9 Apr 2013

BMW X4 Concept - Have BMW completely lost the plot?

BMW have been making SUVs (or, as they call them  SAVs (Sports Activity Vehicles)) since 1999, when the X5 was launched.  The X5 was an extremely capable off roader that was extremely refined and more than capable on road.  It's problem was one of reputation. The X5 lacked the sophisticated image of the Range Rover and pretty soon, if you were seen in an X5, people automatically thought you were a footballer, a gangster or a pimp.

Then came the X3 and X1.  Both capable cars with good engines but as appealing to a country dweller as a massive snowfall in mid-spring.  They were pretty ugly creatures with none of the elegance of a Land Rover, or the utilitarian appeal of a Toyota.  Basically BMW's SUVs are bloated, four wheel drive versions of the 1, 3 and 5 series with poorly conceived design elements that suit Wilmslow and Kensington more than Somerset or Cumbria.

The X6 was introduced in 2008 to acclaim from BMW themselves, footballers, gangsters and pimps.  It took the X5 but made it less practical, more bloated and more akin to kerb crawling.  The boot was also unsuitable for anything larger than a Jack Russell terrier, but X6 owners would be more likely to own a toy poodle or a Pit Bull.

And now BMW show us the X4 concept, which will become reality in 2014.  It's basically a bloated 4 series, which in itself is the GT version of the 3 series.  So in a roundabout way it's a 3 series GT SUV.

Which means it has all the external size (and then some) but none of the practicality of the 3 series.  Which is a shame because it'll have great engines, a great chassis and a great interior.

BMW must know what they're doing.  The X4 won't have the development cost of a brand new car but it will cost a lot to put together.  They must know it will sell in some volume.  But who those buyers are is anyone guess.  And whether they have any taste is questionable.  And what damage this line of cars is doing to the BMW brand is currently unquantifiable but perhaps, in the future, will be seen as a mistake.

If you want a spacious but compact, four wheel drive BMW buy an X-drive 3 series touring.  If you've no taste and are a portly, middle aged businessman who sometimes wears women's underwear then the BMW X4 is just the car for you.

Factoid - 25% of all BMW X4s sold will probably end up chrome wrapped