I’m a bit harsh on some of BMW’s niche cars. So much so that I’m labeled as a bit of an old souled curmudgeon sometimes. But I don’t hate BMW’s niche cars, I just think that some are a bit superfluous. But then I got to thinking, isn’t any sports car superfluous? Isn’t the very nature of any car with more than 150 hp or leather seats or an automatic gearbox superfluous? Technically, all we really need in a car is an engine, transmission of some sort, four wheels and a couple of seats. So even my beloved Silverstone Metallic M3 is superfluous. Therefore, I was wrong about BMW’s niche cars. They are exactly what being a car enthusiast is all about; buying a car because its different and you want it, regardless of what it is or how practical it may or may not be.
Which got me thinking about some of the specific BMW niche cars. While doing so, while also driving on the Garden State Parkway, I saw a Melbourne Red Metallic X4 xDrive35i Sport Line. At first, my curmudgeon instinct kicks in and I think about how the guy wearing the Persols (the ones I so badly want) should have gotten an X3 because it’s more practical and cheaper and he only bought the X4 because it’s got funky styling. But then I thought to myself, “of course that’s why he bought it, he liked it better and what the hell’s it to you”. The man driving the, admittedly very good looking, X4 wanted it more than an X3 because its sportier and he liked it better. That’s what being a car enthusiast is all about, emotional car purchases, not practical ones.
This got me thinking about the X4 a bit more, and I must admit, I’m now a fan and would very much like to own one. The X4 is sportier and happier than its X3 sibling. It wants to play more, and that is an intangible trait that is lost in cars these days. It may be shunned in the eyes of E30 M3 crazed enthusiasts, but don’t let that fool you. The X4 is for the buyer that needs a bit of practicality but desires performance and fun over all else.
I remember speaking to a couple who were selling their E60 5 Series that served them well over many years. I asked them what they planned to get afterwards and they said the X4. This was around the time it had just been released, and I remember trying to dissuade them from the X4 into the X3. My persuasive skills aren’t as good as I thought, as they ended up buying the X4 anyway, but I’m glad. Their reasoning behind the X4 was simply that they liked it.
What’s wrong with a car that trades a bit or practicality for some added fun and performance? Nothing. Now that I’ve seen the niche-busting light, the X4 seems like such a wonderful car.
It has about 80 percent of the cargo space of an X3, yet looks far better and is more fun to drive. It’s also faster and is a surprisingly good handler, better than some sporting cars, let alone SAVs. If that doesn’t sound like a desirable car to you, I don’t know what would.
While the X4 has already won me over with its many charms, it’s about to seduce me, and many others, even further. Later this year, BMW will release an X4 M40i sporting an M-tuned chassis, suspension and brakes. It will also have an update N55 engine under its hood producing somewhere between 360 and 380 hp. The X4 M40i will differentiate itself on the outside with sportier air intakes and some aero bits and on the inside with a different steering wheel.
The X4 is already a great car. It comes with great engines, has great space and handles and drives far beyond how a car of its size should. With the added sporting nature of the M40i, the X4 will be one of the more attractive packages in the SAV market and could throw a monkey wrench right into Porsche’s Macan sales. While priced the same, the X4 M40i would have the goods to put the Macan S to bed in pretty much every performance category, considering that the X4 xDrive35i already runs neck and neck with it.
I used to find cars like the X4 to be unnecessary cars for people going through midlife crises. Now I understand that the X4 is just a car for people who want a sportier X3, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what being a car enthusiast is, liking the unnecessary simply because it’s different and shakes things up a bit. The X4 M40i can’t come soon enough.