Rarely does the sequel outshine the original, but such is the case with BMW’s X4 M40i
Words by: Adam Allen
Hang on just a moment! Back to the Future II was a pretty solid flick.
Wasn’t it? The DeLorean learned how to fly, hoverboards found themselves on every kids wish list despite them not existing and those with an affinity for wagering on major sporting events salivated at the idea of having their own advanced copy of Grays Sports Almanac. The original will always be a special, but depending on who you ask the second time around might be regarded as the brightest star in the trilogy.
In the X4’s case, the follow up to the first effort looks much, much better.
When we first drove the X4, we asked a local BMW dealer about his opinion on the styling and after a brief pause while he considered his response, he replied cautiously “it’s a very polarizing car.” That was five years ago, and while the X4’s looks will always have detractors, it has, like its larger sibling (the X6) garnered a legion of interested buyers that grows with each passing model year. Say what you will about the aesthetics, but it’s hard to argue that our tester isn’t vastly prettier than its predecessor. As it turns out, it’s not just the styling where the new puts distance between itself and the old version- every single metric on which one would judge a car shows considerable improvement.
Open the door and have a peak inside. Our last encounter with the X4 left us feeling a bit underwhelmed, and not because there was anything truly bad going on in the cockpit. It just felt mailed in, like the designers took bits and pieces found throughout the lower tier of BMW’s lineup and cobbled them together. Not this time. You first notice the seats, which in typical BMW fashion are equal parts comfortable and supportive but now look rich- their finished in what’s called Vernasca Leather, and you’ll pay $1,500 for the privilege of having you upholstered thusly. Normally we shun such extravagantly unnecessary upgrades but we became smitten by the thrones and would willingly plunk down the dough for our own example. The newest version of iDrive infotainment is hugely better and it keeps improving with sharp graphics, appreciably quick responses to commands and BMW’s always evolving ConnectedDrive Services for those who like to exploit technology for all kinds of non-driving tasks like sending email. We miss the old analogue gauge cluster but it’s hard to argue with the digital setup BMW has chosen when they remain legible in even the brightest sunshine and get all kinds of aggressive with the readouts when you select Sport mode. Those that favor Head-Up displays will love the revised version which looks crisper and now covers a projection area 75% larger than before.
As a close relative of the excellent X3, surely it’s a joy to drive.
The X4 is virtually identical to its more conventionally styled sibling in this regard, which is to say that it captures that old BMW magic where driving dynamics are concerned. Our tester was the top-rung M Performance model which meant BMW’s perennially brilliant turbo inline six toiled away under the hood. Since our last test of the X4, it has gotten a healthy dose of Vitamin HP where it now makes 55 more horsepower and 65 more torques than before. Despite the extra helping of power, it is no less efficient and retuned a stellar 12L/100km under our lead feet. Seriously, if there is ever an engine hall of fame built this mill would have to be part of the inaugural inductees. The transmission it’s mated to is also a textbook example of how good automatics have become, whether your storming your favourite on ramp or gently moving about town. The ZF 8-speeder is lauded across the industry but BMW’s massaging of the hardware makes it even better. You’d expect a vehicle with sporting credentials such as these to make a good noise and have launch control (because every crossover driver pines for launch control, don’t they?) and the X4 does not disappoint, nor is it a letdown in the handling department. Crossovers shouldn’t be able to dance a jig as competently and eagerly as the X4 does- much of that credit goes to the AWD that is heavily rear biased and BMW’s trick M sport differential. Fowl weather prevented us from validating claims that in selecting the right combination of drive modes fits of oversteer are possible, but we can say for certain that the diff allows massive cornering speeds that most X4 owners are not ever likely to explore. The wooden brake pedal we complained in our last go around in the X4 is gone- the blue painted M calipers and generously sized rotors haul this thing down from speed with confidence. Fun fact: the X4 M40i- a crossover, remember- is faster than one of the most remarkable cars in BMW history, the E39 M5; and manages the feat with less displacement, a two cylinder deficiency while also being burdened by an extra 241 kilos. Depending on the lens in which this is viewed, that’s incredibly awesome or woefully sad but no matter what it’s a stark reminder of the progress the industry has made in 19 years.
What might go wrong?
Remember the BMW sales guy who said the X4 is polarizing? The styling which lends itself to be quite popular looks slightly awkward to our eyes. A lamentable by-product of the styling ethos is rear visibility that borders on the non-existent and you lose valuable space in the cargo area thanks to the aggressively sloping roofline. Oh, and all this will extract more dollars from your wallet compared to the X3. One other nit to pick- Gesture Control for the stereo’s volume would be the first thing we’d leave off our X4 M40i should we ever decide to own one. If plentiful hand gestures are a part of your conversations with your passengers like us you’ll find the volume increasing or decreasing inadvertedly.
Should I buy an X4 M40i?
If high-zoot SUV’s are your thing- and the X4 M40i serves that up in spades- you should no doubt have the X4 M40i on your shopping list. It’s easier on the eyes than the Mercedes Benz GLC 43 Coupe and much more rewarding to drive than Audi’s antiseptic SQ5. If you prioritize fashion over function, you likely prefer the X4 to the more conventional X3 anyway and if that’s the case the styling will win you over- that, or the fun you’ll be having behind the wheel.
2019 BMW X4 M40i – Specifications
- Price as tested: $57,200
- Body Type: 4-door SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.0-litre inline-6 turbo, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 355 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 365 @ 1,520 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,961 kg (4,323 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Economy: 12/100km (19mpg)