Is there an end in sight to the stampede of luxury crossovers occupying driveways across the country? Not if BMW has a say.
Four years after its debut as new nameplate, the X4 returns for the 2019 model year with tweaks to its performance and physique. But the coupe-like crossover shares already shares powertrains with one of the automaker’s most popular models, the X3 compact SUV. So why bother to update a vehicle that has traditionally been one of BMW’s slowest sellers?
Though the latest offering from the German automaker may not be in high consumer demand, the “sports activity coupe” fills a niche: a sporty, Goldilocks-sized conveyance fused with the utility of a crossover and the looks of a sportier car. Nestled in the middle of BMW’s SUV lineup, the X4 lets BMW target a younger, less family-minded buyer without the startup costs of producing a brand new vehicle.
It’s a recipe that seems to be working for the automaker, following the popularity of the larger BMW X6. Denoted by the prefix “X,” BMW’s portfolio of SUVs spans the X1 subcompact through the forthcoming X7 three-row SUV. The even-numbered, coupe-bodied models are mechanically similar to their high-volume, odd-numbered counterparts, but they wear a sportier body that closer resembles a coupe than a traditional, boxy SUV. In keeping with the playbook, the brand launched an X2 for the 2018 model year.
“BMW’s even-numbered SUVs are basically sporty-looking ‘top hats’ on BMW’s high volume odd-numbered conventional SUVs,” said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at marketing research and consulting firm AutoPacific. “The SUV market is now large enough that there is a wide variety of consumer types and consumer tastes to be catered to, and low investment niche models like X4 are a good way to reach buyers outside of the mainstream.”
Like the X3, the X4’s xDrive30i base model runs on a 248-horsepower twin turbo, while the high-performance M40i gets a larger, 355-horsepower twin turbo and a top speed of 155 mph, compared with 145 mph for the previous generation. The updates will help both of BMW’s compact crossovers compete against rivals including the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Range Rover Evoque.
“The SUV market is now large enough that there is a wide variety of consumer types and consumer tastes to be catered to,” Kim said. “Low investment niche models like X4 are a good way to reach buyers outside of the mainstream.”