Bavarian Army Knife – 2017 BMW X4 M40i

Test Drives | December 3rd, 2016 by 5
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The Swiss Army Knife is a beautiful tool. Its design is elegant, its functionality is evident and if you go for the classic, it’s probably …

The Swiss Army Knife is a beautiful tool. Its design is elegant, its functionality is evident and if you go for the classic, it’s probably red. So if the Germans in Bavaria tried to build their own version of the Swiss Army Knife, but as a vehicle, would the X4 M40i be it? Thanks to our friends over at BMW Seattle, that’s exactly what we’re going to try and find out!

It’s a rainy Saturday morning. But then again, most December mornings around this time of year are rainy in Seattle, so I guess that isn’t saying much. The difference between this Saturday and other Saturdays however is that we’re over at BMW Seattle and we have a Melbourne Red X4 M40i for the day.

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We start our day with the X4 M40i by doing a quick walk-around of the vehicle. BMW calls the X4 a “Sports Activity Coupe.” Basically what you get, from the outside at least, is a smaller version of the X6, which means a rakish profile that slopes down past the B-pillar towards the aggressive rear-end. One thing to keep in mind is that before the X6 there was no SUV for sale that married luxury, coupe-styling and “go anywhere because it’s an SUV” choice. You either had an SUV with a very boxy design, or an SUV with somewhat of a boxy design. BMW introduced the world to coupe-design inspired SUVs with the X6, and so was born the 4-door, sometimes 4-passenger and sometimes 5-passenger luxury people carrier that sparked this whole niche segment. And sparks did indeed fly as buyers proved their love of this design-choice with their cash, and they did it in droves. So naturally because of the strong sales figures BMW would look at introducing a baby brother: enter the X4.

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Also, in case you missed BMWs new naming convention, here’s a quick breakdown: odd-numbered vehicles (1, 3, 5, 7) are sedans. Even-numbered vehicles (2, 4, 6) are coupes/convertibles. All this stands true, as long as they don’t get the “GC” or Gran Coupe treatment. In which case, a 4 Series which would normally be a 2-door coupe now turns into a 4 Series with 4 doors and a coupe profile. This same overall theory applies to the X line as well. The X1, X3, and X5 are boxier in shape. The X4 and X6 are still SUVs but their rear design language is based off of their car-brethren and therefore have the downward swoop after the B pillar typically seen on coupes. Ok, enough with the history lessons!

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Under the hood we find a 3.0 liter BMW M Performance TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. Horsepower and torque figures are 355/343 respectively. On tap you have an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that transfers power to all 4 wheels but is mostly rear-biased thanks to BMWs intelligent xDrive system. All in all it weighs in at 4,250 lbs. and what this all means is that it will propel you from 0 – 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Being that this is the X4 M, the exterior styling is more aggressive thanks to the aerodynamic kit as well as the shadowline exterior trim and black chrome tailpipes which are connected to a sport exhaust system. On this particular vehicle the Melbourne red paint also does a good job of screaming “I’m fast” and the optional 20 inch M wheels give it a nice purposeful stance.

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On the inside, black Nevada leather greeted us and paired well with the brushed aluminum trim. A Harman Kardon surround sound system is also standard and includes 16 speakers and a 600-watt digital amplifier. The door sills, steering-wheel, foot-rest, shifter and even the digital instrument cluster remind you that this X4 is special and of M-descent and therefore have M logos adorning them.

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From behind the steering-wheel you get a commanding view of the road. As a rear occupant, even though you’re getting the coupe styling on the exterior with the sloping rear end, you get quite a lot of rear headroom space. I honestly doubt that anyone save for maybe perhaps the tallest of customers will have an issue with rear space. On the subject of rear space, the back seats split-fold in a 40/20/40 configuration which means should you have the need to haul anything, the X4 M40i has you covered. And speaking of hauling, it’s capable of towing 3,500 lbs. for those times you severely miscalculated the amount of stuff you had to ferry around.

We leave the dealership and go out and about to explore Seattle. We quickly discovered that having the X4 M40i in Sport + Mode was a bad idea, thanks to the pot holes and uneven road surfaces that this beautiful city has. Each road imperfection was transferred into the chassis and made for a rather bumpy ride, so we quickly switched it to Comfort Mode and because the Cold Weather Package was equipped on this model, we turned on the heated seats as well. Driving around the city looking for nice photo op locations, there really was no learning curve necessary, in the sense that we didn’t waste much time having to get used to the car. Things made sense. Interior control placement was obvious, spatial-awareness as to how big the vehicle is on the road and how much space it was taking up was immediate. It was shocking at how quickly the X4 M40i felt comfortable.

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One complaint however – rear-view mirror visibility is not great. This is mostly because of the coupe styling which makes for a long angled rear slope which starts early at the top and meets with the rear glass late which in turn forced the designers to squash the height of the rear window so it meets early with the rear trunk section. It’s not a deal-breaker in my opinion and worth the coupe profile design. It’s also worth mentioning however that our review vehicle did have the optional rear-view camera installed, so rear visibility when backing up wasn’t an issue for us. On the subject of options, we had the Technology Package installed which brings with it, amongst other things, the head-up display. Aside from having it make you feel like a fighter pilot, it provided us with very useful information right in our field of view. This was especially useful when using the navigation system as it displayed info such as distance until my next turn as well as speed.

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Pulling into the famous Pike Place Market, the narrow street lined with delivery vehicles and produce awaited us. Tons of people walking about looking at fruits and flowers and fish. As we’re trying to snap some photos of the X4 amongst the people, a gentleman walks up from the crowd and gives the car a good look. Because it’s a loaner from BMW Seattle it still has the price and option sheet affixed on the rear left passenger window. He gives it a quick read, looks at the X4 once again and nods “it’s pretty, and that red, you can see it from a mile away.” He’s right. Even among the beautifully decorated Christmas trees that can be found throughout Seattle in front of various businesses this time of year, this Melbourne red X4 M40i stands out and catches your eye. Just like that one year when you were 12-years old and you noticed a glowing gift under your Christmas tree that had your name on it. You wanted to open it but you were told you’d have to wait. Except this present is looking you straight in the face and is asking you to drive it hard. Not on Christmas Eve, but right now.

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We decide to leave Seattle and head out to Redmond where I had previously discovered a construction yard. I figure this will give us a chance to open the X4 M40i up a bit and see how it behaves at higher speeds and also once we get to the site, give us some nice industrial shots. Jumping onto the I-5 to jump onto I-405 we switched from Comfort Mode into Sport + mode and gathered speed on the on-ramp. Exhaust note is noticeably sportier (read: louder) gear shifts are faster and the whole vehicle feels a bit more alive and alert. I blinked twice, glanced at the head-up display and it read 65 mph. It’s quick. The straight 6 turbo engine has zero turbo lag and as a result zero problem doing quick acceleration bursts. Passing in the X4 M40i is a breeze thanks to the torque on tap and also because of the 8-speed transmission. Flick your right foot and, depending in what driving mode you’re in, the engine management system calculates your current speed, steering angle, etc. and drops you in what feels like the perfect gear. It’s smart.

En-route to Redmond we spot a nice large parking lot with a nicely manicured soccer field and park. Might as well pull in and snap some shots since the rain stopped and the sun decided to show its face. We open up all the doors, the trunk, and the hood. As we’re snapping shots we talk about practicality and how useful this vehicle would really be, day in and day out. As mentioned earlier, the rear seats fold down. Cargo volume is 17.7 ft³, 49.4 ft³ with seat area. So unless you’re helping grandma move her old world, massive antique closet, there’s more than enough space for your every-day carrying needs. From IKEA furniture runs to mulch, tiles and sandbag outings from Home Depot. Skis, snowboards, soccer balls, and tents. You’re covered. One thing to keep in mind however is that there is no 3rd row seating option for any of the X4 models offered.

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We leave the park and head for the industrial zone. Once we get there, I park next to a large gravel mound, step outside and stare at the stark yet awesome contrast of conflicting visuals. On the one hand, we have a brand new Bavarian engineered Sports Activity Coupe dressed in sleek lines and red paint. On the other hand we have semi-standing concrete walls, a crane, huge dirt and gravel mounds, and massive pot holes full of rain water and debris. In theory, it shouldn’t matter what the X4 looks like. It has “Activity” in its name, and with 8” of ground clearance, as long as we don’t try to actually scale the gravel mounds, we should be golden. And we are golden. Mostly because no off-road testing was done. The extent of this location was to see how it dealt with semi-paved roads (answer: it didn’t really like it) and also to get some freeway miles under our belts in the X4. Let’s be serious, 20 inch M light alloy wheels do not do well in these conditions! If you’re looking at the X4 M40i for serious off-roading, consider skipping the large wheels. Or if your budget allows, get the 20 inch wheels but install a set of proper off-road wheels and tires when you’re really looking at pushing the “Activity” envelope.

Next, we leave the industrial zone where the X4 M40i felt a bit out of place (but made for some great shots) and head over to an open, abandoned parking lot where we engage in some spirited driving. Because it’s not as tall or as large as a standard SUV, it handles better. It turns in better. It exits a corner better. Body-roll in Sport + was negligible, but again, its lower center of gravity is helping it in this category. I wish there was a bit more of the legendary BMW road feel coming through the steering-wheel, but alas, I remember I’m not in an M2. We didn’t push hard because no one will be taking their X4 M40i to the track, but, brakes felt solid and strong.

What does it sound like? I’m glad you asked! We hooked up some mics and cameras and recorded the X4 M40i while parked and obviously not under load. We switched between Comfort Mode as well as Sport + Mode so we could capture the exhaust notes as they do differ from one another. Check out the video below:

 

What does the competition look like? Good question. First let’s break down the costs. Your base X4 M40i starts at $58,100 plus $995.00 Destination Charge. This particular model had a few extras which are broken down below:

  • Melbourne Red Metallic Paint – $700.00
  • Cold Weather Package – $950.00
  • Technology Package – $2,750.00
  • 20” M Light Alloy Wheels – $950.00
  • Rear View Camera – $400.00
  • Surround View Cameras – $750.00
  • TOTAL – $65,595.00

 

The competition in this segment is interesting. There’s additional info included for quick reference. Below prices are MSRP with no options:

MSRP Horsepower Torque Tow Capacity Ride Height Cargo Space
BMW X4 M40i $58,100.00 355 343 3,500 lbs. 8″ 17.7 ft³ to 49.4 ft³
Porsche Macan GTS $67,200.00 360 369 1,652 lbs. 7.5 – 7.8″ 17.6 ft³ to 53 ft³
Audi SQ5 $53,300.00 354 346 4,400 lbs. 7.9″ 29.1 ft³ to 57.3 ft³

 

With the audio recording session wrapped up and the sun setting, we headed back to Seattle to finish up our review. An accident on the I-520 floating bridge meant we had some time to kill stuck in traffic. The high winds and cold weather outside made the inside cabin feel even more inviting and cozy, thanks in large part to the Cold Weather Package.
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FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s not a large vehicle when compared to the full-sized SUVs on the market, but it’s not a small vehicle by any means. It’s got folding rear seats and just enough cargo space for most everything you’d have to ferry around, so it’s “just right” for most of us. It gives you a raised driving position, which means great forward visibility and good ground clearance. Rear visibility isn’t terrible, but it can be improved with the rear back-up camera option. It can go off-road, but it prefers not to if possible. It has a gorgeous design thanks to its coupe profile, which means it’s pretty, and pretty things usually make us happy. It’s got M Performance design and engineering, which means it’s powerful, it’s fast, and handles well for its size. In short, I really can’t think of a better way to describe the X4 M40i other than it being a veritable “Bavarian Army Knife” that carves its own unique path away from its bigger X6 brother both in the concrete as well as the sometimes less-paved jungle of modern life.

Check out the pictures in the photo gallery below, and let us know what you think in the comments section!

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