Review of: 2017 BMW X4 AWD 4dr M40i
2017 BMW X4 M40i: The many colours of M
By Dan Heyman
Mar. 29, 2017
Since its (not so) humble beginnings as an outfit that built spec racing cars, the moniker has gone through a few phases. When they had too many engines for the M1, they found a way to shoehorn them into the 5 Series and boom! The M5 was born.
Then, after being met with such great reviews, BMW eventually went back to the drawing board and created the M6/M635CSi coupes, and went on to build arguably the most famous (and now, the most popular) M car of all time: the M3.
You could say it was the M3 that really put M on the map – a small, four-seater sedan is so much more practical than a grand-touring two-door coupe, you see – and since then, the M brand has grown by leaps and bounds.
It’s grown, but in a somewhat divergent way. On the one hand, you have the true M-cars – cars that sit atop of their respective model lines in terms of power, handling and panache in general. They you have the M sport cars; cars that get a few bits and pieces – and if they’re lucky, a slightly more powerful engine than their siblings – to help differentiate them.
Many manufactures are doing it – Audi has S-line, Cadillac has V-Sport, and Lexus F Sport – as they’ve realized that it allows them to add just a bit of cachet to their top-tier models.
The result is a little confusing on the nomenclature front – say BMW X4 M40i four times fast – but fans of a little performance-lite motoring are the big winners.
Take the X4, for example. Ordinarily, it’s a somewhat odd-shaped compact crossover that is aimed that folks that want a car-ish look (with the X4, that doesn’t extend much past the roofline, mind) and compact dimensions, but also a tall ride height and a little more room inside. Fine.
Inject a little M-ness into it, however, and things change.
Pros & Cons
- + Acceleration
- + Sure-footed in snow
- + Great exhaust note
- - Rear seat space
- - Limited cargo flexibility
- - Ride comfort
It’s not so much on the exterior styling front that marks the change from xDrive28i to M40i spec. You still get the somewhat divisive coupe/SUV styling that started with the X6, though I find this more compact package to be much more befitting of the body style. It just makes more sense in the grand scheme of things.
The conversion doesn’t add much on the appearance front save for some special wheels (not seen here, unfortunately, due to our car’s chunky winter rubber) and the switching of some black plastic body cladding ‘round the wheels and rocker panels, as well as some unique colours including the fantastic Long Beach Blue seen here. That being said, you can add everything – everything but the colour, that is — to your standard xDrive28i for $2,900, which brings your total MSRP to just over $51,000. The M40i starts at just over $63,000.
So where has all that money gone? To the interior?
Well, not exactly. There are actually more colour options for the xDrive28i than there are for the M40i, but the latter comes standard with real leather while the former starts with synthetic leatherette. That $2,900 you spent to get those M40i-mimicking interior bits? That also gets you real leather. It comes as part of the M sport line trim, not to be confused with the M40i trim, although I’m sure it will be.
Otherwise, what you get with the X4 M40i’s interior does well to match what BMWs are known for, and that’s a good driver’s seating position with all the most pertinent controls turned towards you. You feel cocooned in here, with everything from your iDrive infotainment controller to your vent controls easily reached by an outstretched hand.
Speaking of cocooned: you can bet the rear seat occupants will feel the same way. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing as taller passengers will feel the squeeze. Having said that: we managed to fit four adult passengers plus their weekend luggage – clothes, provisions, winter gear – into the car. It took some creativity as the slanted roofline makes fitting tall items in the rear cargo area an exercise best suited for Tetris players. We did eventually get it done when I thought there was no way it was going to happen, however. Of course, you can fold the rear seats flat if you need more space, which is probably the more likely scenario for most X4 owners.
iDrive infotainment comes as standard, and while every manufacturer is coming out with infotainment systems of their own, BMW’s has managed to withstand the test of time and is actually a pleasure to use once you get used to its nested menus. The widescreen display looks great, too.
Our car’s executive package ($3,500) isn’t cheap, but it adds a host of nice features such as heated rear seats, automatic high-beam headlights and beefy Harman/Kardon surround sound, which does sound the business. You do have to add a further package if you want driving aids such as a surround-view backup camera (very good), HUD and active blind spot detection. Don’t be fooled, however; “active” does not mean it will prevent you from steering into an occupied lane, but just activates a visual warning aid once the turn indicator is flipped.
Ahhhh-HA! So this is where all my money went!
Indeed, the pièce de résistance of the transition to M40i status is the addition of two extra cylinders for a total of six, and a total of 355 – three-hundred-fifty-five! – horsepower and a none-too-shabby 343 lb-ft of torque. We’ll spare you the trouble: that’s more than what’s made by the Audi SQ5, and just a titch below the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. The Japanese and American luxury brands aren’t even close on the power front for the category. You can thank the M40i’s higher turbo boost pressure, special spark plugs and forged crankshaft for the extra ponies.
You feel – and hear – it too. As soon as you dip that throttle, the sound through the twin exhaust outlets is a gruff one, doing a good job of recalling older M cars even though the X4’s turbo plant is down a little on the aural attitude front than the classic metallic blaring of a naturally-aspirated BMW six.
No matter; forward progress as you snap through the X4’s eight gears is brisk, with BMW TwinPower turbo tech doing well to lessen the effects of turbo lag and delayed power delivery between shifts. As you start out and really dive into the throttle, if it wasn’t for the higher seating position you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you were behind the chunky leather-wrapped wheel as the M40i’s M235i cousin.
We saw average fuel economy of 12.4 L/100 km.
Yes; comparing a tall-ish crossover to a squat two-seater is a tall order in itself, but on the power delivery front, very little separates these two. You also get your choice of eco pro, sport and comfort modes that have a very perceptible effect on your throttle delivery: in eco, you can feel real resistance on the pedal as the computers cut power. In sport, it’s go time as soon as you mash that throttle. It’s all good, granular stuff.
It’s as you start to tackle the bendier stuff that the X4 starts to display its crossover background. Body roll is present, and it had by tires hollerin’ more quickly than I thought they would, and that’s allowing for the fact that I was on winters. It’s hard to really complain, though; in most normal driving situations, the X4 is a more-than-ready dance partner, especially in the snow. The X4 gets a rear-biased AWD set-up, but you wouldn’t know it considering just how grabby it was in the adverse snowy mountain roads we put it on. It is stable, but remains a responsive handler overall, much like popular AWD compacts like the Volkswagen Golf R or Subaru WRX. As impressed as I was with the powertrain, the way that AWD system seamlessly transfers power to and fro is perfect.
Until you start hitting some bumps, that is. BMW’s adaptive damper system is present, but even in the softer of the available modes, I still found the ride to not just be bumpy but downright crashy, especially on quick, sharp bumps. My passengers felt it, too. Relaxing the softer damper settings would make all the difference in the world but until then, you’d better strengthen your spine.
If you really, really want all that great M power with just a little more practicality than your average coupe, then there’s your value add right there. Over 60 grand is a lot to lay out for such a small thing, but you will not be disappointed with the powertrain.
You’d really have to be a gearhead, though. The rough ride is not befitting of a luxury car, even though this is priced as such. Understand that, and I can see the value.
There’s no question that throughout my test, I had my fair share of fun moments. The engine is addictive, the novelty of being able to spear a cute little compact like this at such ridiculous pace will stick around. Further, while the handling has its weak spots, the overall effect is one of buttoned-down strength and fun.
Having said that, there’s no denying that certain aspects of the package – especially that ride – are not for the faint of heart. The question is always going to be – as it always has been with performance variants, since the beginning of M and beyond – are you willing to sacrifice comfort for performance?