The sound of the built-in throttle blip as the BMW X3 M40i drops down through its eight gears on the overrun comes as an auditory symphony of succulent sound to a dedicated petrolhead and yet, for those who are not and merely drive cars to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’, there is gentle reassurance in that sound all is well upfront.
The BMW X3 is a South African success story – not because it is the weapon of choice for the outriders in the many ‘blue-light’ convoys ferrying politicians around but, because it is built right here in Rosslyn in a modern factory using as much renewable energy electricity as it can muster and exporting the finished product to all corners of the globe.
In its more basic forms, the X3 is a hugely practical vehicle covering the daily commute as well as being ideally sized and suited to most leisure activities, long trips, and the ‘Mom’s Taxi’ requirements.
The M40i is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Placid, calm, gentle and fitting in with the crowd one minute, but at the press of a button does a 180-Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation into a snarling beast ready to bite back if not handled correctly.
That’s because there is 265 kW of power under your right foot, developed from the 2998cc straight-six engine. 500 Nm of torque is available from 1 900 r/min and this propels the 1 985-kilogram SUV to 100 km/h in a shade over five seconds.
For the more technical, this translates to a power-to-weight ratio of 6,8 kg/kW or 88,4 kW per litre.
In angry mode (Sport +) on the private road I use, the tarmac ran out long before the X3 ran out of breath and, while top speed is capped at 250 km/h, it still begs the question why anyone would want to go that fast in a vehicle so ideally suited to soak up kilometres on the highways and byways of the country at a speed where it is still possible to appreciate the passing scenery.
Except, there is that little monster that sits on your shoulder and whispers “faster, go faster”.
And that, of course, does little for the fuel consumption figures. However, ignoring the little monster returns urban fuel consumption of 11,2 l/100 km dropping to around 7,0 l/100 km on the highway, to give an average of 9,1 l100 km.
The BMW X3 M40i has an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, including paddle shifts and Launch Control, as standard and puts the power to ground via the xDrive all-wheel drive with rear-wheel orientation.
The current M40i is part of a range-wide refresh for the X3 that happened last year, giving it a redesigned front end and tweaked rear, as well as seeing the introduction of mild hybrid technology with a 48-volt starter generator on the petrol models.
The redesign to the BMW kidney grille saw it grow slightly larger and into a single-piece frame with the headlights flattening out by 10 millimetres. The headlights have adaptive LED technology with a Matrix function, where the adverse weather light replaces the separate fog lights.
At the rear, the black border sharpens the look of the full LED lights.
For the M40i, there is a specific BMW M kidney grille featuring a chrome frame, as well as the typical M double grille bars in high-gloss black and emblazoned M logo.
The BMW X3 M40i is fitted as standard with 20‑inch M light-alloy wheels with 245/45 R20 tyres at the front and 275/40 R20 at the rear.
On the inside, the X3 features the same centre console as the current BMW 4 Series with a touch function screen measuring a diagonal size of 10,25. Improved standard equipment now also includes sports seats as well as automatic climate control with 3-zone control.
Naturally there is a raft of safety options and the X3 now has the Driving Assistant Professional system available as an option for the first time. In addition (also optional) there is active cruise control, junction warning, emergency lane assist and improved steering/lane guidance – these are over and above the lengthy list of active and passive safety systems installed as standard.
These include crash bags for driver and front passenger, side bags for driver and front passenger, head bags for front and rear seats, three-point inertia-reel seatbelts on all seats with belt stopper, belt latch tensioner, belt force limiter at the front seats, crash sensors and tyre defect indicator.
As mentioned, the best place for this vehicle is out on the open road and a luggage capacity that varies between 550 litres and 1 600 litres depending on rear seat configuration means more than ample space for short and long holidays.
It is a high-performance machine tuned to deliver the kind of adrenalin rush every petrolhead needs from time to time – and it will, doing so instantly on-demand and with ruthless efficiency.
That is what makes it special.