport trim - another 1,500 atop the xLine prices - with external M Sport accoutrements (bodykit, wheels and shiny black bits), M Sport suspension, BMW M door sill finishers, sport seats and an aluminium hexagon interior trim. Go for everything and you're looking at a 48,990 car, before options.

Anything else?

BMW has tried hard to bring the emissions down with technology in the X4 - start-stop, regenerative braking and suchlike. You can order your X4 xDrive20d and 30d with 17 aero wheels and low rolling resistance tyres to improve the carbon dioxide ratings by 7g/km - dropping each car an entire VED band.

Any alternatives?

The coupe-styled off-road crowd isn't a particularly heavy market sector, but the X4 doesn't have its own way entirely. Though much smaller cars, there's competition in-house from MINI's Countryman and, if you're well into the coupe look, Paceman - which also offers petrols, manuals and 2WDs for a bit of variety. They're also much cheaper but offer no less brand cachet than BMW.

It would be a bolder choice though to buy the X4 having passed over the Range Rover Evoque. It may not offer the sportscar statistics of the straight six X4s, but it's very highly rated and comes as either a manual or 9 speed automatic, undercutting the X4 while still being more chic.

In a line...

A baffling box-ticking exercise that will probably still sell like heated bakery products.

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