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BMW X4

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Base Price: $44,700
Price as Tested: $64,125

The freshest addition to the “X” family, the BMW X4 is an all-new crossover assembled right here in little-old Greenville, SC. As much about styling as it performance, X4 is long on sportiness and a little lean on utility. If you value superior driving characteristics over utility in your midsize crossover, the X4 could be just what you are looking for.

As a driver’s car, the X4 impresses with its sleek exterior, aggressive engines and well-balanced handling. BMW conjures visionsP90143879_highRes of straightening out the twisties and leaving a vapor trail along the Autobahn; the X4 is a BMW in that spirit.

BMW offers the X4 in two all-wheel-drive versions – xDrive 28i and xDrive 35i – each with its own engine. In fact, the engine is the defining feature of these otherwise nearly identically equipped trims.

Price and a difference in acceleration are the two significant considerations when making a buying decision. Most owners spending upwards of $50,000 or more probably aren’t going to be very concerned about the single mpg difference in combined driving between the 28i’s 23 mpg and the 25i’s 22 mpg. The EPA estimates mileage for the 28i at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. The 35i is rated one mpg less in both categories. According to the EPA, that will amount to an average of about $100 in annual fuel costs.

P90143863_highResPowering the 28i is a 240-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; while the 35i gets a 300-horsepower 3-liter turbocharged V6. A driver-shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles distributes engine grunt to all four wheels. BMW claims the 28i can reach 60 miles per hour from a standstill in six seconds. The 35i, says BMW, can do it in 5.2 seconds. Either number is quick for a vehicle of X4’s size.

Although I never took the opportunity to really air out the xDrive 35i that BMW provided for this evaluation, I did plenty of both highway and surface-street driving in it. I was impressed by its eagerness to ramp up to expressway speeds entering I-85, as well as its superb handling and steering response on some of the rural roads outside the city limits. The X4 is simply fun to drive.

As is typical of BMWs – especially those farther up the model-number ladder – the X4’s systems and controls aren’t as intuitive as they could be. BMW spent a lot of effort writing them, and apparently expects its owners to spend some time pouring over its owners’ manuals. Clean and business-like, the cabin’s lines are stylish, but not overly so. All of the pieces in my test X4 were up level and well assembled. More like those of a sport coupe than a crossover, the seats offered ample side support.

BMW calls the X4 a Sports Activity Coupe as opposed to a crossover. I suppose this is to dampen cargo-carrying expectations.P90143844_highRes Indeed, it is much more like a large sports coupe than it is an SUV. Not only does it’s exterior styling bear this out, but its actual interior dimensions do as well. At 34.8 inches, the X4’s rear-seat legroom falls somewhere between Honda Accord Coupe on the low side and the Dodge Dart on the high end. Behind the second-row seat is less cargo space than in the trunk of a Chevrolet Impala. With the second-row seat folded, cargo capacity expands from about 18 cu.ft. to just over 49 cu.ft.

Sporty and performance laden as it is, the X4 is still a luxury vehicle. Standard gear includes adaptive headlights, power rear liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, power-folding outboard mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, iDrive electronics interface, BMW Assist emergency telematics, 6.5-inch color display, and a nine-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface.

My test X4 had more than $16,000 worth of options tacked on to the 35i’s $48,000 base price. The extras included a navigation system, automatic highbeams, head-up windshield display, surround-view cameras, Dynamic Damper Control and 20-inch wheels among a host of other goodies.

If you measure a vehicle’s desirability by its coolness quotient, the X4 screams to be on your list. Powerful and fun to drive, it gets high marks for everything but cargo space. But, hey, it’s a “sport activity coupe” after all, so who really cares?