Test Drive: 2018 BMW X3 xDrive M40i
Let's cut to the chase — the 2018 BMW X3 M40i is a sports car disguised as a compact crossover.
BMW's completely redesigned crossover has all the advantages of a crossover, including a higher ride out for better visibility, increased cargo space, and available (in this case, standard) all-wheel-drive.
But the new version of the X3 M40i is incredibly fast and handles like, well, a sports car. It is made to be driven aggressively and corners with confidence.
BMW insists on calling its crossovers Sport Activity Vehicles (SAV) instead of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV). Just to be even more confusing, the X3 comes in two versions — the 30i, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, and the M40i, which is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six.
The inline six model, the subject of this week's test, is the one to buy. The current version of this legendary engine pumps out an awesome 335 horsepower and 369 foot pounds of torque, producing jack rabbit starts and impressive freeway passing speeds with the standard eight-speed transmission. The results are even more impressive in the Sport mode, although no slouch in the Comfort mode. There's also an Eco mode intended to increase mileage, although no one will ever use it.
Since the 40i is an M-series, it also includes suspension and brake upgrades that contribute to its performance. Added to the engine, they help produce a performance compact crossover SUV that equals if not exceeds anything on the market from competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
The exterior lines of X3 reflect the company's current corporate styling, which is rounded and includes buldging fenders and large air dams that create an aggressive but not over-the-top look. For a compact, it has a lot of presence.
The interior is more restained, with the form-follows-function design touches that have long characterized German autos. All interior materials were high quality and caerfully fitted, which is what BMW owners have come to expect. And the M version is dressed up with stainless steel trim instead of wood.
The M40i starts at $54,300, which would be high for any compact crossover that's didn't meet its performance standards. It also included virtually ever availlable automotive safety features. Our tester also came with a Premium Package and Executive Package that pushed the price to $65,045, but added such desireable features as a navigation system, a digital instrument cluster, and rear and surround view cameras. Once again, that might seem high, but not when you consider the sports car-level speed, handling and braking in addition to the high level of luxury and sophistication.
Not so long ago, the idea of a luxury performance compact crossover SUV sounded silly. Why would anyone pay a premium for a small vehicle when large ones that hit all the other marks were already available? But BMW and other manufacturers have shown they can be worth the money is recent years — and the completely redesigned X3 M40i may well be the best proof yet.
2018 BMW X3 M401
Base price: $54,300
Price as tested: $65,045
Type: Compact crossover
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6 cylinder (335 hp, 369 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Sport, Comfort and Eco modes
EPA estimated mileage: 20/27
Overall length: 186.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,300 pounds (est)
Final assembly: Spartanburg, South Carolina