- Turbocharged engine is remarkably powerful
- AWD offers good traction and stability on slippery roads
- Eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly
- Big step up in price over X3 or base X4
- Handling isn’t noticeably improved by stiffer suspension system
- Cargo capacity is significantly compromised by sloping roof
Call it diminishment through the exploration of ever-greater dimensional achievements. Call it a branding exercise. But don’t make the mistake of labelling the 2017 BMW X4 M40i “fun to drive”, or “engaging”, because despite its faintly detectable call-backs to the German automaker’s famed Motorsport division – bright blue paint, vestigial M badge on the front fenders, and of course the nameplate affixed to its hatch – the portly crossover is none of those things.
The X4 M40i doesn’t have to be good to sell in droves, it simply has to be.
It really doesn’t matter, however, because SUVs like the X4 are white-hot right now, which means BMW can continue to shovel as many development dollars at these ostensibly family-oriented offerings as it wants and continue to reap substantial financial benefits. The X4 M40i doesn’t have to be good to sell in droves, it simply has to be, and in that respect, it’s an enormous success.
Don’t get me wrong – BMW is fully capable of building competent luxury crossovers, and in fact one such beast, the entry-level BMW X3, donates the platform upon which the X4 is built. Unfortunately, in the interests of style the M40i has given X3’s shape the automotive equivalent of a reverse mullet, with so much of its rear cargo area lopped off to accommodate its sloped roof that it can now haul less than a compact hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf. This conceit has also necessitated a lower second-row seat cushion, which reduces the comfort of those riding in the back, especially compared to the X3.
In addition to this intrusion on both rear headroom and overall hauling capacity, the X4 M40i also suffers from the misapprehension that a stiffer SUV is a sportier SUV. Featuring more aggressively tuned adaptive dampers than are found in the base X4 xDrive28i or any flavour of X3, the M40i abrades over expansion joints and rough pavement even when set to the Comfort drive mode (which sits below Sport and Sport+ in the vehicle’s hierarchy of throttle response, shift quickness, and bone-rattling). It’s not so much that the X4 M40i is unacceptably rough in its ride, more that there’s no perceived added benefit to the stiff-legged act. Perhaps if it were to be flogged on a race track the X4 M40i would fare a few tenths better per lap than last year’s xDrive35i model (now discontinued), but no one is ever going to do that – ever – and so the fruits of the revised chassis tuning remain unrealized.
If there is one shining superlative that can be laid at the feet of the 2017 BMW X4 M40i, it’s that it’s quick. The 3.0L turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that comes standard with the crossover shares much of its design with the similar unit found under the hood of the M2 sports coupe, and as such it produces a respectable 355 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque. With the right foot down and the vehicle’s all-wheel-drive-assisted launch control system in effect, those numbers translate into a 4.9 second sprint to 100 km/h. This is outstanding straight-line speed for any vehicle, and it trumps the thoroughly excellent Porsche Macan S by nearly a half second.
Still, there are caveats. The X4 M40i is about as heavy as a full-size sedan – and 350 kilos more Rubenesque than the M2 – which means once you’ve got the vehicle up to speed there’s not much joy to be had in chucking it through the corners, nor any real impetus to do so. Unlike the previously mentioned Porsche, the X4 doesn’t inspire a desire for spirited driving, making its stupendous power plant more of a conversation piece. It also doesn’t help that its exhaust note, so encouraging and hooliganish in the M2 or even the 340i, comes across stilted at idle and vacuum-like when pushed. At the very least, the eight-speed automatic gearbox executes its duties faithfully, and the AWD system, rear-biased though it might be, provides useful traction in the snow and ice.
At the end of my week behind the wheel of the 2017 BMW X4 M40i, I found myself almost completely devoid of any real emotional response to the vehicle. Everything about its calculated concert of shared “M” gear left me cold. While bigger and more brutal applications of the Motorsports formula like the X5 M and X6 M at the very least have the benefit of over-the-top spectacle going for them, the X4 came across as a calorie-free interpretation of BMW’s typically brash approach to making its SUVs go faster.
It’s helpful to think of the X4 M40i as a less-useful, compromised X3, with a significantly higher price tag. It’s not a terrible vehicle by any means, but its propensity for forward thrust doesn’t do much to balance out its shortcomings. If that sounds appealing to you, then by all means, schedule a test drive and draw your own conclusions. If you need your daily driver to be more substance than form, then there are plenty of other choices in the luxury ute segment that start off on better footing.
|Engine Displacement||3.0L||Model Tested||2017 BMW X4 M40i|
|Engine Cylinders||6||Base Price||$60,700|
|Peak Horsepower||355 hp||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||343 lb-ft||Destination Fee||$2,145|
|Fuel Economy||12.7/9.1/11.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$75,240|
|Cargo Space||1,399 L|
$12,295 – Long Beach Blue paint $895; Technology package $2,200; Executive package $3,500; Premium package $5,700