What are you driving?
This is the new BMW X4 and right away I'm deeply conflicted. You see, I'm very much an old-school BMW fan, growing up with (literally) posters of E30 M3s and E34 M5s on my bedroom wall. I'm fine, by the way, with BMW making SUVs (love the original X5, really like the current X3), but I hate - seriously, utterly, hate - the current trend for coupe-roofed versions of those self-same SUVs. Let's park that for a moment, though, and talk about the X4 in purely objective terms.
Once again (this is the second-generation model), the BMW X4 is the 'coupe' version of the X3, so it shares the same platform with that car and is therefore also closely related to the BMW 3 Series and 5 Series. It's a little longer, wider and lower than it used to be, and the wheelbase is significantly longer (up by 54mm) so that should be good for cabin space.
There are currently three petrol and three diesel engines available, with the X4 M40i and M40d topping the range. We're testing the almost-default choice X4 xDrive20d, powered by the familiar 2.0-litre diesel with 190hp, and featuring xDrive four-wheel drive.
It's 50kg lighter than the old one, model-for-model, and has very impressive aerodynamics for something this chunky, with a coefficient of drag of just 0.30. While it looks broadly similar to the old model, you can tell the new X4 apart by glancing at the rear lights, which are notably slimmer and more elegant than those of the old version.
Name its best bits
There are two clear highlights to driving the BMW X4 and, pleasingly, the first one is driving it. It may well be a car that shamelessly/effectively (delete as applicable) follows fashion, but its engineering is still watched over by the same sorts of people who developed those E30s and E28s all those eons ago.
The X4 comes with variable ratio sport steering as standard, boosted by electrical power rather than hydraulics. While that means it does lack for feel compared to the best old hydraulic setups, and BMW's own new steering setup for the new 3 Series saloon, it does feel pretty damn delightful in your hands. This may be a hulking, 1,700-odd-kilo SUV, but it really doesn't feel like it as you swish from apex to apex. Within the bounds of its class, it's delectable to drive. Even without those bounds, it's still very good.
The other major highlight is the interior, which looks and feels brilliant. Our test car came with instruments that were half-digital, half-analogue, which maybe don't look quite as good as full digital, but which are still pretty handsome. You peer at them while perched on superb seats, clad in black leather with contrast red stitching to match the exterior paintwork. In the middle is the updated iDrive infotainment system, using a shallow, wide 10.25-inch screen that, while it's not as good as Audi's latest MMI system, is still impressive, and quite easy to find your way around. BMW's continued insistence on either not fitting Apple CarPlay as standard, or making it needlessly awkward to connect to, is annoying though.
There's more good news in the back, where headroom is adequate, considering the fast-sloping roofline, and legroom is genuinely impressive. Plus, the overall quality and finish of the cabin are close to peerless. It's a lovely interior environment.
Anything that bugs you?
The best thing about the cabin? You don't have to look at the outside. I know that all things have beauty in the eye of the beholder, but the BMW X4 is just downright ugly. That chopped-off roofline (since copied by Mercedes for its GLC and GLE coupes) is just awful, and it makes the car look like some daft custom-shop chop-job. BMW's own work on the smaller X2, and Audi's on the Q2 and Q8 (a Q4 is, of course, in the works) shows that there are much better solutions to making an SUV look more sporting.
The ride quality is also quite poor. Our test car came with run flat tyres and, while we've become used in recent years to the likes of the 5 Series and 3 Series managing to combine these with decent ride quality, the X4 just doesn't - it's annoyingly fidgety, especially on poor urban surfaces.
And why have you given it this rating?
I get that my personal tastes are out of touch with those of many of you, in this SUV-obsessed world, but to be honest, I can't see the point in spending this much money on a car that's less handsome and less practical overall than a mechanically identical BMW X3. Or, for that matter, a vastly superior 5 Series Touring. If you must, then the X4 is definitely at the superior end of the coupe-SUV DNA chain. Sharp to drive, and with a gorgeous interior.
What do the rest of the team think?
While I don't dislike the whole coupe-SUV thing as much as Neil does, I too would rather have a BMW X3 or the 5 Series Touring over the X4. It's good to drive and made of high-quality stuff, sure, but its looks are not for me.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor
There is a lot to like about the BMW X4 and, even on a practical front, it isn't lagging far behind the more sensible X3. Its styling is far more attractive this time around, but the Mercedes equivalent does the coupe-SUV thing better in my opinion. The BMW's engine and automatic transmission make for a very good combination, though, and if you appreciate driving then the X4 will reward.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor