This is PetrolBlog trying something new. It may not work, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The plan is to provide realtime reports from the various new car launches we attend. Off-the-cuff opinions and thoughts direct from the launch, rather than waiting a few days to post the usual waffle.
So, without further ado, we present the inaugural LaunchBlog, featuring the all-new BMW X4.
It’s another early start, with BMW requesting a 9am arrival for a 9.15am presentation. We’re off to Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Berkshire, which, depending on the route we take, is approximately three hours away from PBHQ.
Naturally, we’ll be taking the A30/A303 route, rather than enduring the tedium of the M5/M4.
But what about the car, the new BMW X4. Not exactly a car dripping in PetrolBloggyness. Well no, but given our recent experience with the beautiful BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, we’re heading to Berkshire with optimism.
It’s based on the X3, which instantly makes it sound more appealing than the X6, which is based on the X5. The X6 is a hard car to love, not least because it’s about aesthetically pleasing as Ann Widdecombe with a comb over. The X4 hasn’t been hit with the same ugly stick and it’s a damn sight better looking than the new 2 Series Active Tourer.
That’s about as much as we’re prepared to commit to at this stage. BMW says that – despite being based on the rather conservative X3 – the X4 has a personality all of its own, going as far as to describe it as “ebullient”. Top marks to BMW UK for the use of that word. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen it in a press release before.
Not that we’re feeling particularly effervescent or vivacious this morning – the sun hasn’t even made an appearance yet. But we’re sure a few hours of Vanessa Feltz on the radio and a travel mug filled with tea will see us arriving in Berkshire with euphoric merriment.
To the BMW X4 we go…
OK, I arrived incredibly early – 90 minutes, to be precise – forcing me to take drastic action and consume a toasted tea cake in Lambourn. In other news, with the overhead gantries warning me that the A303 was shut, I chose to take the M5/M4 route to Berkshire.
Annoying, but at least the variable message sign was being put to good use.
So, the BMW X4. What’s to say?
Well, according to Natasha Newman, BMW’s product operations manager, the BMW X4 is a “bold and extrovert” car, with an “aggressive front end”. Cynics might argue that these terms could be used to describe the typical X4 buyer.
But without wishing to damn the BMW X4 with faint praise, it’s far less offensive than a BMW X6. In fact, it looks like a 4 Series Gran Coupe on steroids, which is high praise indeed.
It certainly turned heads on the well-manicured lanes of West Berkshire, but this may have had something to do with the line of X4 press cars appearing in the area. To residents of Lambourn, this may have seemed like a scene from a terrible B-movie – The Invasion of the Niche Vehicles.
As is typical for these events, BMW loaded the launch cars with Generation Game levels of optional kit, taking our test car up from a not insignificant £45,453 to an eye-watering £55,248. Naturally it was the top trim M Sport model, of which BMW expects to account for 55% of total sales in the UK, but even so…
Yet despite this distinctly non-PetrolBloggy price tag, I found myself warming to the BMW X4. This may have something to do with the optional 360 surround-view camera, which reminds me of the classic Commodore 64 game, Spy Hunter.
Remember the one with the Peter Gunn soundtrack? Top-down view, destroying enemies, protecting civilians? It was released back in 1983. Feeling old now?
Sadly, the surround-view display on the BMW X4 doesn’t let you relive the classic Spy Hunter moments, but it does provide an ingenious all-round perceptive of your moving vehicle. For someone who never relies on parking sensors and reversing cameras, I found this to be brilliant.
The only problem is, I’d be reversing all the time.
In other news, our test rout included the excellent B4494 Newbury to Wantage road. If ever a road is going to highlight a car’s dynamic deficiencies, this would be it. But surprisingly, the X4 made a pretty good fist of it.
It’s no sports car and the eight-speed transmission is often reluctant to choose the optimum gear when exiting a corner, but given the origins of the X4, it’s a deeply impressive car. You can chuck it into corners in a manner that would have been alien to SUVs a couple of decades ago.
And with that, it’s time to depart. Sadly, that means a couple of hours of Steve ‘Love the Show’ Wright, but hopefully the A303 will have reopened.
Until later then…