Love it or hate it, this coupe-bodied SUV is big on style and speed, blogs Road Test Editor Howard Walker.
Sport-utes are supposed to be squarish and boxy, right? All the better for cramming squarish boxes in to. But to a certain sliver of the car buying population, square and boxy has about as much sex appeal as a U-Haul moving truck. These folks want their SUVs to look more like sports coupes, because coupes are sexy, right? To heck with practicality!
The good damen und herren at BMW heard their pleas. Which is why a couple of years back, they took the perfectly practical X3 compact SUV, and chain-sawed a chunk off the rear roof to transform it into a SUC, or Sport Utility Coupe. They called it the X4.
Didn’t matter that it looked funkier than Lady Gaga in a raw meat dress – remember that? – it was sportier. And different. And more of a head-turner.
But sleeker styling only goes so far. Because this was a BMW, it needed to have at least one version that was super-fast. Which is why I’m piloting the latest, super-sporty ‘17 BMW X4 M40i. This is the X4 on steroids. Under the hood is a turbine-smooth 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight six, loosely based on the powerhouse that propels the mighty BMW M2 pocket-rocket.
Here it cranks out 355 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a rapid-shifting 8-speed auto and rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive, the M40i can scoot from standstill to 60mph in just 4.7 seconds.
While this isn’t a full-blown, track-focused M model – think of it as M-Lite – the M40i is undoubtedly the most potent, and way-too-much-fun-to-drive compact sports SUV next to Porsche’s Macan S. And it has all the right M performance gear, like beefier front brakes, firmer springs, stiffer anti-roll bars and re-tuned adaptive dampers.
It also looks the part of the road-going athlete with its cool M body addenda. Up front there’s a chiseled, air-gulping front bumper, racy side skirts along the sides, while out-back there’s a sporty rear-diffuser together with a couple of canon-sized exhausts. And lots of M badges. Check the box for the optional 20-inch M alloys shod with super-sticky Michelin Pilot rubberware, and you’re ready to roar.
And roar it does. Prod the Start button and you get this lovely, deep-throaty burble that gets throatier and burblier as the revs rise. For added cacophony, select Sport mode and the exhaust note growls and snarls like an angry James Earl Jones!
All that suspension firming and tightening does an amazing job of keeping this 4,200-pound sports-car-on-stilts from rolling around on corners. In fact its quite staggering how little body roll there is, even through snaky S-curves.
The trade-off, however, is a ride that’s pretty bone-jarring over anything but pool-table-smooth blacktop. Hit a pothole, especially in the adaptive suspension’s Sport mode setting, and you’ll wince at the thunk.
But driven fast across a snaking country road and the M40i is a joyful bundle of high-energy, enhanced by electric-assist steering that’s nicely weighted and as surgically precise as Dr. McDreamy’s scalpel. The cabin is equally racy, courtesy of nicely-bolstered sports seats with extendable under-thigh support, and a lovely, salami-thick leather M sports wheel with tactile paddle shifters.
Of course, that ski-slope roof line throws-away most of the practicality of a traditional SUV. In the X4, you lose 10 cubic feet of load space with the rear seats in place compared to an X3. And taller rear-seat riders will want to duck when climbing aboard. But that’s the price you pay for style.
Talking of price, a new X4 M40i will set you back $59,095, though by the time you’ve added the Technology Package to get a Nav system, the 20-inch wheels, and the full LED lighting, you’ll be closer to $65,000.
As for dropping jaws while dropping your kids off at soccer practice? Guaranteed!
For more information about the latest luxury-performance vehicles from BMW, please visit https://www.bmwusa.com/