Resistance has become truly futile. Carmakers have seen to it. While a small group of sedan buyers continues to resists, and an even tinier group of station wagon activists refuses to reform, the rest of the car-buying population has succumbed to the ways and the power of the crossover utility vehicle.
The few that remain would only need to spend but 10 minutes at the wheel of this 2018 BMW X3 M40i in order to be completely disarmed, and to give in to this trend that is not likely to go away for a long, long time. If you take a moment to think about it, the invasion is full on. Consider that between BMW and Mercedes: they have at least 14 luxury variations on the concept. How much longer before that numbers grows to 18, to 25?
The segment in which the X3 delves is arguably the hottest of them all. Out of the dozen or so players, the BMW stands very tall with a blend of prestige, performance, styling, much like five other members of the group.
The BMW X3’s been with us for 15 years already and in that time has grown from a shy possibility to a statuesque vehicle that actually looks down upon the previous generation X5. All new for the 2018 model year and released in the wild late last year, the new X3 oozes confidence.
This is especially true with the M40i, my tester for the week. The simple fact that 21-inch wheels are standard on this vehicle demonstrates how serious BMW takes the stakes. The M40i includes the M Sport Package with extra aero, larger front air inlets and deeper bumpers. Slathered in Phytonic Blue, this is a show-stopper.
All BMW dashboards, from the 5 Series down, are very similar. Different sections are neatly segregated with little visual fluff, other than the occasional “M” or “X” logos. Fit and finish, and all materials are classy, be they plastics, wood or leathers. The dash-top-mounted 12-inch is beautiful with crisp displays. It is controlled via the iDrive wheel and is easy to navigate. All of it is typically BMW, and people are ready to pay for this privilege.
Through the generations, the BMW X3 has gotten larger. In fact, living with this vehicle as a daily family hauler quite nearly justifies the asking price of the M40i, if you’re into going fast that is.
The boot is large, capable of swallowing about 800 litres of stuff without forgetting the under-floor storage. The carpeted sides of the trunk limit unwanted scratches from a stroller for example.
The rear bench is wide enough for three abreast or for two with a baby seat, if at least for a short drive. The front seats are comfortable and supportive for both heading to grandma’s in the country, and for leaving the kids and the wife with grandma and tackling your favorite switchback roads.
There’s plenty of storage in both rows. This X3 is designed to please.
$48,000 will get you a base X3 xDrive 30i. If you tack on only a few options, the price quickly rises to near M40i levels. $61,500 is its base price but there’s essentially no such thing. My X3 would be an M40i in Blue with the Premium Package for a total of $68,895.
As tested, the M40i with the optional blue colour and Ultimate package retailed for $74,895. For the price of my selection, you’re into to Porsche Macan S with options territory. For $75k, you’re a grand shy of a Macan GTS… The BMW is quicker and slightly better equipped than the Porsche. This is when the brand’s actual worth to you comes into question.
Right off the top here, I can only blame spending all day in the sun working on the fence in the yard to explain how it is that I forgot two of my favorite compact luxury crossovers: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio and the Porsche Macan. For shame! Both have ridiculously powerful versions that will spank the M40i, much like the Mercedes GLC 63 AMG would… Worse, as I’ve just written, there are equivalent trims where power is concerned too.
Having said all that, on this side of the $80,000 mark, the 2018 BMW X3 M40i is the quickest of the lost. Its TwinPower single scroll turbocharged straight-6 cylinder 3,0-litre engine is marvelous. It produces a serious onslaught of power in the form of 355-horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm along with 369 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,520 to 4,800 rpm. With the brilliant fast acting and reacting 8-speed Steptronic transmission, this X3 will shoot to 100 km/h in only 4.8 seconds. This is also what I mean about designed to please.
The M40i is blisteringly fast. Regardless of the selected drive mode, the sixer ferociously spews power and makes it known thanks to the loud exhaust note. Sport mode is fun but in the BMW’s case, it’s “Adaptive” that gets my vote. This is the easiest set-it and forget-it option.
As an “M”, the M40i also gains an M Sport suspension and brakes. The latter are especially noteworthy as it’s been a long time since I felt such immediate and positive braking power at the very top of the pedal’s travel. These are some seriously good brakes.
The sport tuned suspension displays a perfect balance between comfort and handling. The ride quality is very good in the city although the occasional sharp bump will filter through in part because of the thin and wide tires. Steering is responsive with just enough enhanced feel that I was duped into thinking I could really feel the road. Honestly, with the wide and thin rubbers, there may have been some truth to what was transmitted.
While I do very like the BMW X3 M40i, for roughly $75,000, I’d spec out a Porsche Macan GTS with a few choice options. The BMW would be my second choice.