SA's premium automotive magazine

New niche for BMW X4


Recent history in the motoring industry has shown that there are plenty of manufacturers willing to create new niches in the market and then develop cars to fill them. One of the worst offenders, or most innovative niche developers, depending on how you look at it, is BMW. Well, the German firm has done it again.

Yup, BMW has revealed one of the worst-kept secrets of its recent history, the Concept X4. To be premiered at the Shanghai Motor Show, the Concept X4 is, fairly obviously, a smaller X6. The design has been heavily influence by the bigger car (which is set to grow in size with the introduction of the X4). Like its big brother, the X4 boasts a coupé-like roofline, but typical SUV proportions at the front, large wheelarches and a high waistline.

Karim Habib, head of BMW design, says the X4 combines the aesthetics of a coupé with the robustness of an off-roader and that this look will be reflected in all the upcoming X models. While the two (coupé and off-roader) don’t usually go together, it is impossible to ignore the impact the X6 has made on the market. In fact, one of the major decision-making factors in going ahead with the X4 was the demand for the X6.

Of course, the X4 is just a concept at this stage, which means that there are certain aspects of the car that we see here that won’t make it into production. The headlights, for example, will be altered, as will the front bumper, the wing mirror housings and the door handles. There will quarter-size rear window added, as on the X6.

The car will bear a premium of R30 000 to R50 000 over the more traditionally shaped X3. In size, the X4 is fairly similar to that car, and both share a 2 810 mm wheelbase. The X4 is 4 648 mm long, making it 227 mm shorter than the X6. at 1 622 mm high, it’s also 68 mm lower and, with a width of 1 915 mm, it’s a full 70 mm wider than its big brother. It will be built alongside the X3 at BMW’s Spartanburg plant, but it will get different track widths to give it a more ground-hugging stance than the X3. Boot capacity is also likely to be slightly less than that of the X3 by about 50 litres, making it approximately 500 litres in total.

The interior of the X4 is yet to be revealed, but you can expect it to draw heavily on that of the X3 for inspiration. This, no doubt, will have const-saving implications. BMW insiders have revealed that the dashboard, the centre console and the infotainment unit will be shared, but new materials will be utilised in order to differentiate the two cars. Like the X6, the X4 will be a four-seater in standard guise, with a five-seat layout being optional.

On the engine front, you can expect a range of four and six-cylinder petrol and diesels to power the X4, combined with six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions. A 180 kW 2,0-litre turbocharged four-pot will be available in the petrol department, as will a 225 kW 3,0-litre turbo inline-six. The diesel range will be comprise of a 137 kW 2,0-litre four-cylinder and a 228 kW 3,0-litre six-cylinder. As far as hybrids go, there as a plug-in variant that’s currently under development. It will use a version of the ActiveHybrid 3’s drivetrain.

So, how popular will it be. Well, X models made up for a quarter of BMW’s sales in 2012, and although BMW won’t say how many X4s it hopes to sell, but does reveal that it’s likely to be more successful than the X6, which has sold almost 50 000 units annually since its introduction four years ago.

Think the X4 is as far as BMW will go? Never. There are already plans to introduce an even smaller X2 in 2016.

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