I have a confession to make: I love luxury cars.
Not because I’m spoiled, but because it’s strategic: luxury cars, built with finer materials and advanced technology and mechanics should give you more for your money for a longer period of time.
So when I first hopped into the 2017 BMW X4 M40i, a four-door coupe (and yes, a coupe is usually a two door car) that looks like a sedan, performs like a crossover and is filled with top notch tech and luxury touches, I thought: This is what luxury should be. Now in its second model year, the X4 M40i, has the sexiness of a sedan, the flexibility and confidence of a crossover, the capability of all wheel drive and BMW’s M performance package, adding up to what might be the only car you’ll want to drive for the next decade.
Who this car is for:
- Singles, couples or small families
- Drivers who need all wheel drive
- Drivers who like the higher ground clearance and capability of a crossover
- Buyers who do not need a third row
- Drivers who like a sport mode option
- Buyers who need a car with flexible cargo space
- Buyers in the market for a luxury car
- Drivers who want the added power and performance of BMW’s M series
- Buyers who love advanced safety and entertainment technology
What it Costs
- 2017 X4 M40i starts at $58,100 (lease deals start at $650 a month)
- Cold weather package (heated front seats, rear seats and steering wheel) $950
- Driver assistance plus (Blind spot monitors, surround view camera, speed limit displayed on navigation) $1,700
- Lighting package (adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams) $1,900
- Technology package (head up display, navigation, BMW apps real time traffic) $2,750
A la carte options (many are included included in packages):
- Heated seats $500
- Apple Car Play $300
- Wireless charging and wifi hotspot $400
- Adaptive cruise control with full stop $1,900
- Auto park assist $500
- Surround view camera $750
Price of the model we drove: $66,545
What’s that name again?
Yes, this part can be confusing. BMW designates its models with a series of letters and numbers strung together, each with a meaning. So if you can decode the name, you know what you’re getting. Here’s this car’s name decoded:
- X = all wheel drive
- 4 = 4 series body; slightly larger than the 3 series but smaller than the 5 series
- M = Motorsport, BMW’s performance designation
- 40 = engine size
- i = fuel injection engine
BMW found that customers love the idea of a sexy coupe but the reality is, many need four doors. And many need all wheel drive. And many love a crossover with higher ground clearance. So BMW took the 4 series coupe, added rear doors, AWD and some height and the X4 was born. Further upping the game, they added the Motorsport designation and larger engine, resulting in a crossover with sexy bones, capability in all situations and plenty of power.
Speaking of power: She has it, but she could use more
I’m not a horsepower hag. As long as a car has the confidence to get up to speed on the highway without getting rear ended, pass a speeding tractor-trailer and and not feel like it might choke when it’s fully packed with my family and our luggage, I’m happy.
And while the X4 M40i is certainly capable, I felt it could use a little more power. The 355 horsepower twin turbo 6-cylinder engine was fine for a car this size. But it didn’t have the WOW I expect from the M series. When driving in comfort or eco mode, the engine seemed to need a little more time to get up to speed, and when I took my foot off the gas I could distinctly feel the power dial down.
Consider this: The X4 M40i is 705 pounds heavier than the M4 Coupe it’s inspired by, yet has 89 fewer horsepower. With the added weight and size of the car, I’d expect at least equal power (though more than 444 HP is just asking for trouble).
Thankfully, there’s sport mode
And it didn’t disappoint. Pop the X4 M40i into sport mode and it becomes a different beast. Meaner, sportier, louder, more responsive. And oh, yes, faster. The X4 M40i hugged curves and hills with agility, and merging onto the highway was more fun. Sport mode was so nice that I’d probably never drive it in any other mode (except when limping to the gas station to fill up) and on the right road, paddle shifters add to the fun.
One last caveat: The gear selector:
This one takes getting used to. BMW has redesigned its gear selectors so that the ‘shifter’ stays in one neutral place. You push it forward to select reverse, pull it back toward you to select drive, and push a button for park. After you’ve selected your gear, the shifter pops back into its central position. You have to look carefully at the gear you’re in and the gear you want to select. Shifting gears out of habit could result in a dangerous situation such as putting the car in reverse rather than park, or leaving it in neutral rather than park.
Enough with the horsepower. How about the interior???
Did I mention I think you should buy luxury? And BMW doesn’t miss here. The X4’s interior was finely outfitted in leather (the model I drove was a luscious Oyster Nevada leather—a cool, creamy white), which fills your senses with a rich fragrance and pampers with a supple feel against your skin. This is life as it’s meant to be lived. Wooden accents on the center console and the dashboard and nicely arranged technology and storage.
Storage in the X4 M40i was clever and adequate; a small cubby under the center console was great for a key or other small items and an roll-top cover keeps things neat.
There is a small space inside the center arm rest, but most of that space is dedicated to phone charging, where the car’s only USB port and a 12V cigarette adapter power port are tucked under a wireless charging pad. I found this inconvenient because my iPhone 6+ is not wireless capable (and didn’t fit in the holder), so I had to get past the charge pad each time I plugged in my phone (I hope iPhone will address this soon; cords are ugly, cumbersome and they break).
But those seats. THOSE SEATS.
At first glance the leather seats are lovely. And sitting in them, they are sublimely comfortable. But then, playing with control buttons on the side of the seat I discovered bolster inflators that provided a particular bit of fun. Push a button (upper right in the photo) and the side bolsters inflate to hug your rib cage; press another button and they deflate. These are ideally for when you’re putting the M performance and sport mode to the test; you (and your front seat passenger) are hugged into the seat so you’re one with the car, not flailing around as the X4 M40i slices through curves and hills.
The rear seats were surprisingly comfortable too. The package on the car we test drove included heated rear seats and one 12 V cigarette lighter power adapter but not USB ports (another thing I’d change; if you need four doors you need four USB ports). The X4 is sedan-sized and the rear seat isn’t hugely roomy, but it was fine; I could cross my legs.
I also found the head room to be fine for me (I’m 5’8”) despite the slope of the roof line, but taller passengers would be more comfortable in the front seat.
It’s a tight fit for a child’s car seat, but doable
Our car seat fit neatly in the back seat, though getting it in was a little tight since the rear doors don’t open a full 90 degrees. Once in, though, it nestled nicely into the seat with plenty of room for a diaper bag on the floor and another passenger in the rear (but probably not two passengers + a car seat). And, the proximity to the front seat made it easy to reach back and pop a binky into a wailing mouth.
BMW likes to customize its technology, so be prepared for a learning curve
The technology in the BMW took some getting use to. Here’s what I learned during my test drive:
- BMW’s iDrive infotainment and systems control uses a roatary dial, not a touch screen. BMW innovated the first of these systems and has continued to innovate; it’s easy to use and the wide screen makes the display easy to see
- The iDrive dial is also a touch-sensitive pad that allows you to ‘draw’ what you want to see; spell out a radio station or set navigation and the system finds it for you. This was fun and novel but not really functional while driving
- You can customize your drive and entertainment settings for each key. So if you’re using Scotty’s key, the seat is set high, head up display is on and the radio is set to Alt Nation.
- Steering wheel controls are easy to access but contrary to most other brands, radio controls are on the right side and navigation controls are on the left
- The infotainment screen, when displaying the radio, shows the song or entertainment that is currently on (so, song name or news program; it also notes if a commercial is playing) which makes scrolling through stations looking for something to listen to very, very easy. I loved this feature
- Head up display enhances the M drive experience–no need to take your eyes off the road to know your speed or other information, which is projected onto the windshiled; this makes any luxury car experience complete
And the important stuff: Where I put my stuff, including my handbag
I really liked the rear cargo space. Despite being a smallish 17 cubic feet of space behind the second row, it felt ample. A set of golf clubs fit nicely, and even backpacks, a stroller, a tote bag, groceries and more. There’s also a storage spot under the rear floor for small items. The 40/40/20 folding seats add versatility and with all three folded, there’s 45 cubic feet of space.
I put my handbag on the passenger seat most of the time, but when I had my kids with me, it went on the rear seat or floor, either on the wide, flat hump behind the center arm rest or in the passenger’s seat footwell. In any of these spots it was easy to reach without wrenching my back.
A car that adds up on paper and in person
When I first saw the X4 it seemed to me that BMW was simply dumping all its top features into one car and I expected an amalgam of design that could in the end, be overdone and underwhelming. But ultimately, it all works nicely together: the hatchback adds air and light to the cabin; the flexible seating and cargo space add capability; the higher stance and AWD of the crossover add muscle and comfort; the sport mode adds fun. Even with the things I’d change, this is a car I could hold on to for a long time, the true point of buying luxury.
What we loved
- The look and feel of a sedan with the capability of a crossover
- Flexible cargo space, including ample space behind the second row
- Head up display
- Run flat tires are standard
- Oyster Nevada leather
- 40/20/40 split seats
- iDrive infotainment system
- Multiple drive modes: sport + (turns off traction control), sport, comfort and eco
- Foot activated lift gate option
What you need to know
- Premium fuel recommended
- 19 MPG city/26 MPG highway; we averaged about 20 MPG
- Has auto stop/start to assist fuel economy
- No spare tire (it’s equipped with run flat tires instead)
- A child car seat fits, but is tight
- The sloped roof of the hatchback creates blind spots (I don’t recommend buying this without blind spot monitors)
- Compare the X4 M40i to the X4 xDrive 28i, which has a smaller 4 cylinder turbo engine and starts at $45,550
What we listened to on the BMW’s Harman/Kardon premium sound system
The cabin of the BME X4 M40i and its premium Harman/Kardon sound system call for a great soundtrack. And the power of this car’s sport mode demand it. Let your soul soar and carry the experience around in your head as you walk through your day.