X3 Joins the M Club: 2018 BMW X3 M40i [Review]

2018 BMW X3 M40i
[Photo: BMW]
The first BMW X3 appeared in 2003, spearheading the brand’s “Sports Activity Vehicle” (SAV) segment. The new 2018 model X3 displays a bold design with dynamic elements that eschew performance blended with luxury. This X3 M40i is the first M Performance model in the X3 stable, delivering a best-in-segment 0-60 acceleration figure of 4.6 seconds and a top track speed of 130 mph. BMW builds the X3 alongside the X4, X5 and X6 models in BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, the Group’s largest global production facility.

WHAT’S NEW

New for 2018, the X3 boasts a carefully-developed chassis, featuring a significant reduction in unsprung mass. There are also more sophisticated kinematics and near-perfect weight distribution. As a result, BMW enhanced the X3’s sporting capability, along with improving passenger comfort. BMW improved the aerodynamics as well, using BMWs Active Kidney Grille, underbody cladding, and a new roof spoiler.

Visually, this new third generation X3’s exterior design evolves the bold and dynamic styling of its predecessor. The exterior dimensions are largely unchanged. However, BMW did stretch the wheelbase by 2.2 inches. The long hood accommodates the X3 M40i’s inline-6 engine, and the front overhang is extremely short. The X3’s proportions are nicely balanced, emphasizing an squared stance on the road and it’s 50/50 weight distribution.

The front fascia features a muscular “three-dimensional” kidney grille and fog lights that form a hexagonal design. Moving aft, the tail light housings present a similar three-dimensional look. Particularly with the X3’s optional Adaptive LED Headlights, they make a considerable impact. The downward-sloping roof spoiler and twin-exhaust tailpipes not only add to the X3 M40i’s muscular appearance, but to its authoritative exhaust note as well.

The interior gives the driver and front passenger standard sport seats that feature power adjustable side bolsters, along with an Anthracite headliner. An optional Luxury Package, is available for the first time in the X3 model range, showcase an elegant character.

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

Inside the cabin is a full-color Head-Up Display and a 10.25-inch touchscreen with BMW’s Gesture Control technology. Comfort and safety features have been improved with an Active Protection pre-collision detection system, standard sport seats, automatic three-zone climate control, and reclining rear seats.

Rear compartment comfort in the X3 M4oi is enhanced by the angle of the standard 40:20:40 split/folding rear seats. The backrests can be released remotely from the load compartment, expanding the standard load capacity from 28.7 cubic feet to 62.7 cubic feet. Newly available convenient functions include front ventilated seats. The interior benefits from a roomier feel with a panoramic glass moonroof that’s 9.8 inches longer than in the previous model.

The options list includes a WiFi hotspot offering a high-speed internet connection (LTE) for up to ten mobile devices. Apple CarPlay is also available and can be used wirelessly.

The Driving Assistance Package expands safety features considerably. It includes Active Blind Spot Protection, Lane Departure Warning, Daytime Pedestrian Protection, Frontal Collision Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Going one step further, the Driving Assistant “Plus” Package offers more convenience. You get Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Keep Assist with Side Collision Avoidance, Traffic Jam Assistant, and front Cross Traffic Alert.

2018 BMW X3 M40i
[Photo: BMW]

PERFORMANCE

Motive force comes from a longitudinally-mounted front 3.0-liter, twin-turbo M Performance inline-6 engine. That engine gives the X3 M40i 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. That poweri s routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system. With launch control enabled, the X3 M40i scoots from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

Driving the new 2018 BMW X3 M40i is a much more exhilarating and pleasurable experience than piloting that first generation X3. That model was extremely firm and somewhat of a boneshaker. This latest X3 still delivers a firm ride, but with a more comfortable compliance and stability. Body roll is minimal and braking is positive when diving into corners. The optional 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero tires stick like glue to the road. The X3 M40i may be equipped with available Adaptive M Sport suspension that covers an even wider spread of ride comfort featuring the sportiest suspension setup available in a premium compact SUV.

2018 BMW X3 M40i
[Photo: BMW]

Acceleration and all-wheel drive grip

The acceleration is incredible. You get instantaneous response when nailing the throttle, and the exhaust brapping when lifting off the throttle is almost as enjoyable as accelerating. That’s especially true when dialing the Sport Plus mode, which elevates the thrill factor with more aggressive drivetrain settings. Gear changes come quickly, whether you’re in fully automatic mode or shifting yourself using the paddle shifters.

The xDrive all-wheel-drive system now features a more pronounced rear bias than on the other model versions. BMW has reconfigured the Performance Control feature integrated into the DSC to make the X3 M40i more agile. A new Driving Dynamics Control toggle switch offers an Adaptive Mode when the vehicle is equipped with Dynamic Damper Control. At your whim, you can set the car in Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes.

The power-assisted braking system features blue-painted aluminum four-piston fixed calipers up front. There are amply proportioned brake discs providing high levels of thermal resistance and excellent stopping power. An impressive array of electronic control systems keep the performance controllable and maximize safety. In addition to the usual anti-lock brakes and stability control, you get an Automatic Differential Brake, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Launch Control, and Hill Descent Control.

TFLCAR’S TAKE

My test 2018 BMW X3 M40i sported a Phytonic Blue Metallic exterior and a Cognac Vernesca interior with charcoal accents. BMW sets the base price for the X3 M40i at $54,300. However, this one had several extras. Those included the metallic paint and leather seats, the Driving Assistance Package, and a Premium Package. There’s also the Executive Package, Adaptive M Suspension, 20-inch performance tires, Apple CarPlay, and Wireless Charging. After everything’s set and done, the price of this particular M40i rose to $65,045.

Bottom line, the BMW X3 M40i is not only a performance machine, but it’s practical as well. It delivers versatility and functionality with up to 62.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 40/20/40 split second row seats. A 4,400 pound towing capability with an optional trailer hitch ups the practicality quotient. The base model 2.0-liter powered X3 is likely to be more popular in terms of sales than the M40i. BMW will bring a diesel engine to the X3 later in the model year as well. However, for the highest level of driving enjoyment, the BMW X3 M40i delivers exceptional performance and is definitely the way to go for driving enthusiasts.

Check back to TFLcar.com for more news, views, and performance SAV reviews! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for the latest videos on your favorite new models.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 BMW X3 M40i

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $54,300
Price as Tested: $65,045
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6
Drivetrain (Layout): Longitudinally mounted front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5,500 – 6,500 RPM
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,520 – 4,800 RPM
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/ paddle shifters
0-60 Acceleration: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 130 MPH (limited)
Suspension: Front:  Aluminum double-joint spring strut axle

Rear: Five-link w/ lightweight steel axle

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel vented discs
Tires: Front: Pirelli P-Zero P245/45 R20 103W

Rear: Pirelli P-Zero P275/40 R20 106W

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined MPG
Drag Coefficient: 0.33

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 112.8 inches
Length:  186.1 inches
Width: 74.7 inches
Height:  66.0 inches
Turning Circle: 39.7 feet
Curb Weight: 4,277 pounds
Arv Voss
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring journalist and member and past officer of several noted automotive journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.