I wasn’t much kind to BMW in 2015 as I began falling out of love with cars that were once benchmarks. But then, I got to drive an M2 and everything returned to normal. Similarly, I didn’t quite like my experience last year when I briefly drove a BMW X4 xDrive28i, but all is well in 2016.
On a few levels, the X4 is a compromise in the name of design. It appears as though some of us prefer projecting an image, more in tune with our perceived lifestyle, than actually buying a product that may better fit our actual lives. The folks at BMW are brilliant as they’ve not only capitalized on this trend with the X4 and X6, but they’ve also decided to add fuel to the fire by introducing an M version of the X4.
If I wasn’t keen on the baby X6 last year, I am totally smitten now. BMW has righted the wrongs of the 28i by improving its suspension, tires, and driveline, while painting the body Long Beach Blue. Suddenly, the X4 makes sense… but there are “fees” involved.
The price of admission
I may not be rich, but more often than not, I’ll pay extra to get the better version of the item I’m looking to purchase. In the case of the 2016 BMW X4, moving up from the base $48,000 xDrive28i model to the sportier M40i requires an additional $12,000.
This 25% price jump is steep but well worth it. The principal gain is found under the bonnet in the form of BMW’s magnificent 3.0L inline 6-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine. The increase in power is considerable, as are the performance boosts.
You might recall that BMW offered an xDrive35i version in 2015 that featured the same engine, but retailed for $5,000 less than the new M40i. As good as it was, this model lacked the special sauce that comes with a factory M badge. The five extra grand the German luxury make wants are justified by street cred that only an M vehicle can command.
Sport Activity Coupe
The BMW X4 crossover is an acquired taste, much like the X6. I’m a far bigger fan of the X3 with its more conventional SUV shape. Despite this, the X4 M40i triggers all desirable visual aspects. The colour is one thing, but the combination of the 20” wheels, dual exhaust, and beefy front end makes me forget the wimpy 28i.
The X4’s signature silhouette flows smoothly over the big wheels and looks far less like a caricature than the larger X6. The design is both subtle and bold at the same time. Oh, and did I mention the colour?
Now that I need to carry baby gear everywhere I go, I’ve become a trunk guy. Having said that, the BMW X4’s boot space is nowhere near as limited as one might expect. Sure, there is a loss height-wise, but this is far from a latent defect. More importantly, the cabin is lovely and proves to be the vehicle’s third best attribute after its powertrain and shade.
BMW knows how to position a driver at the helm of its cars. The front seats in the X4 are as accommodating as they are attractive, and the sublime steering wheel falls directly into hand thanks to a series of adjustments. The driving position is so good it’s almost M2-like.
Navigating menus and working out the control interface is easier than in a Mercedes-Benz, but still requires a fair amount of attention. Getting accustomed to the many functionalities does occur quickly enough, though. A few final words on BMW’s craftsmanship: genuinely beautiful.
High-performance Activity Coupe
The X4 xDrive35i was quite the performance machine thanks to its considerable-for-a-small-SUV 300 horsepower. With this output, the 35i hit the 100 km/h mark in 5.5 seconds. The new 2016 BMW X4 M40i is gifted with an extra 55 horsepower (total of 355) and 343 lb-ft of torque, hence the “high-performance.”
In fact, the X4 M40i ridicules a number of sports cars given its ability to reach 100 km/h in only 4.9 seconds. The return trip from Costco to feed the baby can be a very brief one…
The beauty with boosted engines is the instant availability of torque. All of this X4’s twisting power is on tap as of 1,350 rpm, and holds on until 5,250 rpm. The standard 8-speed autobox is faultlessly adapted to distributing the power where it is best put to use.
The X4 M40i’s powerband is just about perfect as maximum horsepower crashes in at 5,800 rpm. Acceleration is linear, sustained, and never-ending. Keeping your foot firmly against the firewall is a fabulous feeling when merging onto a highway… until you come up on a slow-moving Corolla. The sport exhaust system may be loud, but sadly will not scare the Toyota out of the way.
The X4’s drive is calibrated for performance; however, it doesn't translate into an unpleasant city experience. Dynamic Damper Control varies shock stiffness and works in conjunction with the Driving Dynamics Control system’s various drive modes (ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT, and SPORT+). Steering assistance adapts to vehicle speed, but always feels dead-on with the right amount of weight and just enough feedback from the front axle.
I never expected the X4 to be such a well-rounded driver. My past experiences blemished my impressions of what BMW was able to do. Like I said earlier, 2016 has saved the day.
At just over $70,000, my tested X4 M40i is not the only sport-performance small utility vehicle on the market. The one to beat is the Porsche Macan. The Audi SQ5 is right up in the mix as is the Jaguar F-PACE, to name a few others. As well, how much longer before Mercedes-Benz launches a GLC 43 AMG?
Even if the X4 M40i can do everything I’ve written, the reality is that most owners will never push their sweet truck. The whole point is that they want everyone else to know that they could if they wanted to.