BMW hopes to duplicate the success of the X6 with a smaller, X3-based crossover.
BY JENS MEINERS, ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTIAN SCHULTEAsk BMW executives their favorite success story among the company’s current products, and they’re likely to say “X6" . Combining the disadvantages of an SUV, a coupe, and a performance car, the X6 has nevertheless been a smash hit. It’s not hard to see why: Despite being over-the-top aggressive and less practical than the X5 with which it shares its bones, the X6 is perhaps Bavaria’s coolest SUV. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, other carmakers are scrambling to add coupe-like SUVs to their portfolios.
It's no surprise that BMW itself will duplicate its own formula, albeit one class lower. In an interview with German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, BMW chief Norbert Reithofer finally confirmed a very poorly held secret: The company is planning to build an X4. Based on the X3 architecture, this compact crossover will be to the X3 what the X6 is to the X5. That means the X4 will borrow its underpinnings—including powertrains—from the X3.
Like Father, Like Son
It therefore doesn't take a lot of guesswork to figure which engines will motivate the X4: There will be an X4 xDrive28i, powered by the turbocharged, 240-hp, 2.0-liter four, and an X4 xDrive35i packing a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. Other markets will get an entry-level turbo four with 182 hp, as well as four- and six-cylinder diesel engines. No word on an M version, but we doubt BMW would take the X4 that far any time in the near future, if only to protect the non-M X6. (The company has never built an X3 M.) All models will be fitted with fuel-saving goodies from the brand's "Efficient Dynamics" parts bin, including stop-start systems, brake-energy recuperation, and enhanced aerodynamics.
The X4 will share the X3's 110.6-inch wheelbase, and its length will be close to the same 183.0, but we assume it will be a few inches lower than the X3, which is 65.4 inches tall. The X4’s swoopy roofline is likely to take a significant toll on trunk space compared to the X3. True to the portly X6’s legacy—as well as the none-too-svelte X3—the X4 will tip the scales at well over 4000 pounds.
That’s One Way to Look at It
It remains to be seen whether the smaller dimensions will be sufficient to recreate the “awesome statement of beauty and power,” that is the X6 (in the words of former chief designer Chris Bangle). It will need to be a looker, though: When the X4 arrives, it won’t enjoy the same luxurious dearth of competitors as did the X6. Mercedes-Benz will offer a
coupe-like crossover based on its A- and B-class platformfor the 2013 model year, and Audi is looking at a coupe version of the Q5. Don't forget the Land Rover Evoque , either. Unlike the Germans, it is available with just two doors—which doesn't exactly make it a coupe, but brings it closer. Hey BMW, there's another segment you could enter, and then maybe you could make a version with an even faster roofline.