With the market craving SUVs of every shape and size these days, luxury automakers have begun to extend their performance brands into their ever-growing SUV lineups. BMW is no different, having recently introduced the X3 M40i, a mild performance variant of the newly redesigned 2018 X3. While not a full-blown M model, the 2018 BMW X3 M40i offers performance beyond that of a standard X3, and on par with that of the Audi SQ5 and Mercedes AMG GLC 43. The Autotrader staff recently spent some time behind the wheel, and here are some of their impressions.
The M Performance Treatment
In addition to a more powerful engine under the hood, the X3 M40i receives a number of exterior enhancements in order to justify its M Performance moniker. More aggressive front and rear bumpers, body-color molding, unique wheels, gunmetal accents and mirror caps, black window trim and dual exhausts all make for a more aggressive, menacing demeanor. Some of our testers would have liked to see more of this M-specific exterior styling translate over to the interior, which still features much of the same materials and design used in the lesser X3.
What was really great about the BMW X3 M40i was that it drove like you’d expect an M vehicle from BMW to drive. It was very satisfying to drive a performance-oriented SUV that delivered above expectation. There was great horsepower at every range from the 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder turbo. It was very sticky when handling corners and handled city roads equally as well. With 355 horsepower, the X3 M40i goes from zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 13.0 seconds. It’s quite spirited and fun to drive, especially in Sport+ mode.
While one of our testers called the interior inviting, comfortable and well-appointed, another criticized the quality of the leather and interior plastics, adding that the rear seat felt flat and low. The test vehicle also allowed for wireless use of Apple CarPlay — a feature welcomed by many. Other available amenities include park distance control, a digital instrument cluster, gesture control for the infotainment system and a 3-D surround view system that allows you to remotely monitor your vehicle’s surroundings. It should be mentioned, however, that these features come at a cost, and adding each one means watching that window sticker go up and up … and up.
One of our testers commented that the X3 seems to have grown in overall size, comparing it to its larger midsize brethren, the X5. Even though the M40i is a performance-minded SUV, it’s still pretty practical, and cargo room is decidedly ample for a vehicle in this class. You can still stuff 29 cu ft. of goodies behind the rear seats, and with those rear seats folded you get an additional 34 cu ft. of storage, sufficient for transporting large items like a mountain bike inside the cabin.
Overall, the 2018 BMW X3 M40i provides a great driving experience that blends performance and utility. But looking at the value proposition of this vehicle is a sobering experience. A common practice of BMW, the X3 M40i’s advertised “base” price reflects a vehicle highly de-contented by modern standards. Adding essential options drives the price up quickly, with BMW charging hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for such modern amenities as Apple CarPlay ($300), a wireless phone charger ($500) and adaptive cruise control ($1,200). Add a few of these options and the sticker quickly swells toward the $65,000 mark — a lofty sum to pay for a compact crossover. We feel that buyers interested in the X3 M40i should also strongly consider a comparably equipped Audi SQ5, which makes a stronger case with regard to overall value.