Unlike Felix, the BMW X4 has grown up a little. Picture: BMW
Unlike Felix, the BMW X4 has grown up a little. Picture: BMW

The answer to the question nobody asked is back again, with BMW set to launch the second generation of its X4 crossover and it will be in SA in the third quarter of 2018.

Dubbed a Sports Activity Vehicle by BMW, the original X4 received surprisingly good reviews, with solid engineering underpinning its junior X6 liftback styling.

Effectively a more design-focused version of the X3 SUV, the second generation X4 will be bigger than the original, growing 81mm to measure 4,752mm from bumper to bumper. It should be bigger inside, with a 54mm stretch in the wheelbase to 2,864mm and BMW has added 37mm to the overall width (now 1,918mm) as well.

It’s roughly the same height as before (the highest point is just 3mm lower at the 1,621mm roofline), but the overall theme is a more mature design, adopting the slightly hexagonal wheel arches of its larger siblings.

It also comes with the coffee shop show-off tech, with an optional 2.2-inch touchscreen display on the car key. A technology that made its debut on the 7 Series, the key can be used to lock and unlock the car, close or open its windows or crank up the heating.

BMW has shifted 200,000 X4s since its 2014 launch, which isn’t bad for a bonus SUV-crossover off the X3’s solid underpinnings. It will arrive with a wide array of powertrains, too, starting with a 2.0l, four-cylinder 135kW xDrive 20i all-wheel drive and topping out with petrol and diesel versions of the M40 badge.

The quickest of them, just, will be the X4 M40i, with its 265kW, 500Nm turbocharged, straight-six petrol engine pushing it to 100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds. But the turbodiesel M40d won’t be a slouch either when it arrives in the first quarter of 2019, covering the same territory in 4.9 seconds — just 0.1 seconds slower than the petrol-powered version.

The rear gets a major re-design that the X6 could do with. Picture: BMW
The rear gets a major re-design that the X6 could do with. Picture: BMW

A far bigger difference is the fuel consumption. The M40i uses a claimed 9.0l/100km (a tenth worse than its predecessor), while the M40d pulls that down to 5.4l/100km.

But the meaty slice of the X4’s sales won’t have the letter "M" anywhere near it, except on its optioned-up suspension and trim packages. A pair of four-cylinder petrol motors and another pair of four-cylinder diesels (all using turbochargers for their 2.0l capacities) will shoulder the heavy lifting.

They are particularly techy things, with the petrol variants using twin-scroll turbochargers, direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and lift and variable camshaft control. There are even particulate filters, even for the petrol engines.

While the base xDrive20i gets by with 290Nm of torque from 1,350r/min, the step up to the xDrive30i sees that jump to 350Nm, along with 185kW of power, from essentially the same 2.0l engine. That step up in output helps slash two seconds from the base car’s sprint to 100km/h, getting the 30i to the mark in 6.3 seconds. Surprisingly, even the xDrive20d is quicker than the base petrol engine, with the entry-level diesel sliding beyond 100km/h 0.3 of a second faster, at 8.0 seconds. The petrol-powered entry car claims some small measure of revenge in top speed, besting its diesel sibling in the rarely visited measurement by 2km/h, with 215km/h. But it plays a definite second fiddle to the 20d in fuel economy, with the entry diesel confirming its standing as the most economical X4 with 5.6l/100km. By contrast, the entry-level petrol motor uses 7.3l/100km.

All of the powertrains use all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic transmissions. Added to that, everything beyond the entry-level models have launch control (for some reason) and they can all switch between Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro modes. BMW adds a sharper Sport+ mode to the six-cylinder models and the faster 30i.

The major criticisms we had of the 2014 X4 were its limited rear headroom and, especially, the obvious cost cutting and cheap materials in the cabin.

Not surprisingly the interior is much the same as the X3 although with less rear space. Picture: DAIMLER
Not surprisingly the interior is much the same as the X3 although with less rear space. Picture: DAIMLER

BMW has tried to correct some of those points, making LED head and tail lights, twin exhaust tips and 19-inch alloys standard across the range.

The front seats have been redesigned, though BMW has not mentioned any updates to the X4’s particularly flat and uncomfortable rear seats, except to say its passengers now have 27mm more knee and leg room. It also scores a built-in SIM card and BMW’s latest generation iDrive for the infotainment system. That system is now based around a 6.5-inch display atop the dashboard, while an optional Professional navigation setup pushes that out to 10.25 inches and adds a touchscreen function.

There have been steps forward in the voice-control system to allow more real-world questions, plus a gesture-control option, while the X4’s optional head-up display is 70% larger and now is much clearer.

Its connectivity includes both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while drivers can choose which interface to use on its Open Mobility Cloud platform. It encompasses everything from the Apple watch to smartphones to Amazon Alexa or Google Home voice-controlled personal assistants.

The luggage area retains its 525l capacity, though it can rise to 1,430l if the 40:20:40 split rear seat is folded flat, either from the seat or remotely from the boot itself. Drivers can also individually adjust the three backrest angles to manage odd cargo sizes.

In spite of the X4 sharing most of its architecture with the new X3, it won’t be built in SA, at least not for now.