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The bold but practical BMW X4

The alarm bleats out its customised wakeup call … I find myself humming to Demi Lovato’s Solo and wondering why I am listening to pop music at 2.45am. Yes, that is the time one has to rise in Pretoria to get to OR Tambo for the 5.55am flight.

I recall reading about the new X4 and my sleep’s forgotten as a vivid image of numbers like 265KWs, 4.4 seconds and Variable Sports steering flash across my mind like a streaker at a T20 match. I hustle towards the airport and, having forgotten the email instructions, park in the dungeon-like basement of some forgotten part of OR, take a picture of the pillar number and head for check-in.

British Airways sustains us with a Crispy Crème donut and suspiciously tepid coffee. We arrive to a grey, humid coastline and are whisked away to our breakfast meeting and press briefing. I sit enthralled by the intro video; the X4 is now wider, faster, lower, faster and is available in basically two models; flashy fast and flashy commute.

From a business strategy point of view it’s a bold but practical move to minimise choice in this sector. The economy has everyone on the paranoid fence and people are clinging tightly to whatever resources they have left. BMW flings in all the decent options that you would normally want and even offers you colour variants at no extra cost. I am still unclear as to the segment the X4 sits in, but, perusing the market, it’s competitively priced, and I like its ascetic, sporty, aggressive stance.

We bounce into the X4 M40i and jab start. I smile in ecstasy as the exhaust roars. As a road tester, I am severely hindered by my ability to be objective when presented with rumbling, detonating pipes and backfires that sound like pom-poms from WW2.

Our route snakes us through the rural vistas of KwaZulu-Natal, including sweeping grasslands that present a polar opposite to the dust-bucket that is Gauteng. My co-driver Benny and I take every opportunity to stop, rev the car and snap award-worthy photographs. We take full advantage of the X4 M40i’s power while dodging villagers and slithering over potholes. The SUV thunders on and we bop our heads to Machine Gun Kelly’s rant about Eminem.

The X4 features all the usual bells and whistles, including BMW ConnectDrive. The technology system allows you to link with apps that monitor, guide, suggest and even assist in driving, parking and lighting up your vehicle. The ease of functionality is intimidating for me; I grew up in a time when power steering was considered an incredible concept.

We blaze towards the award-winning Karkloof Safari Spa and Nature Reserve with its smooth river of gravel that allows us to explore the x-drive system again; the handling still defies belief. Early turn in allows the suspension to steer you thorough the corner at reasonable speeds with no fuss. The steering input is a little too precise; it forces you to adjust turning inputs in small doses, but maybe I should drive slower.

We arrive at the lodge, waltz through the hot towel and icy-cold pink lemonade entrées and walk onto a balcony that evokes an Alan Grant-like response in some dinosaur movie. Except there were no shrieks and chases, just tranquil herbivores meandering along the slopes and malva pudding with homemade ice cream to drool over.”

We up the pace for the return dirt drive. We swap seats and watch as the Natal skyline deteriorates into a misty drizzle that makes us feel like we’re in England. The sugar cane waves at us, as the green stalks catch slivers of sunlight; it feels like we’re being encouraged by ardent fans. The X4’s suspension displays no body roll, no matter how hard we turn in, the updated model having evolved from the first generation X4’s in 2015 or thereabouts.

After the sheer driving pleasure of BMW’s well-planned, well-executed and well-delivered new model, we are subjected to long delays, fumbling excuses, confused parking attendants and a general amount of stupidity from ACSA; a round of applause for Airports Company South Africa, which still manages to stuff up an otherwise perfect day.

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