What is it: The 2018 BMW X3 M40i is a small SUV with muscle car roots. It's the more powerful of the two available small BMW utilities — the X3 30i makes do with just four turbocharged cylinders displacing 2.0 liters and outputting 248 hp. The M40i receives a boosted inline-six and delivers a full 355 hp.
Key Competitors: Audi SQ5, Mercedes GLC 43, Porsche Macan S
Base Price: $55,295 As-Tested Price: $65,045
Full Review: 2018 BMW X3 first drive
Highlights: A BMW with an inline-six just feels right. It being a turbo-six does sully it slightly, but 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque justifying the boost is fine. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. In the M40i, that combination is good for 20 city, 27 highway, 23 combined mpg. Among the options selected on this car were the Executive Package, which adds things like gesture control and parking assistant, and the Premium Package that adds Navigation as well as a heated steering wheel and heated seats, front and back.
Our Opinion: Cold startup sets the mood of the entire drive experience, whether it's a mundane commute to work or a blast through a favorite canyon road. And the X3 M40i wants you to feel awake. After a few quick cranks, the inline-six snaps to life with a 2,000-rpm snarl and keeps the audio energy up as vital components start to warm. The I6 sounds so smooth and sweet, turbocharged or no, it’s just a wonderful engine configuration. Naturally balanced and rich in tone.
The rest of the car is just as aggressive, from the sport setting of the adaptive suspension to the fast-reacting steering. SUVs typically offer good cargo space and room in the cabin, and that’s true here as well. But the similarities stop there and veer way toward sport sedan, exemplified by the Pirelli P Zero summer tires that meet the road, with a staggered setup no less: 245/45R-20s in front, 275/40R-20s in back.
So the M40i would be better than a Mazda MX-5 in the snow, but not much else. Similarly, a smooth, flat dirt road would suit the M40i fine, but let’s not push it much further. This is a tall, 340i M Sport wagon. An entertaining people hauler to wisk from one vineyard to the next. It is not an only car for folks in the Snow Belt, unless they have a winter tire budget.
The cabin carries the same line of thinking as well. The seats offer plenty of low and high bolstering for strong lateral support, as well as good adjustment for lumbar. iDrive has become a favorite of mine for infotainment; it's easy to use and intuitive. As for the shifter, some cars are getting a bit too fancy, but BMW keeps it simple enough for engaging the eight-speed automatic. And, yes, there are paddle shifters.
SUVs and crossovers have successfully taken over the automotive market, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s now a performance subset. And this is a good example of the breed, highly focused on the task of delivering some fun on any kind of drive.
—Robin Warner, managing editor
Options: Premium Package, including heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, navigation system, head-up display, remote services ($2,950); Executive Package parking assistant plus, gesture control, digital instrument cluster, active park distance control, rearview camera, surround view ($2,550); 20-inch M-style wheels ($950); Driving Assistance Package ($900); Adaptive M suspension ($700); Metallic paint ($550); Wireless smartphone charging ($500); front and rear heated seats ($350); Apple CarPlay ($300)
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $55,295
As Tested Price: $65,045
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged I6, AWD eight-speed automatic
Output: 355 @ 5,500-6,500 rpm; 369 lb-ft @ 1,520-4,800 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,277 lb
Fuel Economy: 20/27/23 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Proper snarly I6 growl on start up, plenty of bite to go with the bark
Cons: $65,000 is enough money for a CR-V and a 230i coupe