Road tests

BMW X4 M40i 2016 review

Range-topping X4 SUV gets M division makeover and enough grunt to worry a Macan GTS, but it won't come to the UK

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The M40i is a great addition to the X4 range and is almost as fun to drive as the Porsche Macan GTS. However, UK buyers won’t ever find this out as BMW doesn’t plan on selling it here anytime soon. It’s a real shame as it would give the rest of the X4 range a sporting pedigree its styling suggests. The UK range will continue to be topped by the 3.0-litre diesel X4 M Sport 35d which is far cheaper to run and makes more sense.

With SUV's creeping higher up the sales charts every month, the battle is on for manufacturers to explore every possible sub-niche - and one of the more steadily growing markets is for cars which emphasise the 'Sport' in Sport Utility Vehicle.

Arguably, the top of the tree is Porsche with the Cayenne - one of the first of these cars to put the focus solely on-road, but its Macan is a small SUV that's arguably even more focused on driving thrills. Now, however other manufacturers are creeping in, and going one further, adding coupe looks to the SUV body. 

One of these is BMW with its X4. Poised to steal some of the Macan's thunder, the German company has recently added a performance model to the range in the form of the X4 M40i. It’s not a full-blown M car (otherwise it would wear the X4 M badge just like the larger X5 M) but it’s an official makeover by BMW’s highly talented M division. Think of it as an X4 M 'lite' and you wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

So under the bonnet lies one of BMW’s much-praised 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engines with a handful of oily bits changed by BMW M. These M tweaks include items such as a modified inlet manifold and additional boost pressure for the turbo. As a result, the engine develops a GTS-matching 355bhp and can hurtle to from zero to 62mph in just under five seconds then on to a limited 155mph.

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Putting those figures into context reveals the M40 is a seriously quick car. It’s quicker to 62mph than the current range-topping X4 M Sport 35d diesel by 0.3 seconds, and more amazingly the Macan GTS lags behind the X4 M40i by the same 0.3 seconds, (although the Porsche isn’t limited to 155mph and can top 159mph). Moreover, the M40i is only 0.5 of a second slower than the new M2 Coupe.

To separate the M40i from the M Sport 35d it gets 20-inch M alloy wheels, silver-coloured door mirrors and black exhaust pipes, while the interior gets sports seats and various M-branded goodies. There’s also a sports exhaust system to give a fruity engine note.

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On the road it’s clear this isn’t just a 35d with some fancy M badges. The stiffer suspension does a great job of keeping the high-riding body rigid through twisty sections of road. BMW says the 40i’s four-wheel drive system is rear biased but to be perfectly frank it’s difficult to feel the back axle having more power than the front – the car stays incredibly grippy and planted. The steering is crisp (even if the wheel is overly large in diameter), the eight-speed M-Steptronic auto box is quick at swapping ratios, and the 3.0-litre straight-six turbo is a rev happy delight.

It’s a very impressive car, but sadly this will be our only ever drive of it. BMW says due to petrol-powered SUVs not being tremendously popular in the UK, it won’t be offered here. It’s a real shame but it’s easy to see their point – the 35d returns over 10mpg more and is four road tax bands lower. It would seem the Porsche Macan GTS may be ruling the roost for a little longer.

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