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Can BMW's second crack at a mid-sized SUV-coupe win over company car fashionistas?
Cruise control with braking function, automatic tailgate, reversing camera, three-zone automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, sat-nav, adaptive LED headlights
190hp 2.0, 265hp 3.0, 326hp 3.0
Sport, M Sport, M Sport X, M
On taking a quick scan of a BMW price list, the first thing that strikes you is it has more Xs than a teenager's Valentine's card.
The latest X model to hit UK showrooms is the second-generation X4, which arrives just four years after the inaugural model.
For the sake of clarity, the X4 sits in the middle of the even-numbered SUV-coupe range as a sleeker alternative to the more conventional X3, as the smaller X2 is to the X1, and the bigger X6 is to the X5.
Approach the X4 from the front and you'd be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the X3 it is based on; the visual differences only really become apparent towards the rear of the car, where the rakish roofline tapers away to create a coupe-like appearance. How attractive the results are is a matter of personal taste, but the intention is to create a sporting appearance for drivers who favour style over absolute practicality. Those aesthetics are further enhanced by the latest X4's wider and lower dimensions compared with the outgoing model.
Climb into the X4 and any notion of sacrifice certainly won't be immediately apparent. The quality of the interior trim is typical of what we've come to expect from high-end BMWs, thanks to a blend of fine leathers and swathes of high-quality trim, all underpinned by precision fit and finish.
Step up to mid-range M Sport trim - most drivers will - and you'll upgrade from the standard 6.5in display to a whopping 10.25in touchscreen to help you view the myriad infotainment menus more clearly. That said, whichever system you choose, you'll get the reassuring backup of BMW's familiar iDrive rotary control, which is infinitely easier to use when driving than trying to prod at the menus on the touchscreen.
Also typical of BMW, the X4's seats offer excellent levels of comfort and support, while the cabin's ambience is taken care of by standard three-zone climate control, which provides separate temperature controls for rear-seat passengers.
Those in the back will also enjoy a decent amount of legroom, but anyone over 6ft tall may well find their sharp hairstyles blunted by that tapering roofline.
At 525 litres, the boot is by no means small, although it does concede 25 litres to the X3 - and the load point is seriously elevated, so a bit of straining may be involved when trying to load heavier bags.
Discounting the range-topping M40i sports model, which has a 354hp 3.0-litre petrol engine, most X4 drivers will be choosing from three diesels, ranging from 190 up to 326hp. The car we drove was equipped with the entry-level power unit, which is the obvious choice for fleets, as it's claimed to be capable of just over 50mpg on an official combined cycle.
As well as decent economy it also delivers plenty of grunt - put your foot down and it accelerates with an impressive whoosh, scything through the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, with imperceptible ease. It's not all sweetness and light, however. The engine does generate some defined mechanical rattle under firm acceleration, and although it's never an issue at lower speeds, crank things up to motorway rates and a surprising amount of wind noise can be heard filtering its way into the cabin.
Given the X4 has a lower centre of gravity than the X3, it's perhaps not surprising that it is a fair bit more agile. Cornering is impressively flat for a big SUV and there's bags of traction and grip, thanks to a combination of meaty rubber and standard four-wheel drive. The steering is also pretty well judged, being light enough to take the strain out of town work and reassuringly weighty in bends. Less impressive is the low-speed ride, which is often disturbed by surface imperfections, although to be fair, things do settle down quite a bit at higher speeds.
A personal choice?
Along with the racy looks comes a pretty racy price tag. How much? Around £3,000 more than an X3, that's how much. On top of this, the X4 also sits a BIK band higher and costs 3p more per mile to run, according to KeeResources - although it does have stronger residual values.
The X4 is undoubtedly an engaging car to drive and own but whether you should be considering one will probably hinge on how you perceive its appearance. If you're a fan, then its extra costs and smaller boot are probably a price worth paying.