The naysayers declared that off-road SUVs were out of fashion and a dying breed. Oh please. The X3 M40d is a capable off-roader as it is a beast on the circuit. The X3 M might be all about speed, but thanks to what appears to be a turbo’d engine and a dual-clutch gearbox, this 2019 machine can confidently conquer the track and the dirt.
It’s not every day you get to explore the local neighbourhood – in style. It’s the things we take for granted, yet Westerners pay top dollar to experience. We decided to take a drive to the other – and I mean other – side of town. Getting into this beast and looking at all the gadgets and gizmos made me think… “Are you really taking a car that belongs on the track to the bush? – Okay – challenge accepted!”
It was sexy. Insert all the terms and emojis the kids use these days. I got goosebumps as that animal purred – rearing to go. To all the stay at home Moms with a thirst for rabid horsepower without the guilt of “I bought a sports car”, may we present to you the X3 M40d, which BMW has thoughtfully labeled so you can still flaunt your brilliance.
Like I said before, this car is sexy. Visual upgrades are as you’d expect from a modern M car. There are more aggressive bumpers front and rear, blacked-out exterior trim, and a carbon fiber reinforced plastic roof as standard. The sunroof was a lovely touch to this professional beast.
Outside the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Midrand, Johannesburg Photo: Miriro Matema
Inside, drivers get a new “setup” button that controls settings for engine response, dampers, steering, braking, and xDrive systems. The M mode button on the center console allows the driver to shuffle through Road and Sport modes, with an additional Track mode available for competition models.
Plush leather. Innovative infotainment system that works efficiently with the BMW app (get it!!). And of course, the standard tit bits for the tech savvy driver (like the USB device charger, smart key and the funky ways to open the car door).
The Driving Experience
We were blasting through city of Johannesburg, on our two hour journey to Cullinan, outside of Pretoria for an adventurous day of hot air balloons, fishing, game drives and sleeping under the stars. First a gentle groan of the engine as we pushed the accelerator just a little more. Then another, bold enough to come out and stay, growing deeper as exhaust temperatures rose. The performance is just as riveting. The engine spins so well (for a diesel), pulling hard to 4500rpm, on its way to a best 0-100km/h of 4.8sec. It launches hard and reminds you that it’s not like the others in the family. We arrived a lot earlier than we planned as navigation got us exactly where we needed to be.
We challenged the M40d to rough terrain (welcome to Africa!), steep inclines and bush of every kind. At one point I think we scared it a little as we drove through grass as tall as the car was – it kept beeping as loud as it could that there was something in the way. Oh honey – it’s just grass! The car would drive for 2 seconds and come to a complete halt, refusing to budge and damage its smooth exterior!
My favourite feature was perhaps the “Gesture Control” that is unique to this range. I could turn the volume up or down, accept or decline a phone call, change the rear view camera angle or select navigation on the infotainment system.
It’s taken BMW some time to stoke the fire in my heart, even if its cars have always been fast. BMW drivers are probably the most hated in South Africa and I certainly did not want to be one of them. Technically and dynamically, a car that can take on the concrete jungle and the African safari should be admired. And after this experience – who cares what the world thinks. This Sports-Something-Whatever-Vehicle has all the class, power and style of a luxury car we all deserve to drive as we climb up Maslow’s heirarchy of needs.