BMW poised to add X4 to lineup in 2014Wed, 13 Oct 2010
It was only natural. With the SUV craze decidedly downsizing, BMW appears set to add an X4--with a range-topping M version--as part of plans to expand its utility-vehicle lineup in 2014.
Conceived along the lines of the highly successful X6, the X4 is a smaller and more agile four-seater. Although it shares the same floorpan, drivelines, chassis and engineering hard points as the X3, the X4 is set to receive individual styling in a move to give it a more sporting image and enable BMW to position it higher than the SUV upon which it is based.
Those who have seen the latest design proposals suggest the X4 differs from the X3 in much the same way the X6 is removed from the X5, with a bullish front end, curved coupe-style roofline, four doors and heavily angled tailgate.
“The design is not finalized, but we know the direction and it will likely surprise,” a source told AutoWeek.
As with its larger sibling, the exterior design changes would make it less practical than its more upright sibling, with reductions in headroom and luggage capacity. But strong sales of the X6--it has easily beat sales targets announced at launch in 2008--have convinced BMW bosses that customers are prepared to forego everyday usability in the name of style.
BMW's rival to the upcoming small Porsche, expected to be called the Cajun, was first proposed by in-house designers in 2006. However, capacity concerns at Magna's factory in Graz, Austria, where the first-generation X3 was assembled, ultimately led BMW to postpone a decision on its future. Things changed when second-gen X3 production switched to Spartanburg, S.C.
Further investments to the Spartanburg factory have increased its capacity from a previous 160,000 to 240,000, providing the necessary scope for North American production of the future X4.
“With the move into North America we're able to take advantage of greater production flexibility,” a high- ranking BMW insider told AutoWeek at the recent Paris motor show.
While stopping short of confirming a definitive production approval for the new SUV, AutoWeek's source suggested it had the backing of the company's chief executive, Norbert Reithofer, who is expected to announce its addition to the lineup as part of BMW's plans to sell 2 million cars annually by 2020.
While the new X3 is aimed at strong-selling SUVs such as the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the X4 will be targeted directly at the Porsche Cajun and an expected C-segment four-wheel-drive model from Alfa Romeo due in 2012.
Speaking about the Porsche Cajun, a BMW insider said: “This car is motivating our development department at the moment.”
North American market conditions are heavily influencing BMW's decision to bring the X4 here.
“We see this car competing in the same price bracket as premium wagons,” a source said. “We think it will appeal particularly to U.S. car buyers.”
The X4 is expected to come with a choice of four- and six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines mated to a six-speed manual, a seven-speed dual-clutch or an eight- speed automatic gearbox. Like the X3, BMW does not plan a two-wheel-drive option.
The X4 will use BMW's latest electronically controlled Dynamic Performance Control system, providing an individual proportioning of power to each rear wheel dependent upon prevailing traction.
Sitting at the top of the lineup will be a performance-orientated X4M model boasting styling upgrades, a future twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder and a seven-speed DCT dual-clutch gearbox from the BMW M division.
The X4's double-wishbone (front) and multilink (rear) suspension will be tuned to deliver more engaging handling than the X3, with a lowered ride height, reduced wheel travel, uprated antiroll bars and unique spring and dampers, the latter offering variable control.
By Greg Kable