BMW X4 gets star billing on top road
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Luxury X4 ideal for a joyride along the country's best drive
It's officially the best drive in New Zealand (as voted by a panel of four and scores of tourists in campervans): the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
Every rise brings in a new mountain and lake vista. Add winding open roads and a picturesque town as the destination and it's easy to understand why this part of New Zealand is the star of films and TV commercials.
In the region for BMW New Zealand's annual Alpine xDrive at the Snow Farm, located at Wanaka's Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, I managed to sneak a new X4 mid-sized luxury SUV off the mountain and take it for a joyride to Glenorchy.
At breakfast that morning two BMW NZ staff members and a guest of the drive programme told me that the Queenstown-Glenorchy road was the best drive in New Zealand - and had even been used by the German car company's international TV commercial for the X5 SUV.
Being a cynical Aucklander who thought my breakfast companions where prone to hyperbole, I grabbed my takeaway coffee, headed to the X4, turned the heated seat to full, and using the SatNav system's voice control system set Glenorchy as my destination.
Just two minutes into the drive, when I hit the road out of Queenstown and took in the sight of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains behind it, I was converted and joined the voting panel.
I kept exclaiming out loud, "Oh come on, this is ridiculously stunning," and half expected Peter Jackson's special effects team to be set up in Glenorchy and take responsibility for the mountain views.
The day before I'd been up top of one of those mountains (seenzherald.co.nz for my Alpine xDrive report) and had spent a few hours slipping sliding and drifting in the X4 (pictured).
The interior of the BMW X4. Pictures / Liz Dobson / supplied
Sitting between the X3 and X5 (of course), and with design styling similar to the X6, BMW calls the X4 a sports activity coupe because of the sloping boot and it has just gone on sale in New Zealand.
The X4's roof is 36mm lower than the X3's, while bumper to bumper it has been stretched by 14mm. The sloping roofline restricted rear visibility but the back seat head and legroom is impressive and has a 500-litre boot.
There's the entry $99,500 X4 20d with a 2-litre, four cylinder turbo diesel (140kW/400Nm) while my 35d had 3-litre, six cylinder turbo diesel (230kW/630Nm) and is priced from $129,900. Both come with an eight-speed transmission with steering wheel paddles.
For that you get a M Sports package, rear camera, 20in alloys, a stunning Harman/Kardon surround sound system (great for turning up loud on the road to Glenorchy) and heated front seats.
My test vehicle also had head-up display and LED headlights, adding $2500 to the price.
There's only one road from Queenstown to Glenorchy so the head-up display was great to let me know what time I'd eventually arrive at my destination (after many stops to photograph the views).
With four engine modes (comfort, eco, sport and sport-plus) there was only one selection needed for the main stretch of 41km one-way drive to Glenorchy - sport-plus.
Moving from comfort to sport-plus gave an instant change to the vehicle. The rev counter flicked into action, and X4 moved to optimum gear within seconds giving a more reactive touch to the accelerator and a dynamic ride.
The cornering became spirited and the increased power from the engine meant I was thankful that the head-up display showed not only my speed but the speed limit.
When I stopped on the side of the road to take yet more photos of the X4, a few tourists turned away from the views to check out the BMW SUV.
Sure, it couldn't compete with the mountains when it came to curves but it turned heads.
• Do you think the road from Queenstown to Genorchy is the best driving road in the country? Vote in our online poll and let us know what your top driving road in NZ is on Driven Facebook.