Life is about compromises. And, your optimum car is, too.
Take the BMW X4 M Competition, for example, which is a crossover. It means it’s a little bit of everything or, technically, an all-wheel drive vehicle based on a car platform, as opposed to an SUV, which uses a truck-based chassis. Crossovers are also the bestselling type of car in the world.
The X4 M offers the practicality and nimbleness of a smallish SUV. However, it also delivers the prestige of having BMW’s luxury spec trim, with the performance of its M-badged sports coupe, all rolled into one.
Individually, it does each job well. As a family-friendly SUV, it has five doors, plenty of room to load luggage, comfortable rear seats and a turning circle that eats mall ramps and squeezes into tight parking spaces.
At the same time, with the underpinnings of BMW’s M3 and M4 mechanicals, it’s stonkingly fast with seats that hug you like your favourite granny. It rides on super-grippy 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres supported by BMW's Adaptive M Suspension that lets drivers adjust ride firmness with the touch of a button.
The interior features a 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Pro digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running BMW's latest iDrive 7 software, including onboard navigation, as standard. However, drivers can also cast their own nav app to the main screen via standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with wireless or USB-A connectivity. There are also USB Type-C ports for charging in the centre console and in the rear.
Yet, by being all, there has to be some compromise. I’m torn as to whether the X4 M is the perfect car or if it tries to do everything when you want it to focus on just one job.
Its 0 to 160 kilometres per hour time of eight seconds is only bettered by the Lamborghini Urus, which is more than twice the price. It also has the measure of competitors such as the Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and even Alfa Stelvio QV if you can find one.
Its performance credentials are unquestionable, considering it uses the most powerful road-going six-cylinder engine BMW has ever made — a three-litre, twin-turbo, inline six that delivers 473hp, which rises to 503hp for this Competition spec with a 7,200rpm redline. But in a body weighing more than two tonnes, which includes a welcome 538 litres of luggage space, it also needs stiff suspension, and this is where I felt some compromises kicking in.
BMW’s adaptive suspension has a multitude of dynamic chassis and powertrain settings you can tweak in an almost endless pursuit of the optimal setup. However, in practice, the stiff suspension required to make a top-heavy SUV handle like a low-slung coupe means the ride is always firm, even in its softest setting.
It felt great for an hour, but after a few days I was scanning for ways to make it softer over the UAE’s notorious speed humps.
On a weekend run, it’s as fun as most performance cars. Thankfully, the X4 M stops as good as it goes owing to four-piston calipers on the front and single-piston rears. These can be had with black, red or blue using BMW’s M Compound pads.
The various traction control and M Sport differential systems do a great job of making sure it doesn't step out of line, but it'll discourage you from really exploring the SUV's handling limits when you push on a windy road.
This being the Competition model, aside from the extra horsepower, it also has polished black trim in place of the exterior chrome badges and grille, and runs the larger 21-inch rims on low profile 225/40ZR21 tyres up front with the wider 265/40ZR21s at the rear over the standard 20-inch wheels. The Competition model also includes a standard sport exhaust system and larger anti-roll bars.
As a performance vehicle, a luxury vehicle and a compact, four-seat SUV, the BMW X4 M Competition is near flawless when you take each trait in isolation, but gelling them together brings some compromises. Cleverly, it sells in the most popular crossover segment, so it seems many buyers are OK with giving up a bit in order to gain a lot.
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