2016 BMW X4 M40i Quick Spin
Tall wagon, tall order.
EngineTurbo 3.0L I6
Power355 HP / 343 LB-FT
0-60 Time4.7 Seconds
Top Speed130 MPH
Curb Weight4,235 LBS
This isn't to say that BMW is standing in the surf, ordering the waves to roll backward. The X4 is a valiant, if misguided effort, in injecting some sportiness into a very niche vehicle. The X6 M, a "full" M Division offering, does a decent job at this: it's quick like a rocket-assisted hippopotamus, and uses some black magic to stay planted. The X4 M40i, a less-full-blown M Performance model, is less dramatic, and less compelling.
Here's the operating theory: this crossover won't sell on its dynamic charms, however superior to its X4 xDrive28i and xDrive35i siblings. It'll sell because it's the top of the X4 heap, the most expensive of the three ($58,795!), and with the most "M" badges. Anyone looking for utility and strong handling dynamics should examine a 3 Series xDrive Sports Wagon with the M Sport Package and the $700 Adaptive M Suspension, pocket the $10k, and marvel at the size and shape of the cargo area.
- This is the same engine as seen in the brand new M2, making 355 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque in this application. That's 10 hp down from the M2. There's lots of torque, and with an intentional stab of the go-pedal, this X4 will scoot.
- The eight-speed auto is great heading through the ratio range – its shifts are swift and sharp. The paddles will hold gears to redline in manual mode, but would you really want to? We ignored them.
- The adaptive dampers have their work cut out for them. This is a 4,235-pound vehicle – a full 340 pounds heavier than a diesel, all-wheel-drive, 3 Series Sports Wagon, and 7.6 inches taller – and this is where physics comes into play. Slalom-like quick corners produce an uncomfortable jacking effect as the outer wheels unload and transfer weight to the other side. It handles well, for a hippo.
- Since hustling the X4 M40i is possible but not all that rewarding, know that it's very pleasant in Comfort mode. The extra oomph is realized as a thick, broad, rich torque band, and that's never a bad thing around town. It's nicely dampened in Comfort, without much wallow.
- As in the M2 (and the X4 we sampled two years ago), the steering is accurate and well-weighted, if still a bit numb. The meaty steering wheel is well-sized: enough girth for a comfortable grip at a manageable diameter. It's easy enough to place on a twisty road, if not all that enjoyable.
- It speaks to the size of the vehicle that despite the pinched rear roofline, cargo space is surprisingly ample. Considering the limited rear headroom, you're only packing for two adults anyhow. If you'd like to put dogs behind a cage in the back, save some cash and get an X3 xDrive35i.
If you accept that leverage is creating more work for the Adaptive M dampers than we'd like – if you accept that the X4 M40i is really more car than the hardware should be asked to deal with – it's mission accomplished, we suppose. This is a sportier X4, sure. It can hustle, competently if not all that enjoyably, although it's a virtual certainty that no X4 M40i will be asked to tackle anything more strenuous than the occasional roundabout.
More to the point, when used as every X4 M40i will be 99 percent of the time – commuting or running errands – it's both quick off the line and entirely inoffensive in other respects. If you must have a handful of M badges and a look-at-me roofline, by all means, spend more to stuff this unconventional shape with a snarling 3.0-liter turbo six. Everyone else? Get a wagon.
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