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The BMW X4 xDrive30i shows that good cars don’t always make sense

It's time to start new car shopping, and that means exploring cars like the BMW X4 xDrive30i. Does adding some style make sense?


I started driving a BMW in 2010, five years before I met my wife. It was never a requirement to have cars as a hobby to date me, and that’s what all my M bros are for on the weekends anyway. However, once Ms. Machines went on to become Mrs. Machines, I was sure I could convince her that driving around in something like this BMW X4 xDrive30i every day would be a way to earn forever brownie points. She agreed.

However, it’s come with some unintentional side effects.

BMW X4 xDrive30i

2024 BMW X4 xDrive30i Quick Take

Get one:

Stylish, even in base form. Has a pulse behind the wheel. The last of old-school BMW inside. Light on its feet.

Don’t get one:

Four-cylinder grunt and groan. Adding “coupe” means adding to the base price. Tight in the back.

Soul Score: 6

Don’t let the fact that the X4 makes no sense stop you from making a case for one.

The 2024 BMW X4 xDrive30i Overview

BMW X4 xDrive30i

Well, we didn’t start with this BMW X4 xDrive30i. I had found a cherry CPO 528i with 10,000 miles. She loved it.

But the miles racked up fast, and so two years later, we’d go and get a new X3 xDrive30i – very similar to the X4 you see here. Mrs. Machines was happy, and thus, so was I. Yet that four-cylinder was midyou know the deal by now. So away that base car would go, and in its place is the magnificent X3 M40i.

You probably want the M40i, but base cars need love too.

The X4 is nearly identical to that car, but it trades in the box-back utility for a more swoopy roofline. BMW calls it a Sports Activity Coupe, but it’s neither a two-door and in this base form, particularly sporty. From a technical standpoint, the X4 doesn’t make much sense since it makes the car less useful, but I won’t try to convince you of its merits because even regular coupes aren’t practical.

With the X3 coming up for replacement, Mrs. Machines does indeed like that swoopy roof. Let’s see if it’s worth the added expense.

Performance Score 5. Time to go

BMW X4 xDrive30i

Don’t be fooled by the chopped shape – the X4 is actually about 50 pounds heavier than an equivalent X3. That means driving an X4 feels pretty much the same, and that’s a good thing because the X3 is very capable.

But after driving around in an i5, I have a confession to make.


BMW X4 xDrive30i

And it’s here. BMWs with four-cylinders are fine, producing 248 horsepower and a gut punch of torque off the line, but quickly running out of steam toward the top end.

“Don’t rev me”, the motor seems to grunt relentlessly each time you even look at the redline.

And so I must ask, if the engine isn’t going to be a soulful experience, why bother? The battery in the i5 is smoother, quieter (duh), more efficient and about as entertaining. The M40i version of the X4 is far superior with its B58, and my wife was wondering how we drove around in a car with this engine for so long.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
I’d call the sound unenthusiastic from twin pipes. Only one opens at idle speed.

When you fire up the M40i, there’s a snarl that says “Hey, let’s have a little fun because you got this and not a minivan big guy”. With news that the Neue Klasse X is to be all electric, I am both happy that the four-cylinder is on the path to the graveyard, and sad that they want to kill the engines that do make a difference.


BMW X4 xDrive30i
The ZF with shifter – a satisfying combo.

Let’s briefly mention that the ZF is wonderful as always, though not nearly as quick-thinking as it is in the M40i. Aiming more for efficiency, even placing the X4 in sport mode doesn’t awaken the transmission too much. Considering the car’s mission, it’s okay.

The X3 and X4 appear to be the last of BMW’s old-school design language, meaning you get a real shifter and not just a switch to flip on the center tunnel. I will miss it.

Steering and Chassis

BMW X4 xDrive30i
One of BMW’s better efforts.

Somewhat surprisingly, the X4’s steering response and feel is pretty good – perhaps a bit lighter than the M-lite variant but just as direct. The X4’s steering ratio is faster and it helps the car feel more nimble.

Perhaps it’s not such a surprise – the BMW X4 xDrive30i is wider at the rear track, with a suspension that feels more firm than in the base X3. I believe BMW did a better job with tuning this car’s damping rates – it’s never floaty, nor does it crash over frost heaves. Naturally, there is body roll because we’re in a car that weighs 4,138 pounds (and it’s still tall), but it’s one of BMW’s best base car efforts.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
The X4’s suspension is better tuned than the X3.

If you want the 30i, my advice is to opt for 20 or 21-inch summer tires and the M Sport Suspension or the Adaptive Suspension (they are different things). This will help make the X4 the Ultimate Driving Machine it was intended to be.


BMW X4 xDrive30i
Plain jane brakes, but they stop the car with ease.

BMW brakes all feel the same to me, from a 2 Series to an M8, but that’s okay because they always inspire confidence and are easier to modulate. Some cars can feel like you’re stepping on a concrete block.

For $1,200, you can add the Dynamic Handling Package with M Sport Brakes and blue or red calipers. BMW doesn’t say if they are bigger discs, but even if it’s just window dressing, be like Captain Picard and make it so.

What you’re left with is a perfectly capable daily driver, and unless you hop behind an M40i variant, it’ll feel just fine.

But Mrs. Machines knows better by now. Seems I’ve turned her into a B58 believer.

Utility Score: 5. Low bridge

BMW X4 xDrive30i
Watch your head.

Choose to look at this car in two ways: as a coupe that can easily carry four (short) people, or as something you skip over entirely for an X3 or 4 Series Gran Coupe.

Let’s start in the front with buckets that are comfortable, but starting to show their age. All X3 and X4s get the same front seats, and they don’t feel as supportive as they did a few years ago. Still, you won’t be uncomfortable.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
Watch your head here too.

Skip the Vernasca leather and stick with Sensatec – it looks the same and wears better.

There is a problem with the back seat, at least for me. See, I have a head. The X4 actively tries to chop it off, or at least bruise it, upon egress. It’ll be fine for kids or shorter people though. It’s also  pretty uncomfortable – sort of a flat bench without a lot of lower leg support.

Then, the trunk. It’s fine for daily life, but sometimes daily life includes trips to Home Depot. Sorry to say that the sloping hatch might look cool, but there’s just not much room for tall stuff back there.

Price of beauty, I suppose.

Fuel Economy: 7. Four score

BMW X4 xDrive30i
For two MPGs, get the six.

The M40i version of the X4 gets just one combined MPG less (23 vs 24) than this 30i, a point which I’ve spoken of before.

There’s simply no reason to go with the base engine if you’re concerned about fuel mileage. There is no hybrid for the X4 30i like there is for the 330e, but even if there were, I’d still encourage you to go M here.

Features and comfort: 7. What else do you need?

BMW X4 xDrive30i

This car (and the 2 Series) are the last vestiges of real buttons and things you can touch. This G02 X4 is due to be replaced by the end of the year, so if you don’t want to rely on a screen for everything in a BMW, now’s the time.

One of my favorite places

BMW X4 xDrive30i
The cabin is simple but comfortable.

In some ways, the inside of the X4 is showing its age, but I have to admit – it’s a great place to do work.

We can start with the fact that the larger 12.1-inch iDrive display is standard on the X4, and it’s much easier to work with than the display on the M3 or other models of similar vintage. I hate to admit it, but I find myself using the iDrive knob less and less.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
A sunroof not as big as the X3’s.

With no options, I’d call the cabin austere. The “wood” trim BMW offers is downright silly, and though you can get ventilated seats, you need leather to do it. No thanks. At least there’s a larger than normal sunroof.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
Real buttons make their curtain call.

Missing from this car’s $57k sticker price are things like a Harmon Kardon stereo (BMW’s base unit is horrible), but at least you get a cheap plastic plaque dead center in the dash to remind you of the car you’re driving.

M Sport or die

BMW X4 xDrive30i
The X4 gets a unique grille.

I must admit that though the overall shape gives Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle vibes, the X4 is pretty cool when you spec it right.

That means leaving the black and silver unpainted plastic cladding off are essential. The X4 gets a unique grille treatment which I like, and of course the LCI model’s headlights are a big improvement.

BMW X4 xDrive30i
The LCI is a nice improvement. Consider the Shadowline trim option for a meaner look.
BMW X4 xDrive30i
Spoilers are cool, even tiny ones.

Elsewhere, 19-inch wheels are standard and fine, but opting for better rubber (and larger wheels) give the X4 a more imposing presence. In fact, if you’re going for an X4 (and thus, style), consider the car’s base price being $60k so you can add the M Sport Package, Shadowline trim, and bigger wheels.

See? I just saved you $5,000. That’s called boy math.

The BMW X4 xDrive30i makes no sense, but it still works

BMW X4 xDrive30i

Part of the joy of leasing is the ability to easily change cars, so ending up in another X3, our third, would seem silly. And Mrs. Machines has already set her sights on an X4 because she’s not like those other moms. She’s a cool mom.

This is a car I’d probably never own because of how it contradicts itself. SUV. Tall. Heavy. Yet tight inside. And still, you know, an SUV. But I have an M3 sitting in the garage, so that makes me cool regardless, right? Whatever – I’m happy to order any BMW within the budget because she should be happy with the car she drives each day.

BMW X4 xDrive30i

But we’d both agree on a very different X4 from the one you see here. The M40i’s lure is much too great to end up back in a four-cylinder. Traffic has gotten worse, and we both want the ability to shoot for that gap among the dawdlers (she is Mrs. Machines, after all). Perhaps the new X2? I reserve judgement until I drive one.

As for this X4 xDrive 30i, option it right and you have a spiritual successor to the famed wagon. It might not make sense, but good cars don’t always need to.

BMW X4 xDrive30i

2024 BMW X4 xDrive30i Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door SUV.


Base: $55,000
As tested: $57,800


2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four
248 horsepower @ 5,200 RPM
258 lb-ft @ 1,450 RPM


Wheelbase: 112.8 in
Length: 187.6 in
Width: 75.5 in
Height: 63.8 in
Curb Weight: 4,178 lbs


Combined / City / Highway: 24 / 21 / 28

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