BMW’s X3 M40i is not for everyone, but rather for a very specific driver. Read on to see if you qualify.
What is it?
The BMW X3 is a two-row crossover with sporty intentions. Even the base X3 has more power and capability than most premium crossovers offer in their top trims. The M40i version moves the dial to 11.
Pricing and trims
There are three basic levels of the 2018 BMW X3 line. The base, 4-cylinder, sDrive30i, rear-wheel drive car with zero options starts at about $42K. The mid-level X3 xDrive30i adds all-wheel drive and starts near $44K. The top-trim, six-cylinder, AWD, X3 M40i starts around $56K.
We tested the X3 M40i with quite a few packages added priced at $65,920 including destination. That included pretty much every feature one might expect at this price point with the exception of the added cost adaptive cruise control (standard on the $24K 2019 Toyota Corolla we tested just prior to this BMW) and cooled seats, which we could not find anywhere on the BMW configurator.
The M40i is all about performance. It packs BMW’s outstanding inline six-cylinder engine with TwinPower turbocharging. Without the turbo, this engine would be head and shoulders above the mainstream competitors the X3 goes head to head with. Add in the boost and this thing is a rocket. With 355 hp, the zero to sixty sprint takes just 4.6 seconds. With 369 lb-ft of torque at a crazy low 1,520 RPMs the X3 M40i feels strong in all situations. Standard AWD puts the power down. Power is just one area in which we feel the X3 M40i compares well with the Jaguar F-Pace line.
BMW wisely chose an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifter for this premium crossover. No DCT goofiness to be found here and shifts are fast and hard to detect. Not only is the Sport Mode easy to use, BMW almost forces the driver to select exactly how they want Sport to behave. Do you prefer a softer damping with your added power? We sure do, and it is possible with this vehicle. The exhaust note is a throaty rasp in normal mode. Add in the Sport Mode engine option and you get a loud growl that becomes almost a bellow. We looked for the button to tone it down. No luck. Be prepared to be loud and proud in the X3 M40i.
Ride and handling
Having spent years in a prior-generation base X3 with what we felt was the ideal chassis and handling for a crossover, we were looking forward to seeing how this vehicle was set up. The premium solidity is there but the M40i is stiffer by far than the X3 we knew and loved. This is a sports “car.” Not a comfortable cruiser. Turn-in is sharp and the X3 M40i is flatter in corners than most crossovers. Over rough roads, the X3 M40i is more firm than many owners will want. Which is fine. BMW didn’t build it for “many drivers.” It built this vehicle for those that want a crossover that gives up little to midsize sports sedans in terms of handling and road feel. We suggest you try it before you commit. If it’s not your thing, try the mid-level trim and don’t opt for the summer-only high-performance rubber on 20″ M Sport wheels.
Our tester had firm and supportive power seats with powerful heaters. It’s still odd to us that a vehicle with rubber rated only for warm weather would not have ventilated seats, but that’s BMW.
Seating in the second row is comfortable and our tester had heated seats for those in back.
The X3 has a wide flat loading floor. There are 28.7 cubic feet of cargo area with the second-row seats deployed, and 62.7 cubic feet with them folded down. By comparison, a Mazda CX-5 has 30.9/59.6 cubic feet.
Infotainment and controls
If you know and love the BMW brand’s infotainment system you will be very happy with the 2018/2019 BMW X3. Gesture controls are here and we love them. The screen is large and easy to use and the dash display is also excellent. The head-up display is functional and provides needed information without having to move one’s head. Our tester had the optional Apple Car Play ($300) compatibility and a wireless charger ($500). Android Auto is not available, unfortunately.
The BMW X3 is a “right-sized” 2-row crossover with a lot of positives. The M40i is built with many added sporty bits that make it a special vehicle in a class of vehicles that are all better than good. Those tempted by the Jaguar F-Pace may want to have a close look and a ride in the X3 M40i. Between the two of them, they represent the best this vehicle type has to offer.