Aging Gracefully: Reviewing the 2016 BMW X4 M40i
At nearly five years old, how has it held up and how does it compare to the new X4?
Like it or not, the "coupe" SUV has been a trend on the rise in crossover automotive design. Big automakers like Volkswagen, Porsche and even Lamborghini have been getting in on this new design that takes a normal two row SUV and give it a fastback roof, like a coupe, hence the name. BMW joined the coupe party and has launched its fair share of coupe SUV including the X6 and the X4. I have never been on board with this new trend because I just haven't found one that I find eye-pleasing. My opinion changed recently when my father's college/post-college roommate, fraternity brother and basketball teammate stopped by for a visit and gave me the oppurtunity to review his 2016 BMW X4 M40i.
I had met my Dad's friend Steve when I was a lot younger but hadn't seen him for a long time. He was on a road trip from Seattle to visit his family and made plans to make a stop by and see us at the beach to catch up with my Father. I was in my room learning remotely when he arrived and they left for a walk on the beach and lunch near the ocean. I assume I came up in the conversation because I received a text from my father while I was still waking informing me of Steve's arrival, that his X4 M was outside, and asking me if I wanted review it. Just like with my past reviews of full-size, real cars, I found the scary part was the owner (Steve) was actually on board with the review idea as long as I didn't crash it! I didn't have a great impression of the X4 at that moment but I immediately took him up on the offer because there aren't a lot of adults with nice cars who let 13-year-olds get behind the wheel and drive them! I'm glad I did the review because after spending time in the X4 M and organizing my thoughts, I realized that my initial judgements were premature and had shifted. Here is why:
When Steve arrived, and didn't know what car I was hearing outside with such an unfamiliar rumble of the exhaust. I took a look outside my window after I realized the car with the rumbling exhaust had parked below. Only one word can describe how I felt when seeing the 2016 X4 M for the first time: repelled. It was another coupe SUV and I I thought it looked similar to an egg. While I warmed up to it a bit after seeing the M badge and realizing the SUV has M Series power, I just wasn't sold on the coupe SUV. Later, when I took my first up close look at it, I found the general quality of the car to be on par with the BMW brand. The interior was camel-colored leather, there weren't any fake vents added for "sportiness," and plastic was nearly nonexistent. And, hey, it had nice kick to it when you put your foot down on the throttle.
Oh boy. The exterior styling. You were waiting for this moment, were you? This is supposed to be the part where I bash coupe's sloping roofline telling you how silly it looks, right? Well if so, you're here for the wrong reason because I began to fall in love with the front of the X4 M exterior and found that it outweighed the less than perfect coupe side profile. Starting at the nose of the car, you'll notice no fake vents, at all, showing you that the M designation is real, and that Steve wasn't one of those posers who buy an M badge on eBay and stick it onto a lesser vehicle. His X4 M40i featured aggressively styled LED headlights amplifying its vicious looking front end. On the topic of aggressive looks, the M's flared fenders played a key role in my growing admiration for this car; I think it completes the look.
Switching lanes to the rear, BMW did a very good job overall on the backend. The rear spoiler didn't protrude too far out from the car and BMW's sportier, M inspired rear facia adds to the distinguished looks. Room for improvement, on the other hand, starts with the taillights that were placed too high in my opinion the rest of the rear. I found them to be overly round compared to the headlights. Regarding the front and rear, that is the only thing I would change.
As for the general coupe design and it's side profile, well it's not the prettiest, but its better looking than many other coupe SUVs. I liked how the coupe design complimented many of the front and rear design cues such as the front vents and rear spoiler. I wasn't a big fan of how pronounced the side the sloping roof looked. If BMW toned that down down a bit, the overall exterior appearance would have me sold.
Inside the cabin and overall practicality
The X4 qualifies as BMW's "entry level" coupe SUV with the X6 considered the "high end." However, Steve bulked up his X4 with the M package and just about every other available option. Because of this, the interior was very high quality and full of luxury. Steve and my Dad listen to their music at pretty high volumes so it wasn't surprising that the interior's most notable feature was the Harmon Kardon sound system. It had deep levels of bass and superb audio quality. Other features I was happy to see were a full two tone leather interior with wood trim, the absence of my hated plastic and most of all: physical gauges. I loved that the gauges were non-digital yet still very modern looking. The front row of the X4 is comfortable and would be great for daily driving.
The luxurious feel stayed consistent as I moved to the rear of the X4 M. There was no plastic whatsoever besides the cupholders in the fold down leather center seat console, and the seats were soft yet supportive. They didn't adjust, but even if they did it's not like you would have enough room to do so. In other words, the rear isn't one of the most practical I've been in. Leg room is modest for an SUV with a short wheelbase, but headroom is a bit of an issue. I'm barely 5' 9" but my head was still barely below the roof line. Anyone taller than me likely won't be happy when wedged into the rear, unless they're a professional acrobat.
Room in the trunk
There wasn't a surplus of headroom and the same was true for trunk room. Sacrifices were made in the X4 design because the descending coupe roofline cuts into trunk space. While you can fit a standard amount of groceries or a set of golf clubs in the boot, don't bother trying to fit furniture back there because the trunk isn't exactly deep. Small or short objects can fit into the trunk rather well, but larger objects can't as visible below.
Engine and acceleration
Even for it's size, the X4 is a quick and agile little BMW. Powered by a 3.0L turbo I6, the 2016 BMW X4 M40i uses it's 355 horsepower to get to 60 mph in around 4.7 seconds, half a second quicker than a 2016 Porsche Cayenne S. It's quick shifting 8-speed automatic offers a smooth ride. Moving from a standing stop to catch up with the flow of traffic while entering a main road, the X4 felt competent and well suited, partially thanks to its 343 lbs/ft of torque which pushed me back in my seat.
I didn't have an in-focus photo of the straight 6, so here is one courtesy CNET
The driving experience
I put the X4 through its paces on my "personal Nürburgring" at a community college near our house. Putting it simply, I was in disbelief when I hit the gas pedal while in the X4 M driver's seat; it is a beast. Cornering tightly was simple and easy to do. Compared to the Porsche Macan I reviewed recently, there was very little body roll and much more raw power. Coming into a straight, the X4 M kicks down quickly and feels much smaller and lighter than it really is. Even if hardcore enthusiasts believe the steering isn't what BMW was producing 10 years ago, I disagree. For a 4,200 lb SUV, I thought the handing good. Really good, in fact. It exceeded my expectations and I certainly felt the power this bad boy has to offer.
How does it compare to the 2021 X4 M40i?
I haven't driven the new X4 M40i, so I will only be comparing the two on specs. The 2021 X4 M40i has 27 more horsepower and 22 more lbs/ft of torque, not exactly small numbers, though the increase may be impacted by an 88 pounds on the base model. However, the '21 has a larger front grille and less aggressive lines, making it look more watered-down and generic than the 2016. The 2021 X4 M40i, however, has better looking modern tail lights. The new X4 M40i is heavier but more powerful and yet not as good looking so weigh your options.
The 2016 BMW X4 M40i is a fabulous car. Sacrilege to the BMW name or not due to the coupe design, it is a quality car with a solidly performing engine. Yes, the lack of head room and trunk space goes against the what many think an "SUV" should be, but there's enough overall room for daily tasks. Bottom line: The X4 M is a good car, love it or hate it. And hey, used they're a bargain, making this a near perfect all around SUV.
2016 BMW X4 M40i