2016 BMW X4 M40i first drive

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BMW’s current model lineup is a quagmire. Sure, to the brand’s enthusiasts it’s a nice, ordered progression of models and choices; but to others it’s a muddle of models, body styles, trim versions, and powertrain variants that can seem difficult to parse.

The 2016 BMW X4 M40i is a new variant in the German automaker’s ever-expanding lineup of crossover models, but it’s one member of the lineup that wears its mission on its sleeve. Simply put, it’s the go-fast version of the X4—one that includes a list of M Performance components, upgrades, and influence.

It isn’t a true M car, but at face value it’s one of the boldest, clearest declarations of purpose in BMW’s lineup. And it’s just a little bit delightfully irrational. So you can put away the secret decoder ring or those Myers-Briggs results; just go with your gut.

Back to cool, rational terms for the moment, the X4 is a particularly rakish, sporty (coupe-like, German automakers continue to say) version of the X3. And as a niche model, the X4 is one of a handful of different models BMW makes that are all about the same length and width on the outside and offer hatches and versatile, reconfigurable interiors. That includes the X3, the 3-Series Sports Wagon, the 3-Series GT, and the X4, and all of the variants of each.

On the outside, that means 20-inch light-alloy double-spoke wheels, available Michelin Super Sport performance tires, some special gray-metallic accents, black chrome tailpipes, and a sport exhaust system with a valve that allows sportier sounds with wide throttle openings; and inside it gets a series of upgrades including sport seats and an M gearshift lever.

Higher output + sportier calibration: apply to all

What probably most matters is that the 2016 BMW X4 M40i comes with a higher-output version of the automaker’s 3.0-liter turbocharged six—making 355 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque. That snips the 0-60 mph time down to 4.7 seconds, and the additional go-juice is matched with a sport suspension (stronger springs and stabilizers, a special M adaptive suspension, and more camber in front), plus a performance calibration for the steering.

Although the engine makes its peak power between 5,800 and 6,000 rpm, this isn’t one that you need to rev. It makes its peak torque at just 1,350 rpm (up to 5,250 rpm), and the transmission will let you lock in higher gears so as to not upset the vehicle’s balance when quickly taking on tight uphill esses.

The engine’s strong output is put securely to the pavement (or to far less secure surfaces) through a capable all-wheel drive system that incorporates Performance Control electronics for quicker management of torque flow from laterally as well as longitudinally.

It is, without question, quick in acceleration and quick-responding when you need a burst of passing power or want to exit a corner with performance-car exuberance.

More communicative…but not nimble

You might not even notice in powertrain terms that this crossover “coupe” weighs 4,235 pounds—rather portly for what it is. There’s no way around it; you will notice that weight in corners, or when stepping hard on the capable brakes—where there’s a bit more body roll and nosedive than is typical for a performance model.

BMW says that the increased suspension camber in front helps improve steering response and feedback. While we mostly agree with that, it also made the steering feel unnescessarily busy at times on jittery road surfaces—especially so in Sport mode.

In all, it’s a package that’s capable enough to take on a curvy road, but certainly not downright fun. There’s something about it that feels a bit at odds about itself.

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