When the SUV first started creeping into our mainstream consciousness, they were mainly unattractive boxes; think slow transformation of the Bronco, Blazer, Suburban, Jimmy and of course the Wagoneer. These morphed into the Montero, Trooper, and of course the legendary Samurai. Prior to the early 1980s these vehicles were the domain of farmers and manly men like lumberjacks and such. Then a soccer mom somewhere thought that owning such a vehicle would help her do all the things soccer moms do, like carry kids to soccer games and such.
Legend has it that a high-ranking Chrysler executive, who was married to a soccer mom, came up with the idea of something that could those things the lumberjack vehicles could do, without looking like they were owned by a lumberjack. And thus, the minivan was born.
The first of these was the Dodge Caravan. I know all about this because I actually bought one of the first ones to come out. In the mid-1980s while living in a little town south of Miami, I bought a 1986 Caravan straight off the lot. Of course I now realize that perhaps I wasn’t thinking clearly. No, I wasn’t snorting any of the cocaine that could be found everywhere in South Florida during that time. I put the blame squarely on my wife, who at the time was a very hot 20 something that turned heads when she walked in a room (and is still that hot to me all those years later, for the record). She had (and still does I’m afraid to say) me wrapped around her hot little finger and she reckoned that with a newborn a minivan would be a great idea for our growing family. She has always been the rational half of our relationship, so I agreed (although I still think buying an English castle and bringing it to America and putting it on our own property is a really good idea).
We drove that minivan into the ground. Kept it until 1994. It survived a hurricane, but not me towing a 3500-pound racecar back to Florida from North Carolina (Look what followed me home honey, can I keep it, please?). I got to keep the racecar, but curiously the Caravan’s transmission didn’t stick around (gee honey I don’t know what happened…transmission cooler? Um, I thought it had one, seriously).
By the time we sold what was left of that minivan it had survived the aforementioned hurricane and a baby growing into a toddler. The cloth seats had stains that I suspect not even the craftiest of forensic scientists could decipher and there was no doubt many a missing toy and whatnot hidden among the nooks and crannies (including we suspect the remains of a hamster named Fred, although that was never confirmed).
My whole point with this rambling diatribe is that the first SUVs were nothing more than slow ugly boxes with no sort of character beyond that of a lumberjack.
Today of course the SUV is the vehicle of choice for most of us in America. Sedans are becoming a thing of the past and soon may even fade from view. All this desire for SUVs has forced manufacturers to make crossovers, large and small platforms and all manner of SUVs. Most have a great deal of styling and some are even fun to drive.
Take the BMW X4 for example. Now here’s an SUV that has a cool funky sort of look and is fun to drive.
I had a week with an X4 back in 2017. But for 2019 BMW gave the X4 a facelift including a fastback profile and a wider stance. BMW calls their SUVs “Sports Activity Coupes”, for some reason, but the X4 is indeed an SUV. The 2019 debuts the second generation of the X4 which was first introduced in 2014. The new styling improves aerodynamics and the new platform has a lower center of gravity. Comparing it to the X3, the X4 looks a bit smoother, and more like a jacked-up coupe (even though it has two doors on each side which is like a sedan, but, um…okay, moving on). It’s also wider, longer and shorter. As opposed to the X3, the X4 looks a lot more like it’s ready to play. It’s longer (3.2 inches) than last year’s model and about an inch and a half wider.
There are two trim levels: the xDrive30i and the M40i. The xDrive30i has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (248 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) under the hood, while the M40i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder (355 hp, 365 lb-ft). Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Being a BMW, you can option in all sorts of fancy stuff, but among the standard features there is frontal collision warning and mitigation; BMW’s iDrive infotainment system with a 10.3-inch display, a navigation system, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker sound system. There’s also dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, driver memory settings, simulated-leather upholstery and 40/20/40-split folding rear seats.
BMW sent me a 2019 X4, the M40i for a recent week. The BMW ‘M’ line has all the fun stuff like sport brakes, and adaptive M Sport suspension. My tester also had the Executive Package (parking assist, dynamic digital cluster, surround view) for $1600; 21-inch wheels ($1900) and the $1600 Premium Package (heated front seats, heated steering wheel, head up display). My tester also had leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, a premium Harman Kardon sound system and ventilated front seats.
Since I’m at the age where I many times forget why I walked into the kitchen, I had trouble trying to remember the last generation of X4 I had back in 2017. So, with a somewhat mental ‘clean slate’ when first I gazed upon the 2019, I really liked the way it looked. It looks almost like a fat coupe; but not as fat as it was. The interior is snug, but not confining, except if you are a back-seat passenger since the tradeoff for this new sleeker look is a small rear seating area, just like the last generation. And while it does not have the cargo space of an X3, with the rear seats down, you’ll have more room that most trunks in just about any sedan.
What makes up for sort of loss of space is the fun on the road. The M40i has those 355 horses under the hood and a whopping 365 lb-ft pounds of torque. You will not be sitting still long. The driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Individual) respond immediately, although the manufactured popping from the exhaust in the Sport modes is easy to set off as I found out while slowing to a stop at a red light scaring the drivers around me (sorry, sorry, excuse me). Beyond that and the annoying gesture control (something I have never quite got the hang of) the X4 was blast; not only off the line at a stop light with a respectable 0-60 in 4.2 seconds time, but a blast just driving anywhere.
No, you won’t be carrying a lot of friends (especially in the backseat, unless they are gymnasts) but there is a bit more room than a midsized sedan, and if sedans really will someday be nothing more than memories, the X4 will be a nice soothing replacement. And you won’t have to worry about losing your hamster.
The 2019 BMW X4 M40i
MSRP (as tested): $74,520
Engine: Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, 335 hp @ 6500 rpm, 365 lb-ft torque @ 1520 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode (AWD)
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 20 city, 27 highway, 23 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 24 mpg
Curb weight: 4146 lbs
Wheelbase: 112.7 in
Length: 187.5 in
Width: 76.3 in
Height: 63.8 in
Ground clearance 8
Legroom front 40.7
Legroom 2nd row 35.5
Shoulder room front 57.5
Shoulder room rear 56
Headroom front 39
Maximum headroom 2nd row 37.2
Headroom front with moonroof 39.5
Maximum headroom 2st row with moonroof 37.2
Front Seat Volume 54.6
Rear Seat Volume 43.2
Passenger volume: 96 cu ft
Cargo volume: 19 cu ft
Corrosion Warranty Miles: Unlimited
Maintenance Warranty Months: 36
Corrosion Warranty Months: 144
Powertrain Warranty Miles: 50000
Full Warranty Miles: 50000
Powertrain Warranty Months: 48
Full Warranty Months: 48
Roadside Assistance Miles: Unlimited
Maintenance Warranty Miles: 36000
Roadside Assistance Months: 48