Appreciating an X4 and the art of BMW

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Appreciating an X4 and the art of BMW

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BMW X4

BILBAO, Spain - The BMW X4, which was introduced at the Beijing Motor Show in April, is a coupe-type sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a slick, eye-catching design. The X4 retains the muscular look of its brother, the X6, but with less “bulk.” No wonder it is referred to as the “baby X6.”

The test drive for the X4 was conducted in Bilbao, Spain, in late May. Since attracting the Guggenheim museum, one of the finest brands in the arts, the Basque metropolis has transformed itself from a steel city to a center of culture. Located on the banks of the Nervion river, the Guggenheim, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1997, has become Bilbao’s icon.

The X4 is based on the X3 platform. Although 14 millimeters (5.5 inches) longer than the X3, its compact height of 36 millimeters means the X4 hugs the road like a sports car.

However, a coupe-type SUV also means some compromises. Folding down the rear seat creates a cargo capacity of 1,400 liters (49.4 cubic feet), which is 200 liters less than the X3. In addition, in order to provide adequate clearance for adult passengers, the backseat is 28 millimeters lower than that of the X3.

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The X4 comes in six models - three gasoline and three diesel - with engines ranging from 184 horsepower to 313 horsepower.

Our test car was the xDrive 35i, the flagship gasoline model of the X4. The xDrive 35i shoots from zero to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in just 5.5 seconds with its 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine producing 306 horsepower and 40.8 kilogram-meter (300 lb.-ft.) of torque.

With an eight-speed automatic transmission, BMW says the X4 xDrive 35i gets 12 kilometers per liter (28.2 miles per gallon) under the European Union standard.

The test drive was from the Guggenheim to Elciego, a town at the southern end of the province of Alava. The 180-kilometer course was a perfect combination of low-traffic rural roads and hills with beautiful scenery.

Driving in comfort mode for about an hour, the handling felt too soft for this car, and changing to high-performance sports mode left the steering wheel feeling tighter and heavier.

The X4 xDrive 35i’s 3.0-liter engine was useful, lifting the car softly when climbing steep hills. BMW’s renowned all-wheel drive system, xDrive, effectively maintained the car’s balance and power on curvy roads.

The X4 is scheduled to be released in Korea next month and should appeal to those looking for the performance of a sports car and the passenger and cargo space of an SUV.

But the big question will be the price, which BMW Korea has yet to reveal but is certain to be higher than the X3. The website of U.S.-based Car and Driver magazine reports a retail price of about $45,625 to $48,925.

The German automaker will also have to consider the cost of competing models like the Porsche Macan and Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque.

At the time of the test drive, the Guggenheim was featuring a special exhibition by Yoko Ono, the Japanese artist better known as the widow of the Beatles’ John Lennon. Her avant-garde artwork always creates something of a mystical atmosphere, and the X4 in Bilbao seemed to fit right in.

BY SHIM JAE-WOO [jwshim@joongang.co.kr]

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