For those of us in the United States, the best daily-driver from BMW may very well be the all-new BMW X3. The interior is fresh and sleek, as it’s trickled down from the 5 Series, the power and handling in the M40i trim is fantastic for an SAV, and there is plenty of room in the back to haul just about anything.
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Some enthusiasts might raise their hands and say the 3 Series wagon is the best daily-driver, but until the updated version comes out, the X3 edges it out with its newer technology, drivetrain, and styling. Plus, the new X3 M40i can be had for roughly the same price as a similarly spec’d 330i wagon!
But this only accounts for the U.S., what about the rest of the world? Well, if you are unfamiliar with the 1 Series, let me introduce you to the BMW M140i!
To date, more than two million units of the BMW 1 Series have been sold worldwide, of which almost 1 million are from the latest generation — though none of those came to the U.S. since we only got the first generation of the coupe which ran from 2008 through 2013 and not in hatchback trim, yet you can find them in Mexico.
The latest edition of the sporty hatchback once again comes in both a 3-door and 5-door version and gets an updated M140i model with the three-liter B58 engine producing 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque all going to just the rear wheels! This makes it the only rear wheel drive hatchback on the market, though if you want, there is an xDrive version available.
This gives the M140i all the right credentials for delivering extraordinary performance: with the six-speed manual, this compact hatchback sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.8 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph). Given these impressive numbers, we flew to Munich to see if it was a better daily-driver than the new X3.
After arriving on the redeye flight, we headed straight to the BMW press facility to pick up the M140i. The hatchback quickly showed its practicality as it easily stowed all of our luggage in the back. And with a few adjustments of the seat and mirrors, my 6’3” frame fit perfectly into the cloth sport seats that I dream about being able to get in the U.S.!
Our M140i was equipped with the optional eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and as I pulled onto the autobahn headed towards Ingolstadt, I flipped it into SPORT+ and pulled the upshift lever only as I hit redline. I can certainly confirm that this car is quick and its M Performance exhaust makes some fantastic sounds! After every shift, or every time you come off throttle, you get to hear some sort of burble or pop making you want to drive only in SPORT+ and with the radio off.
As our speeds crept up on the autobahn, the variable sport steering was clearly noticeable as the amount of input required was greatly reduced. It only took the smallest amount of movement of the wheel before the car would react as if it knew where you wanted to go. And thankfully as we got onto some of the twisty mountain roads in the Alps, the system gave decent feedback and didn’t produce an overly fake heavy feeling — which is just right for a great daily driver.
Since it was the middle of winter, our M140i was fitted with winter tires, which made the ride a little softer than I would have preferred. This is an M Performance vehicle, so the suspension is firm but not obnoxious. I could feel what the car was doing, but lost some of the feedback from the road due to the taller, softer sidewalls of the winter tires. With a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on this car, the suspension and handling would be near perfect for just about any situation. Plus it would get rid of the rear end squirming around under hard acceleration, which I found myself doing a lot just to hear those beautiful exhaust sounds.
The only time that the M140i felt like it was just an M Performance car instead of an M car was while accelerating at high speeds on the autobahn. The car pulls hard up until about 180 km/h, but then tapers off a little where an M car would continue to pull. I’m not saying it’s slow though, as it easily cruised along at 210 km/h with an X6 M for a good half an hour. Too bad we were limited by the winter tires because it was eager to go faster!
We spent five days driving the M140i everywhere from taking four adults to dinner in old town Munich, to cruising the high speeds of the autobahn, and around many of the beautiful twists and bends of the Alpenstrasse all the way up the mountain to ski the Zugspitze. And at no point did we ever wish we were in a different BMW — this is definitely the best daily driver BMW currently makes as it perfectly melds together performance and practicality!
We’ve only rated the handling a bit lower than we would have since the car was equipped with the mandatory winter tires.
It’s a real shame that we don’t get this car in the U.S., as I’m certain it would be an enthusiast favorite. However, we are getting the new X2, so who knows? If BMW produces an M Performance edition, there may be a new best daily driver BMW soon.