by Michael Butler
The luxury SUV market is in full bloom, which inadvertently means stiffer competition and the subsequent striving of manufacturers to produce increasingly better representatives of the class. The BMW X4 is an excellent example of how far the compact luxury SUV has come in the past decade. A comparison between this Bimmer and competitors such as the Porsche Macan reveals a balanced car that justifies its $51,600 base price. For 2021, BMW offers the X4 in two configurations, namely the xDrive30i and M40i. The xDrive30i packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, while the more powerful M40i gets a force-fed 3.0-liter inline-six engine producing 382 horsepower. Power in both trims is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. With fierce competition from the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class Coupe, the X4 has its work cut out for it.
The 2021 BMW X4 is not all-new, but gets some tasteful new standard features, making this compact crossover SUV even more attractive to new buyers. New standard equipment includes SiriusXM with 360L and a one-year subscription and Android Auto compatibility. The X4 M40i also gets standard wireless phone charging and a WiFi hotspot. In terms of safety, the X4 now includes standard active driving assist. Dark Olive has been removed from the color options list, and various changes have been made to the available packages and standalone options.
The X4 is a real premium luxury vehicle, hence its high price tag. The base model, which in this case is the xDrive30i, goes on sale for an MSRP of $51,600. This price does not include tax, registration, or a destination fee of $995. Go for the more powerful M40i, and you can expect a bill of $61,700. By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC Coupe starts at $51,650, and the Porsche Macan at $52,100. Fully kitted, the price of a BMW X4 M40i can come close to $75k.
See trim levels and configurations:
Today's compact luxury SUVs drive and handle better than some performance sedans from just a few years ago, so there is no real excuse for this segment of the market. With stiff competition from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, BMW has made sure to pull out all the stops on its X4. The X4 gets a more rigid suspension setup from the factory, with both the xDrive30i and M40i featuring M Sport suspension, while the M40i also features adaptive dampers. Out in the wild, the X4 is more than comfortable enough at lower speeds, although it's not as soft-sprung as the X3. Some might consider it stiff, but it's not overbearing by any means, and out on the highway, the X4 feels well-planted and comfortable. Seeing as the X4 has some sporting blood coursing through its veins, it should be worth noting that it grips for dear life through corners without showing much body roll, and one can feel power being sent to the rear wheels when driven with anger. The overall experience would be more exciting if the steering feel weren't as numb: it's heavy but does not communicate well, even in the M40i with the adaptive dampers set to sport. A back-to-back test drive with the Porsche Macan will highlight that the Macan feels more interactive when pushing on. At least the brakes offer excellent stopping power and pedal feel in the Bimmer.
If you're looking for a dynamic yet practical compact crossover that offers some good luxury features, then you can't really go wrong with the 2021 BMW X4. Sure, some competitors such as the Porsche Macan offer a more dynamic driving experience, but the BMW is one of the most well-rounded in its class. Under the hood, the X4 shines with two brilliant options. The xDrive30i offers 245 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, while the M40i offers 382 hp from its turbocharged six. Both engines provide silky-smooth performance and offer more than enough power for everyday use. On the road, the X4 might be a bit stiff, but we'd rather call it 'athletic', and overall, it provides a well-balanced approach, despite some numb steering feedback. On the inside, the X4 offers more storage space than its rival the GLC Coupe, but like most in this category, it suffers from less than ideal rear space for rear-seat passengers. The level of standard equipment on both the xDrive30i and M40i is impressive, and the number of driver aids is admirable. Still, you'll have to cough up a significant amount of money to make it super-luxurious. Overall, the X4 offers a good-looking, great-driving package that won't let you down.
Most owners will never push the X4 to its limits, which means the extra power offered from the M40i will be underutilized most of the time. The xDrive30i also provides most of the M40i's comfort features, which means the only significant difference is how much power is available when you stab the accelerator pedal. Sure, the M40i comes with a certain amount of bragging rights and is visibly different to the base model, but if you're after the best value for money deal, the xDrive30i should be the one to go for and provides enough power for everyday use, better fuel economy, and a good list of standard features that can be bolstered by the available packages.
The X6 is now in its third generation and was the first to introduce the coupe-SUV body style, all-new for 2020; the X6 is a serious piece of equipment in any trim level. Under the hood of the X6 lies a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six that develops 335 hp and 331 hp in its base model, while the X6 M50i is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine producing 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. In M50i configuration, the X6 will sprint to sixty in 4.1 seconds. The sDrive40i will return the best fuel economy figure at 21/26/23 mpg, making it significantly more thirsty than the X4 xDrive30i with its 2.0-liter engine. On the road, the X6 feels sharp and shows little body roll through the corners, but as with the X4, it offers little steering feedback. The X6 provides superior interior space and significantly more room in the trunk, too, at 27.4 cubic feet. Both cars offer a modern and stylish interior. The X6 offers a slightly more extensive list of features and shares the same infotainment operating system. The X6 range starts with an MSRP of $65,050 for the base model, climbing to $86,250, significantly more than a fully-kitted X4 M40i. If you're after more space and pace, the X6 is the one to go for.
As BMW's best-selling compact luxury SUV in the US, the X3 has a lot going for it and offers something for everyone. The X3 is offered in sDrive30i, xDrive30i, X3 M40i, and xDrive30e configurations. The base model is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four producing 248 hp and 258 lb-ft. The quickest of the bunch is the M40i with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six making 382 hp. The M40i can sprint to sixty in only 4.4 seconds. The sDrive30i will return a best fuel economy figure of 25/29/27, beating the X4. The X3 offers class-leading handling on the road but can feel a bit jarring when fitted with larger wheels. The interior of the X3 is a classy affair, and while the front seats don't offer as much adjustability as in the X4, the X3 provides more seating space. The cargo area is also significantly larger at 28.7 cubic feet. The X4 offers a few more exclusive features, but both are closely matched. The X3 is priced from $43,000 for the base model and $56,600 for the M40i. Get the X3 if you need the extra cargo and interior space; your family will thank you.
The most popular competitors of 2021 BMW X4: