The BMW X4 M40i gets a walloping new engine

The newest engine on tap for the Bavarian automakers is a 3-liter six-cylinder, packing a powerful punch, indeed.

Emme Hall
Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars

I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.

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BMW recently invited me to Monterey, California, to drive its newest offering, the 2016 X4 M40i. The company touts it as a member of the Sports Activity Coupe segment. OK, I thought, this could be interesting. Sports lets me know it's performance oriented, Activity tells me I've got room for cargo, and Coupe means it's got two doors, right?

Wrong. It seems that, for BMW, "coupe" just refers to the rear sloped roof line. This baby still has four doors and room for five.

2016 BMW X4 M40i

Four doors and a sloping roof line. BMW calls that a coupe.

Emme Hall/CNET

And since we're on vague misnomers, It can be difficult to discern what the M40 stands for. The M indicates M Performance specifications. Not quite a full BMW M car, but still chock-full of performance goodies. But what of the 40? It's certainly not a 4-liter engine, and it's got six cylinders instead of four.

Actually, it's pretty simple. This new X4 has a new, more powerful engine than the 35i, and thus gets a bigger number.

BMW xDrive is a rear-biased all-wheel drive system. Under normal driving conditions the X4 M40i performs like a rear-wheel drive crossover, er, sport activity coupe. Under aggressive driving conditions or inclement weather, xDrive helps keep you securely stuck to the pavement. And with a powerful engine under the hood, you may find your right foot getting the better of your brain.

This little piggy went to the market...fast

The new 3-liter, six-cylinder engine is good for 355 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The twin-scroll turbo is very quick to spool up and there is nary an ounce of turbo lag. Peak torque occurs at a very low 1,350rpm, which means powering out of corners is quick and easy.

The new engine benefits from more turbo boost pressure and more fuel going into the cylinders. More air plus more fuel means a bigger bang, increasing the performance of this new model nearly 18 percent over the X4 xDrive35i. Even the torque takes a huge jump, increasing to 14 percent over the previous model. And to help keep it all working at optimum temperature, the X4 M40i has a separate oil cooler.


Slow down in the twisties or physics might just get the better of you.


But just because the X4 M40i is equipped with this impressive new power plant, don't go thinking it's all puppy dogs and rainbows. You'll still have to slow down quite a bit in the twisties. This baby is a bit of a beast. Yes the springs are stiff and thick stabilizer bars in the front and rear help mitigate body roll, but at a portly 4,235 pounds, the X4 has a lot of weight to rotate.

The automatic transmission can be operated from the paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. Gears are maintained until you, the driver, decide to shift, a refreshing change from many "manumatics" that insist on changing gears for you.

All this adds up to a vehicle that is most excellent around fast, sweeping corners, but you may find yourself driving past its limits in tighter sections. Our planned route took us on some back country roads that required careful monitoring of speed, lest I find myself running out of talent on a tighter turn.

Still, there are plenty of thrills to be had, even in a straight line. Top speed is an electronically limited 150 mph, and while I didn't get to try the standard launch control, BMW says it can motivate the X4 M40i from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Think about that. Over 2 tons of glass, aluminum and steel from nothing to something in less than five seconds. Kudos, BMW. Kudos, indeed.

2016 BMW X4 M40i defies classification

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The 2016 BMW X4 M40i is available now. It starts at $57,800 not including a $995 charge for delivery, but with the many packages available, expect to pay upward of $65,000 for a fully tricked-out model.

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