- BMW's X4 Concept is a thinly veiled look at the automaker's next "sport activity vehicle" to fit the gap between X3 and X5.
- Expect little to change about the X4 Concept's appearance when it becomes a production model about a year from now.
- Built alongside BMW's other crossovers in South Carolina, the production X4 will use the platform and powertrain lineup of today's X3.
SHANGHAI, China — BMW is about to unveil its next step in putting more of the "sport" and less of the "utility" into its SUVs, revealing at the Shanghai auto show its Concept X4, a vehicle splitting the gap between the brazenly sporty but brazenly big X6 and the more utilitarian X3 and X5.
After leading the way into softer, premium SUVs with its X5, then following up with the X3, X1 and the large, swoopy and polarizing X6, BMW is about to shake up the status quo again with the Concept X4. These days, a quarter of all BMWs sold worldwide are X models, so BMW is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to plug every possible hole in its SUV range.
The concept car unveiled in Shanghai should be considered more like a production model about a year away from launch. Almost every panel on it will be unchanged as it heads into production in the second quarter of 2014, even though BMW insiders say there will be slight changes to its aggressive nose.
The concept owes much of its philosophy to the 2008 X6, borrowing a similar greenhouse and a shallow rear window line. But the X4 is markedly smaller, as it rides atop stock X3 underpinnings.
To be built in both left- and right-hand-drive versions, the Concept X4 will share its Spartanburg, South Carolina production line with the X3, the X5 and the X6.
At 183 inches long, the Concept X4 is shorter than both the X5 and the X6 and has a 75.4-inch width. That makes the Concept X4 exactly the same length as the X3 and about 1.5 inches wider. At 63.9 inches high, it's lower than the X3 by about that same 1.5 inches. The concept SUV's long hood and relatively short overhangs boost its aggressive stance.
It carries over the X3's 110.5-inch wheelbase in its concept form and BMW insiders say that will carry over for the production X4, even if the 21-inch alloys will shrink to something more production-friendly.
The only other serious component change for a production X4 will be the shrinking of its rear door windows from the Concept X4's frameless greenhouse into something less breakable in day-to-day life. The 3 Series GranCoupe has run into similar issues, which BMW got around by having its rear doors' window glass drop automatically whenever the door is opened, but the Concept X4's rear glass is even larger.
The production car will, however, keep the Concept X4's flattened kidney grilles, drawn largely from the current 3 Series, with its four clear headlights. Beneath the grille and lights is a large, central air intake complete with Concept X4 embossed in the plastic — just like Audi is doing with its Quattro production models these days — and two large intakes flanking it to feed air to the brakes and engine.
These intakes are wider than the central intake and combine with the car's wide track to promise a low center of gravity and presumably sharp handling — though whether that's delivered remains to be seen. Lower still on the Concept X4's nose is its underbody protection, which rolls under the engine bay from the splitter.
The Concept X4's side profile draws in elements of the X6 and even the Z4 convertible, with its sharp creases, chunky wedge design and muscular rump. The sweeping roof line makes the car appear longer than its 15 feet, while the large wheel-arch flares add a squat look to its rear.
The Concept X4 is an empty design shell, with neither an engine nor an interior, but the production versions will run the full engine portfolio of the X3 family, according to BMW sources.
BMW is trying hard not to talk about the Concept X4's powertrain, but the brand's 300-horsepower N55 turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder will be one of its earliest offerings and BMW initially will fit the production X4 with its most powerful engines to push its sports appeal.
While BMW also will develop the production X4 to house a plug-in hybrid system as well, it is almost certain to include an M version, much like the X6 M but with turbocharged inline-6 power rather than a twin-turbo V8.
Edmunds says: If the X3 and X5 are too conventional and the X6 is just too outrageous, BMW thinks it has the solution in the X4.