BMW X4 & 4 Series Grand Coupé: More Option for the Picking

By Lee Pang Seng
VARIETY is the spice of life and this applies equally in the premium car sector. BMW is certainly subscribing to that by extending its model options down the line to reach out to more loyal customers who want greater choices to suit their motoring pleasure. If at all possible, the German carmaker would want to have a model in just about every passenger vehicle segment to cover as many bases as possible.

The trend was very clear when it chose to introduce the X4 and 4 Series Grand Coupé, both of which already had a precedent in the upper range models; in particular the X6 and 6 Series Grand Coupé respectively. Being in the mid-range segment, the X4 and 4 Series Grand Coupé are slightly smaller in body dimensions and both appear to look better in a more compact form.

Being part of the 4 Series family, the X4 and Grand Coupé share similarities in body details and powertrains. It makes economic sense to spread out the cost so that these new additions could be made available at attractive, rather than prohibitive, prices. For starters, they share the same wheelbase of 2810mm, which would suggest a common platform.

To serve the respective model function, all other dimensional areas differ. The X4, being the Sport Activity Coupé, is a taller and wider vehicle at 1624mm and 1881mm, as well as being longer at 4671mm. The 4 Series Grand Coupé sits lower at 1309mm (except for the 428i xDrive that stands at 1404mm) and is slightly narrower at 1825mm, while bumper to bumper it spans 4638mm.

The X4 that was provided for the international media drive in Bilbao, Spain was the xDrive3.5i that had a 3.0-litre (2979cc) in-line six-cylinder engine, complete with the standard BMW package: TwinPower turbo technology, twin scroll turbocharger, and high precision direct injection. It’s undersquare in configuration with an 84.0mm bore and 89.6mm stroke. Specified for minimum RON 91 octane petrol, it delivers 225kW (306bhp) from 5800 to 6400rpm and 400Nm that comes in early at 1200rpm and stays fully pumped till 5000rpm.

It comes with the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with Sports mode (the ratios are the same for all three models in the range, the other two being the 2.0-litre four-cylinder models with tuning for different power outputs). The X4 xDrive3.5i accelerates to 100km/h in a respectable 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 247km/h. Its combined fuel consumption is given as 6.0 l/100km (16.7km/l).

The 4 Series Grand Coupé made available for the drive was the 428i with the 2.0-litre (1997cc) in-line four-cylinder engine, also with the standard BMW turbo technology as for the X4. It is also undersquare in configuration with a longer 90.1mm stroke and a constant 84.0mm bore. Power output is 180kW (245bhp) at 5000-6500rpm and 350Nm from 1250rpm to 4800rpm.

It too came with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with the same ratios as the X4. Obviously, BMW has come up with an automatic transmission that could accommodate the different engine outputs and motoring designs. The 428i trails the bigger displacement X4 xDrive3.5i a little at 6.1 seconds in accelerating to 100km/h while having a higher top speed of 250km/h. Its combined fuel consumption is slightly higher at 6.3 l/100km (15.8km/l).

We started with the 428i Grand Coupé as we were keen on seeing how a ‘standard’ power BMW would compare to the M models that we drove a few days earlier. The first note was the more comfortable ride. It remained firm but the impacts from bumps and dips were absorbed to a greater degree to be easier on the ride. The front had aluminium double-joint spring struts with displaced camber and the rear saw a five-link design with lightweight steel components.

The Electric Power Steering (EPS) we had an experience of earlier in the M models continued to be enjoyed in the 428i Grand Coupé and we had a good account of it during a winding stretch of about 10km. The section was similar in its snaking ways to that of the road to Fraser’s Hill but with better quality tarmac. The fun part was in keeping a local driver in a BMW E46 3 Series at bay. There were a few short stretches in between corners but the 428i had the grunt to stay ahead.

Selecting Sport Mode and using the steering wheel paddles to choose our gears (mostly second and third) for the respective corners, the 428i Grand Coupé felt almost as good as the M cars through the bends. Corner speeds were about the same and the EPS was just as accurate in directional feedback to shore up our confidence to push the 428i quickly through unfamiliar territory. There was a bit more body lean than the M cars but it was marginal and that made this Grand Coupé just as enjoyable to drive in a dynamic way.

It easily gave us some high speed cruising where possible although most of the roads wound through the countryside dotted with hamlets along the way, through which we had to drive at 50 or 60km/h or risk being stopped by the local mobile police. We left the fast driving mainly to the highways.

At the other extreme, the 428i comes with the button option to choose your driving mode, ranging from ECO PRO (with its anticipatory function), Comfort, Sport and Sport+. It is all part of its Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that determines the accelerator pedal progression, engine response, power steering characteristics and response thresholds according to how you would want to drive the Grand Coupé.

The Grand Coupé is a five-door model (a door is usually defined by its ability to admit a person into the passenger compartment) and the standard 40:20:40 split rear seatrests provide progressive means of storage facilities to accommodate items (from 480 litres to 1300). Its interior looked capable of accommodating four adults comfortably for long drives, and its 0.29 aerodynamic profile provided a quiet ride.

The four frameless doors are exclusive to the Grand Coupé model, as is the stretched roofline (against the two-door Coupé) and electrically operated bootlid (or fifth door) with Smart Opener. Just place your foot under the rear in a steady manner (no wiggling to avoid confusing the sensor) and the door will open. This is a relative new feature that is increasingly being adopted in newer models.

We had the X4 xDrive3.5i on the second day that covered a different route, with some winding hilly sections that gave us breath-taking views of the lovely countryside and coastline in different places. We also had some rain that led to some wet roads and had to dial down our adrenalin to be on the safe side, even though the Sport Activity Coupé came well specified in active safety systems.

Firstly, it had an ‘intelligent’ all-wheel drive with Performance Control as standard. That means the system is always apportioning engine output to the front and rear wheels according to road conditions and to the drive mode that is selected. The suspension system is similar to that in the 4 Series Grand Coupé but tuned to handle the higher weight mass; in this case, the xDrive3.5i weighs 1815kg (DIN) kerb against 1510kg (DIN) for the 428i. The steering is also electrically operated.

We did have some dry roads in one winding section and the X4 xDrive3.5i didn’t disappoint. For a fairly tall vehicle, we could drive through corners with some abandonment as the body lean was nicely checked and the steering directional feedback was good to take the bends at pretty quick speeds. We never had any doubt that we were in a BMW as all the dynamic characteristics that could be related to it were enjoyed and exploited where possible.

It may be smaller in size against the X6 but the X4 remained a comfortable Sport Active Coupé. The few bumps that we came across hardly ruffled its composure and its high speed poise on the highway expressed its confident stance. Being a taller vehicle that offers more resistance to the wind, its aerodynamic profile may not match the 4 Series Grand Coupé at 0.34, but the wind noise during highway cruising speed was relatively low and hardly made the drive a noisy affair.

Against the X3 with which it shares a similar platform, the X4 was given some dimensional improvements that were intended to make it more pleasurable to drive. It sits lower with a ground clearance of 204mm (-36mm) to measure up to its Coupé profile. Likewise, the driver and front passenger also sit 20mm lower and the rear passengers sit 28mm lower than they would in the X3. It’s also marginally longer in body profile by 14mm.

With the standard 40:20:40 split rear seatrest design, there is better luggage space that is expected of its bigger vehicle size, ranging from 500 litres to 1400. Like the 4 Series Grand Coupé, it also comes with the Smart Opener for the electrically operated tailgate or rear door that opens upwards; a handy feature if your arms are full carrying items and it is hassle to use the key fob.

The test for the X4 Sport Activity Coupé would be its appeal to the BMW customers in the mid-size car segment. Would its unusual body profile in a more compact form lead to good demand to make it a viable model? Going by the increasingly strong demand globally for the X model range from BMW over the years, the X4 looks well poised to ride on the current wave of popularity.

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