Sneakers and loafers. They both do pretty much the same thing; keeping your feet warm, comfortable and away from harm. However, while fundamentally the same, these two distinct styles of shoe have rather different purposes in life. They may not even appeal to the same wearer…
While the sneaker may hold a certain amount of street cred and be the shoe of choice for most daily activities, the loafer – suede, leather or otherwise – will be the more sophisticated choice. It’s a sleeker, more stylish shoe – but a shoe nonetheless.
Much like the current crop of coupe-SUVs. Since 2008 – when BMW gave the world the car it never knew it needed, the X6 Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) – this niche has permeated most segments of the SUV market, with more and more manufacturers offering rakely styled versions of their run-of-the-mill SUVs. BMW’s current line-up has since expanded to offer a SAC for every SUV (forthcoming X7 notwithstanding).
Clearly, there’s demand for SUVs with a little more style, a little more glamour, a little more attitude and individuality. Buyers are ditching their sneakers…
But, is that the right choice? Can a loafer really do it all? With the launches last year of both the latest BMW G01 X3 and G02 X4, I got the chance to sample a model of each – the R707 700 X3 xDrive 20d and the R887 900 X4 xDrive 20i M Sport – in close succession to decide for myself…
Immediately, it’s obvious that both the X3 and X4 are larger and more in-yer-face than ever before. From head on, there’s not much to distinguish them at first glance. Their kidney grilles are equally massive, headlights equally sharp, front bumpers equally aggro. It’s only when you look up that you notice the X4’s steeper windscreen, higher shoulder line and swoopier profile.
In the case of both cars, it’s their rears that are their most attractive aspects. Sure, the X3’s rump is instantly recognisable as such. But the X4? That’s a total departure. With a rear window that’s only just shy of horizontal; a high boot line rising from those muscular rear haunches; and the slimmest, sexiest taillights to yet feature on any X, it looks like it’s fresh off the catwalk.
There’s no doubt the loafer takes it in the looks department.
But, when style is so central, substance and practicality usually take a back seat… Not so with the X4. Sure, that sloping roofline cuts into cabin space a little, but the rear-seat accommodation is hardly claustrophobic. In fact, while the X3 offers seriously volumous passenger space, the X4 is not far behind.
Both even have very large luggage areas – with under-floor storage and handy accessory rails. A relaxing weekend away was managed with ease in the X4. We’ll call that round a draw…
But about that weekend away. Normally, for such an occasion, you’d pick your more comfortable, more practical sneakers. And true, the X3 as tested in its standard guise would’ve been the one to use. Riding on its standard passive suspension and standard high-profile 18-inch wheels and tyres, the X3 presented unexpected levels of ride refinement; flowing beautifully with the road, capably absorbing imperfections and being peacefully quiet inside.
Conversely, the X4, with its M Sport trim that included the likes of sports seats, sports suspension and (optional) 20-inch rims, was much firmer. To be expected, I suppose … which also went some way to reinforcing the X4’s sporting nature. While the X3’s no sloth, the X4 belies its size; feeling light on is feet.
As road-tripping or every-day vehicles, both the X3 and X4 are equally, suitably well equipped with the usual suspects in line of both standard safety and convenience equipment – and the many options typical of BMW.
Sneaker and loafer each deliver on their respective promises – another draw.
I was pleased that there was another important difference between the X3 and X4 when I tested them – the X3 was fitted with the 140 kW/400 Nm two-litre turbodiesel, the X4 with the 135 kW/290 Nm two-litre TwinPower Turbo petrol engine. Both were (surprisingly) equally smooth and quiet and, while the petrol unit in the X4 revved hard and was strong enough, it’s the diesel unit that holds the real shove.
However, this only accounts for a 0,3-second advantage to 100 km/h (8,0 vs 8,3 seconds). The real difference comes in overtaking (the X4 had to snap through its eight ratios far more than the torquey X3) and fuel consumption… The X3’s claimed combined cycle figure of 5,5 l/100 km trounces the X4’s 7,8. The sneaker takes the round.
So, are buyers making the right choice when opting for an SAC (loafer) over a traditional SUV (sneaker)? In the case of the new X4, I have no doubt that they are… Putting aside the spec and drivetrain differences between these two specific vehicles, the G02 X4 does everything that the new X3 does only with more style and individualism than ever before.
That’s probably not unexpected, though, because the G01 X3 is undoubtedly the new segment benchmark.
Sneaker or loafer? It really doesn’t matter with these two.
BMW X3 20d xDrive: 7,5/10
BMW X4 20i xDrive M Sport: 7/10