The X4 M40i is proof that BMW has hopped on the current trend of developing – at little cost – new and more dynamic versions of already established models, all with the goal of increasing profit margins. With a base price of $57,900 (that’s $3,700 more than the X4 xDrive35i), the X4 M40i is a perfect example of this movement.
It goes without saying that the newcomer offers better performance with improved dynamics and an engine “borrowed” from the M2. Under the X4 M40i's hood, the 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine generates 355 horsepower, which is 10 less than the M2, but its torque output is identical at 343 lb.-ft. The X4 M40i is much heavier (1,921 kilos), but the engine has no problem moving this compact coupe-like SUV, as evidenced by its 4.9-second time for the 0-100 km/h sprint.
Bring on the corners
The X4 M40i was launched at the same time as the 2016 BMW M2. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to take the sport-tuned SUV for a few laps around the Laguna Seca Raceway. No matter, the roads of the Monterey Peninsula are among the most beautiful in the world and some of them, like Los Laureles Grade or Carmel Valley Road, are very windy.
The first thing you need to know is the M40i's front-end geometry is different from that of the other X4s. The more pronounced camber angle produces a noticeable effect when you enter a corner, and the vehicle responds instantly to any movement of the steering wheel. This slight, seemingly trivial change has a significant impact on the X4 M40i, making it much livelier and more agile under more aggressive driving.
Body movement is well controlled and the 2016 BMW X4 M40i’s handling is very predictable, which inspires confidence. To maximize handling and fun, just select Sport Plus mode and extra torque is sent to the rear wheels for a sportier ride.
In Comfort mode, you’ll feel the suspension travel a lot more, but since our test vehicle was riding on 20-inch alloy rims fitted with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, sized 245/40 up front and 275/35 at the rear, the comfort level left a lot to be desired on the worst sections of road on which we travelled.
Engine torque delivery is very linear and maximum torque is available at 1,350 to 5,250 rpm. The X4 M40i moves with undeniable poise. The eight-speed automatic transmission has wheel-mounted paddles for fast shifting. In sporty driving conditions, we also liked listening to the unique sound of the engine as it approached its 7,000-rpm redline.
The 2016 BMW X4 M40i offers the same amount of trunk volume as the other versions in the lineup: 500 litres with all the seats in place and 1,400 litres with the rear seatbacks lowered. What’s more, the M logo has been added to the steering wheel, stick shift and sport seats.
It’s unfortunate, however, that even at their lowest position, the front seats remain too high, which makes you feel like you’re up on a high perch. Considering this version’s sporty character, we would have liked to feel chassis reactions a little better by being seated lower in the vehicle—you know, to get that so-called seat-of-the-pants feel that you always hear about in sporty driving.
What about the competition?
Its current rivals are the Porsche Macan GTS with its twin-turbo 3.0-litre, 360-horsepower V6 and the Audi SQ5 with its supercharged 3.0-litre, 354-hp V6. And soon there will be the Mercedes-Benz GLC 450 AMG with its twin-turbo 3.0-litre, 352-hp V6; it’s slated to hit the market in the summer of 2016 as a 2017 model.
Basically, this niche segment remains the private preserve of the big German manufacturers, but it’s interesting to note that all of the X4’s competitors have a more conventional silhouette. If it’s as successful as the X5 M and X6 M, it’s a safe bet that BMW won’t have much trouble finding buyers for its X4 on steroids.