I finally did it: I'm a dad. The funny thing is, I've always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I'm a father, the '74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car. The latest installment: the 2019 BMW X4 M40i.
The 2019 BMW X4 M40i, By the Numbers
- Base Price (Price as Tested): $61,445 ($69,170)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six, 355 horsepower, 343 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic transmission; all wheel-drive
- EPA Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city; 27 mpg highway
- 0-60 MPH: 4.6 seconds
- Top Speed: 155 mph
- Random dad fact: Fastback rooflines reduce drag, but also cut into rear passenger head room and cargo volume.
The fastback-crossover look isn't for everyone. Where some, such as myself included, may see sleek body lines riding atop ground clearance that provides the capability to handle today's crumbling infrastructure, others may see a hatchback with a high-rider's stance. Either way, there are a few of these on the market aimed at people who like cars, but want or need a crossover.
The BMW X4 is such a vehicle—a slope-roofed version of the more-fuddy-duddy-looking X3 crossover. Along with the likes of the X5-based X6 coupe and the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class coupe, the X4 offers a way to reduce drag compared with a full-roofed crossover, but increase cargo capacity and ease access compared with a sedan. Think of it as doing one thing better than each of those categories...or, if you're the glass-half-empty type, doing one thing not as well.
Like the X3, the X4 has roomy, comfortable front seats surrounded by luxurious materials and modern technology, like the infotainment system that features a crisp display and easy-to-use controls. When you climb behind the wheel of this thing, it feels
like a big BMW car. That's a good thing, because if the marketing people are correct, BMWs are supposed to be all about the driving experience. The X4 doesn't disappoint in that regard, and the front seat passenger can enjoy the ride, too. But the back seat—constricted by the slope of the roof—is a bit cramped. Even passengers of average height complained about the lack of headroom in the outboard positions.
Fortunately, the baby didn't have any complaints. His seat fit just fine, and the LATCH anchors were easy to use. The 18.5-cubic-foot cargo area behind the rear seats isn't huge, but is large enough—and more importantly for my needs, long and rectangular enough—to fit a large stroller lengthwise with plenty of space left over for the diaper bag, groceries, and other odds and ends accumulated during a day spent pretending to lead a luxurious BMW-worthy lifestyle. (I.e. spending money on crap we didn't need.) With the rear seats folded down, cargo volume jumps to 50.5 cubes—perfect for those mid-week supply runs to Costco and Home Depot.
For a car with 355 horsepower and a sporty setting that gives it a raspy, backfiring exhaust scream best suited for an airport runway, the X4 gets decent fuel economy—a 23-mpg average, if you can manage to stay out of the throttle. There are three drive modes, which are selected with a set of easy-to-find buttons next to the shifter: Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport. The latter mode sends more power to the rear wheels, as well as stiffening up the suspension and steering and adding an aggressive tone to the exhaust.
Although I enjoyed driving the X4 in Sport, its eager nature made the car buck more than a little. (Even soft throttle inputs had me worried that the baby's last bottle would end up all over the back seat.) This mode was made for flogging. Fortunately, Comfort mode lived up to its name...although smoother driving characteristics didn't mean the car wasn't capable of lightning-fast acceleration under heavy throttle.
After all, the X4 M40i is a BMW, with excellent handling, strong acceleration, and fast steering pitching in to create the manufacturer's vision of the ultimate driving experience. The twin-turbo setup brings on full torque low, at 1,520 rpm, and keeps it cranking all the way to 4,800 rpm—which was as handy for around-town driving as it was for hard pulls on the open road.
All trim levels of the X4 come with a long list of standard safety features, including forward collision warning, emergency automatic braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The 360-degree-view camera that comes on when the backup camera is engaged should be required equipment for anyone with children running around in the yard.
Like most BMWs, the M40i's base price looks almost reasonable. But once you pack in all the tech and luxury features you want (and that most vehicles on the dealership lot are likely to have), the numbers ramp up quickly. It's easy for this one to swing north of $70,000, and for that kind of money, you can almost get into a much more powerful—and slightly larger—Mercedes-AMG GLC63 Coupe.
Even though I personally found the X4 charming, its sloping roofline posed something of an inconvenience for everyone beside the front seat passengers. The BMW X3 M40i, after all, is just as fast and has room for back seat passengers to ride in comfort; it also seems like a sure-thing safety-wise, being an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+. (The X4 hasn't been rated by IIHS or the feds.) For the family man, so few things are certain. It's nice to have at least one thing in life that makes perfect sense. That's why I'd most likely choose the boxier of these two platform-mates and spring for the X3 M40i.
But that's probably why BMW sells so many more X3s than X4s. For all their spending on performance and luxury, deep down, most people are pragmatists.
Two cents from Ben's spouse: "I love this car. I feel so bougie. In addition to it feeling really good and driving really well, I like the way the infotainment system works with my phone. It's not so distracting."