|A sports coupe or an SUV? You decide. Either way the X4 M40i looks great and performs brilliantly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Seriously. The Munich-based premium marque manages to create obscure niches within the unique niches few other luxury rivals dare tap into, and when others don’t work for their namesake brand they adapt them for Mini or Rolls-Royce.
The X4 was the obvious result of downsizing the already successful X6, the result of which sees even more sales than the larger mid-size model. Last year the X4 found 1,236 Canadians who liked the idea of a five-door sports coupe mixed with a compact SUV, whereas 1,178 BMW buyers chose the larger of the two. These aren’t game-changing sales compared to 5,417 X3s and 6,942 X5s sold within the same 12 months, but every little bit adds up, as BMW has also learned with its multiple
|Sloping rear roofline hardly encroaches on rear seat headroom. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Regarding the five-door coupe-cum-SUV (or whatever you want to call it), a nod should be given to Infiniti for its original FX that more or less originated the idea and subsequent QX70 (still available, albeit rare), while Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque took the concept down a size or two to the entry-level compact SUV class, and even went so far to create a three-door SUV coupe and now a two-door convertible variant (it’s a lot cooler than it sounds).
Hitting even more at BMW’s core, Mercedes-Benz recently responded directly to the X6 and X4 with the mid-size GLE Coupe and
|From the rear it looks more like a tall 4 Series than an X3. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Despite the X4 xDrive35i being all over BMW Canada’s retail website (they must have a bunch of these left over in 2016 trim), for model year 2017 the German manufacturer only sells two versions of the X4 in North America starting with the more fuel-friendly $48,700 X4 xDrive28i and topped off with the bahn-storming $60,700 X4 M40i. The X4 xDrive35i has been discontinued (you’ll find this out when you try to build it in BMW’s configurator), but due to the X4 M40i in these pages, which entered the scene last year, no one should shed any tears.
|These are BMW’s upgraded full LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Of course, there’s a lot more than extra oomph behind the top-line model’s storied “M” badge. Along with some unique styling details, larger 20-inch wheels and 245/40 front and 245/35 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance tires, bigger brakes, a sport suspension, sport exhaust with black finishers,
|Sharp looking 20-inch alloys on Michelin Pilot Super Sports add massive grip through the corners. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Truly, the X4 M40i is one of the sportiest SUVs in the compact segment, even when matched up to Porsche’s Macan in non-Turbo trim. The eight-speed automatic’s paddle shifters provide plenty of control, enhanced via Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes, the first fuel-efficient mode where it spent most of its time amid city traffic, this along with auto idle start/stop and regenerative braking making it capable of a 12.8 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.3 combined five-cycle Transport Canada rating.
Sport and Sport+ modes accentuate all of its most enticing character traits, and to
|Revered "M" badging adds some style of its own. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Once I felt comfortable I was away to the races, so to speak, but I must say that tall driving position and lanky feel means the X4 will never be as ideally suitable to
|BMW does interiors well no matter the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That’s not to say the X4 M40i isn’t absolutely brilliant fun in the city, on the highway, or anywhere else, and on that frolicking theme more capable of slaying backcountry two-laners than the majority of supposed sports cars it’ll annoyingly pull up behind, bypass faster than the onboard chumps who thought they’d bought a performance car can utter “what the hell was that”, all before blurring them into an oblivious rearview dot that almost immediately disappears behind the next double curve. Yes, it’s that good.
|The M Sport steering wheel is standard, but you can choose from multiple no-cost colours and trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Likewise the X4 M40i’s primary gauges are purely digital and fully configurable so you can tweak them to your heart’s content, other than four lovely silver rings around the dials that are set out in relief for a particularly elegant 3D look and, of course, an homage to all BMWs of yore. The crisp, bright and colourful high-resolution instrument cluster is filled with all the information you’ll likely ever require, and what’s not within is over on the centre stack-mounted infotainment display that’s about as impressive as anything available in the class.
|These classic BMW dials float in a high-tech digital background. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That Premium package also includes door exit lights and handle-area illumination that brightens the SUV’s entryway for 20 seconds
|BMW’s new iDrive 5.0 is superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Now that I’m talking extras, my tester also included the $3,500 Executive package that adds full LED headlamps with dynamic cornering and auto high beams, a universal garage door opener, an excellent 600-watt 16-speaker Harman/Kardon surround audio system, four-way powered front
|If hardwood isn’t your thing, BMW offers aluminum, piano black, and other trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Standalone options included $250 headlight washers; $350 Speed Limit Info that displays the posted limit and warns if you’ve exceeded it, a potential moneysaving feature; $600 wireless device charging with extended Bluetooth and USB; and my tester’s
|BMW’s iDrive controller remains an objet d’art. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’ve not yet mentioned many features that come standard with the X4 M40i, so suffice to say along with all the expected luxury fare it gets an M Aerodynamics package, LED fog lamps, specially tuned variable sport Servotronic steering, an M-branded leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, aluminum foot pedals, dynamic damper control, dynamic cruise control, power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, an anthracite headliner, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate
|These fabulous leather-clad sport seats are standard, but the four-way powered lumbar is optional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As with all BMWs, the X4’s switchgear is of the highest quality, the shifter and rotating iDrive controller especially nice, while I personally love how narrow the steering wheel spokes are, and how minimalist their various buttons and scrolling rocker switches.
I’ve mentioned the driver’s seats’ impressive adjustability, but I have yet to note how incredibly comfortable it was, not to mention how well it embraced buttocks and
|The rear seating area is comfortable and more accommodating than you might think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
There’s seating for three in back, although I’d recommend two adults and maybe a child in the middle. Someone smaller might even appreciate the raised centre position, this the result of outboard buckets that are nicely sculpted for similar lateral support to those up front. This said their deep squabs push the knees higher than average, which while allowing a taller person to fit within might not be the most comfortable for some. I had about five inches ahead of my knees when the driver’s seat was set for my admittedly smaller than average five-foot-eight frame,
|The large hatch swallows almost as much gear as an X3. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Like with any SUV, the X4 is designed in a liftback layout with a large, wide hatch in back, but its sloping rear roofline presents a sporty compromise that infringes on overall cargo capacity, so expect more coupe-like proportions than the more commodious X3 it’s based upon. By comparison the X3 offers up 550 litres (19.4 cubic feet) behind its 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and 1,600 litres (56.5 cubic feet) if laid flat, whereas the X4 makes do with a still reasonably accommodating 501 litres (17.7 cubic feet) before lowering its 40/20/40 configured rear seats, at which point capacity increases to 1,399 litres (49.4 cu ft).
|Folding seatbacks are split 40/20/40 for optimal passenger/cargo flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
On that note the X4 is suitable for small families, but I’m going to guess most with children will opt for the X3’s more practical design, or better yet an X5 that can be had with three rows. Still, for adventuresome kid-less couples the X4 might be ideal, and that it can be had with plenty of as-tested M-division upgrades along with flashy blue, purple and red striped “M” badging make it hard to pass up. I certainly enjoyed my week behind the wheel and never found it short on space, and while my eyes still long for a 440i Gran Coupe in Estoril Blue with an M Performance package, this isn’t about me. I recommend you try both and decide for yourself.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)