- The slightly pointless BMW X4

What is the point of the BMW X4 and X6? What's the point of Saloon Cars now?

I covered this vocally in my latest Vlog:- youtu.be/9GotBy0b54U

However I wanted to write about it too. My dad has just bought an X4, and it's a really nice car. Light, cream interior, metallic black paint, 2.0d X-Drive. It's a cracker and he got a good deal. There weren't great deals on the X3 at the time and I think I know why. The X4 is basically an X3 for people who want poor rear visibility and less boot space. Apart from being able to get a better deal on an X4 because less people want them, because they're less useful... I honestly can't see the point.

The BMW X3

Okay, the X4 has a more raked back. However, it's still an SUV. It doesn't matter if they made a saloon style version with a normal boot - those wheels, that suspension and that ride height - it would still be an SUV! Albeit a rather silly one. Knowing BMW - that's probably the next evolution of the range, the X3.5 SUV saloon for people who want an even more pointless car. To be fair the X3 is actually a pretty sporty shape for an SUV anyway. Why make a less useful, less practical version?

Okay BMW have been caught testing prototypes of the X3 on the Nurburgring...


Yes, I'm sure the slightly lighter back end would make the X4 a better weapon of choice for the Green Hell... However, let's be completely honest, nobody buys a X3 or X4 or X-anything as a track day toy! There are far better options for far less money!

SUV's are not FOR that. They're for towing silly fiberglass homes on wheels around. Filling up with kid's paraphernalia or sticking dogs in the back of. They're for yummy mummy's in Cheshire to run Tarquin and Ambrosia to private school in, while causing utter chaos by parking in heroically stupid places, as close to the school gates as they can get.... They for going to IKEA in and for elderly gents to drive to the rubbish tip at the weekend in. They aren't really a driver's car.

Now I'll be honest I've never owned a saloon car. I had a mate who had a Ford Orion...

The totally pointless Ford Orion

For the uneducated or anyone born after 1979, the Orion was basically a saloon version of Ford's popular 'Escort' I think they started doing it with the mark 4? Or the facelifted mark 3? Anyway, it was an utterly stupid, pointless car. All of the reasons for having a saloon would not apply to the Orion. The reasons really for having a saloon over a hatch at the time were they might be more rigid and handle slightly better, and erm, they might be marginally more refined because the rear wheel arches are not within the cabin space. It might keep road noise down a bit. However the difference in handling would have been negligible and let's be fair to it - the Orion was NOT a luxury car which required maximum refinement in the cabin. It was about at luxury as Guantanamo Bay.

I can understand people not getting the Escort estate and going for the hatch.

Escort Mk3 Shooting Brake

Back end is a bit bulky, body is probably less rigid, driving isn't going to be as good as the hatch.

Many estate cars in the 1980's were really something you wanted to avoid.

Ford Sierra Estate

Yes they were practical, yes they had big boots. However they were ALOT bigger. They seemed have a sort of floating trailer behind them, swinging out over the curb and clipping things if you pulled away tightly from being parked up close to something. The bodies were about as stiff as play-dough and they rattled and creaked as you drove along. They didn't sell many. In the 1980's you only bought an estate if you really, really needed one, or you were stupid.

Fast forward 30 odd years though, and things have changed!

Jaguar XF Sportbrake

We don't even call this an estate anymore because of the negative connotations. We call it a Sportbrake. The body is stiff and rigid. The size isn't vastly greater than the saloon, yet it's more practical. This can be a sporty drive. They even did a 500 BHP fire-breathing monster XFR-S version!

Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake

0-60 in 'Oh my god that's fast!' yet, still available with a dog guard, tow-bar and roof box! Really, there's not much NOT to like about the modern estate, particularly the super estate. You can have a really sporty, really fast car - that doesn't have compromised handing, but DOES have a cavernous boot!

XF Sportbrake Boot

Jaguar aren't the only ones at it. Audi have been doing their RS4 and RS6 Avant, not 'Estate' mind - Avant! Heaven forbid Audi do an estate! BMW don't do an M3 touring. (Not estate! T-O-U-R-I-N-G! Touring!) However, they DO do the BMW 335d X-Drive Touring, a 4x4 estate that will do 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and carry on to 155 mph!

BMW 335d Touring

It's a very economical, very sensible, insanely fast family wagon. It doesn't handle particularly worse than the saloon.

In 2016, 2017, there really is not much argument I can see for getting a saloon. Estates on the market now (And that's what they are! You can call it a Sportbrake, a Touring or an Avant, but let's just lay the cards on the table - they are estates!) Estates on the market now are fast, refined and have great handling. Sure, variety is the spice of life, and there's something nice about driving a coupe, but really if you're about to buy a saloon, why not have a test drive in the estate too? You never know you might find you get a car which you can use for more trips without really compromising your enjoyment of driving!

More of my articles:-


Martyn Stanley

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