Motoring / Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
I was petrified when the traffic officer manning the road block showed me to pull over on the on-ramp to the highway. Up and to that point of Level 4 of lockdown, every time I took my two young daughters along with me in the car, I resigned to the fact that three people in a seven-seater meant we didn’t break any laws. Mathematically we were below the prescribed 50% capacity.
But coming face to face with the long arm of the law on a fine Sunday afternoon, the penny dropped. I wasn’t in the seven-seater for this particular trip, but in the BMW X4 M Competition that spent a few days with us. And for the life for me I was pretty sure that it was only a five-seater. Which means we ran at 75% capacity. Busted. What was my stupidity going to cost me? An arrest? A hefty fine?
“Good day,” the officer greeted me wearing what I could have sworn was a huge smile underneath his mask and he studied the bonnet of the car which was clad in the striking Toronto Red.
“I just have to tell you that I love your car. I think it is just the bomb. And the colour? Hmmm. It fits the car perfectly and is absolutely stunning,” he continued. “Stay safe and enjoy your day.” Gobsmacked yet relieved, I thanked him for the compliment while making what turned out to be the sedate pull away of the entire time the car spent with us.
For those not familiar with BMW’s X-family, the X4 is the coupe-styled sibling of it’s compact SUV, the X3. With the X3 featuring more traditional SUV styling, the X4 offers a more dynamic appearance accentuated by the slanted roofline at the back and a more aggressive stance. And the X4 M Competition is at R1 744 762 slightly more expensive than the R 1 641 162 X3 M Competition, which also justifies it’s higher ranking in the German carmaker’s food chain.
The two models feature the same bi-turbo powerplant, the most powerful straight-six petrol engine BMW has used in an M. The 3.0-litre turbo powertrain produces 375 kW of power and 600 Nm of torque which is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed M Steptronic gearbox. Because Road Test Editor Mark Jones already put the X3 M Competition through a high-performance test early this year and BMW states similar figures as far as their 0 to 100 km/h acceleration and top speeds go, we did not test the X4 flagship too.
Mark achieved a time of 4.77 sec from 0 to 100 km/h which was quite a bit off the mark to the 4.1 claimed by BMW, which he attributed to a terrible turbo lag. But once on song, the X3 made up for the time it lost on its competitors at the start with a very impressive 9.89 sec acceleration from 100 to 200 km/h and also reaching the 1 000 m-mark in 22.89 sec at a speed of 239 km/h.
Our friendly traffic officer will be pleased to know that tempting as it may have been, I did not try and match these numbers on public roads in the X4 M Competition. As I was privileged enough to guide this rocket ship around Kyalami under the tutelage of a professional driving instructor during the M Festival last year, I was well aware of what the car is capable of. Anything weighing over two tonnes that can manoeuvre itself with such distinct ability around a race track speaks for itself.
The most striking feature of this tech-laden rocket is the effortlessness at corners at high speeds. And although guiding it on the open road at the national speed limit doesn’t match the adrenaline rush around a track, the pleasure of being control of such a superb machine is still immense. And here if have to agree with my colleague Andre de Kock, any car that can make me feel faster than your abilities is probably a bad thing.
One highlight of the car is apart from the traditional drive modes, it offers two M modes each with their own dedicated paddle situated next to the gear shifters on the steering wheel. These two modes allow you to personalise your preference regarding the set-up of the engine, chassis, steering, transmission and Head-up display. So you are spoiled to two hooligan modes instead of one, which can be activated by hardly lifting a finger.
Feeding those horses are a costly exercise as to be expected. While BMW claims a combined fuel consumption of 10.6l/100 km for both the X3 and X4 M Competition, Mark achieved 13.9l/100 km with the X3 and I couldn’t do better than 15.3l/100 km with the X4. But fuel bills shouldn’t distract a buyer looking to fork out nearly two bar for owning one of these machines.
Up until today, I’m still not sure whether we were allowed to be three souls in a five-seater during Level 4. If I broke the rules and the desirability of my test car bailed me out, I sincerely apologise to the lawmakers. But in saying that, it’s not every day that a fast car gets you out of trouble instead of into it.
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