Making diesels great again...
Have you watched the reality show ‘Diesel Brothers’? It’s a show where a group of friends customise stock pickup trucks into incredible custom vehicles. Their notoriety notwithstanding, one thing that stood out for me is the performance they were able to eke out from relatively mundane commercial Cummins diesel engine. I’ve had my share of performance diesel, having spent time with Mahindra’s diesel rally Thar aptly dubbed the Super Thar and Volkswagen’s diesel Rally and Race Polos.
I still vividly remember heading back from the Valley Run driving a diesel Rally Polo accompanied by my colleagues at the time piloting petrol rally Polos. Just before entering the expressway tunnel, they decide to downshift in tandem and give their petrol cars the beans. As they revel in the rally car’s exhaust note reverberating in the tunnels, I silently passed them from the outside. Yes, performance diesels can be incredibly quick. That’s because every gearhead knows that horsepower is overrated and it is torque that offers excitement in the real world. That’s why performance diesels are cool. So when the BMW X4 xDrive30d M Sport came in for review, I pulled rank. Not because of its cool body style. More for what’s under the hood - a 3.0 litre straight-six diesel delivering a heady 620Nm from almost idle revs.
Design-wise, since the time of the first BMW X6, SUV coupe body styles have had a polarising effect on enthusiasts. I have found them to be cool, a breakaway from traditional boxy SUVs. The X4 then looks like a shrank down X6 but no less imposing. Design-wise, since the time of the first BMW X6, SUV coupe body styles have had a polarising effect on enthusiasts. I have found them to be cool, a breakaway from traditional boxy SUVs. The X4 then looks like a shrank down X6 but no less imposing.
Having driven the X3 last month, the X4’s interiors feel familiar. It gets the same driver-focused layout save for black sculpted leather seats and a noticeably lower rear roofline. Maybe Alcantara at least on the steering wheel and a flat-bottomed one at that would help set the X4 apart as a sportier alternative to the X3. While I am nitpicking, the BMW’s driver-centric cabin and wellbolstered seats do help elevate the driving experience, especially while hustling this near two-tonne SUV.
Contrary to belief, the cabin is quite spacious and seats five in comfort. As for the low roof line, it wasn’t bothersome for any of my colleagues including six-feet tall Ed. So unless you are riduculously tall, it should not bother you either. Also despite the swooping notchback styling, the boot space remains a cavernous 525 litres.
Like the X3, this one too gets a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen on the centre console, in addition to the digital instrument cluster, three-zone climate control and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless charging still is only offered as an optional accessory while even the X4 does not get ventilated seats. Despite its large dimensions, the X4 is easy to park thanks to a high-resolution 360-degree camera and a Park Assistant feature that takes over steering duties when parking in tight spaces.
The X4 is available in 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel powertrain options but it is the straight-six diesel’s specs that impress more. In fact, BMW does not even offer this diesel powerplant in the X3 and seems to have reserved it for something as special or unique as the X4. It pushes out 265PS and an impressive 620Nm of shove delivered between 2,000 and 2,500rpm. That’s 13PS and a whopping 270Nm more than the turbo-petrol! It is even 0.8 seconds quicker than the petrol, registering a 0-100kmph time of 5.8 seconds.
Performance feels blisteringly quick for something this big and stepping on the throttle in Sport Plus mode is quite addictive and accompanied with drama. Each prod of the throttle is accompanied by an immediate forward momentum. Mash the throttle and the SUV squats momentarily as the 275-section rear tyre scrabbles to find grip. Then you are propelled forward while being pushed back into the seat at the same time. 80kmph comes in the blink of an eye and with the way the X4 gets up to and sustains triple-digit speeds, getting a speeding ticket is ridiculously easy. The straight six motor is refined and when pushed, sound fantastic at high revs.
While the diesel motor offers loads of grunt, compared to performance turbocharged petrol motors, the throttle response feels a smidge blunt. Also in manual mode, you realise that compared to a turbo petrol, you have a shorter powerband to play with. In a way, it shows you how well attuned the eight-speed Steptronic transmission is to the diesel motor. Shifts are quick and seamless while in Sport mode you can feel the shifts happen in a more direct manner which adds to the driving experience.
It handles well too and feels more planted than the X3 owing to the lower centre of gravity. That and the adaptive suspension coupled with wide tyres at all four corners make the X4 a surprisingly good handler for its size. The xDrive helps too with a precise distribution of traction. The steering feels direct and weighs in nicely at speed, in typical BMW fashion. Braking is impressive too. Dinner plate sized disc brakes all round offer fantastic stopping power and are capable of bringing the large SUV to a standstill in a hurry. All these come together to make the X4 a fantastic driver’s SUV.
The need to go green has had a lot of car manufacturers switching to petrol so it is fair to say that diesel cars and SUVs are a dying breed. And performance diesels have become rarer still. In the luxury car world, BMW is one of the last bastions of performance diesels and soon it will have to switch to cleaner-burning fuels as well. That makes cars like the BMW X4 a collectable for future generations. That makes the Rs 72.5 lakh ex-showroom price tag quite appealing no?