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We drive the BMW X3 M40i

by Ali Arsham
Thursday, February 14, 2019

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BMW X3 M40i
BMW X3 M40i

The X3 has been a huge hit for BMW and they have sold more than 1.5 million since they launched the model in 2003. The all new X3 came out recently and they have tried to make improvements everywhere. 

One of the new X3 models is the first ever M Performance model in the X3 lineup, the X3 M40i. After driving the new M Performance model, we concluded that X3 is one of our favorites in the segment, at least until the full M version comes out.

BMW is really pushing the M brand and you will see that letter everywhere in their lineup. One thing that you should realize is that not all Ms are the same. On the top, you have the true M cars such as the M3. One step below that are cars such as our X3 M40i, which has been messaged with some M parts but it is not a full blown M car.

The new third generation X3 looks very similar to the previous model.  Most people would not be able to tell the new car apart from the previous one. The exterior dimensions remain largely unchanged but the wheelbase has been extended by 2.2 inches to increase rear passenger room. Weight distribution remains at 50/50 front to rear. New headlights, LED taillights and a roof spoiler try to give the new X3 a more muscular appearance.

The first ever M Performance model in the X3 lineup is the X3 M40i, powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder inline engine. The output of 355 hp propels the X3 from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.6 seconds. The M40i is equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Launch Control. This transmission is a perfect match for the engine’s dynamic characteristics and can be operated using shift paddles on the steering wheel.

In addition, its xDrive all-wheel-drive system has a far more pronounced rear bias than on the other model versions. The engine is typical BMW smooth and has virtually no lag. It is ready to go at an instant, especially when in Sport mode.  It is strong and passing on a two-lane road will only take a few seconds.

The interior of the X3 will be familiar if you have been in any BMW model lately.  The look is very clean yet functional and the materials used are of very good quality.  It certainly fits the look that you expect for a vehicle of this price.

There are also lots of features like gesture control to wow your friends. It allows you to adjust the volume level and move to the previous or next audio track without touching any buttons.

Driver's Compartment
Driver's Compartment

The new car also comes standard with several new, comfort enhancing features not offered on its predecessor. These include 3-zone automatic climate control, which adds separate temperature controls for the rear compartment to those for the driver and front passenger.

To enhance rear compartment comfort, the angle of the standard 40:20:40 split/folding rear seat backrests can also be adjusted individually and through various stages. This feature also allows the backrests to be released remotely from the load compartment, which expands the standard load capacity of 28.7 cubic feet to 62.7 cubic feet. Newly available convenient functions include front ventilated seats for driver and front passenger to maximize comfort on warm days.  

On a twisty road, the X3 has a magical way to make you forget that you are in a 4300 pound 66 inch tall vehicle. The aluminum strut axle suspension in the front and the five link steel suspension in the rear work very well with the 245/50-19 tires to grip the pavement. 

The rear biased all wheel drive system also helps reduce understeer and makes the car feel much livelier.  In the end, you will not lose very much performance over a regular 3 series sedan and you will gain a huge 62.7 cubic foot trunk.

The new X3 is the first BMW in the US to feature a factory-installed trailer hitch. The new 2-inch receiver will allow customers to fully utilize the 4400 pound towing limit of the X3. The $550 option includes both 4 pin and 7 pin connectors for the trailer.

Decent storage
Decent storage

To most people, the X3 is a vehicle to drive to work or the grocery store but BMW wants you to know that the X3 can also work. It can also go off roading, although most owners will likely never go anywhere not paved. The suspension has been designed to excel in slippery conditions and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) allows the power split between all four wheels to be constantly varied for maximum grip in mud, sand or snow.

The X3 is smooth, quiet and comfortable on the road. It drives just like what you would expect a BMW to drive like. The M40i with its M suspension also makes the car feel lively and fun.  Those are all excellent qualities but honestly, we expected those qualities and we would have been disappointed if they were not there. 

What was surprising was the fuel economy.  The EPA rates the M40i at 27 mpg on the freeway which is very good. We easily saw numbers in the low 30 mpg range when cruising on the freeway in EcoPro mode. Those are seriously great numbers for a vehicle that can do 155mph and tow 4400 pounds.

Console controls
Console controls

The number that we did not like was the price. The base price of our car was $54,300. Adding in the Premium Package (heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, navigation, heads up display) for $3340 and Executive Package (gesture control, digital instrument cluster, active parking distance control, rear view camera, and surround view camera) for $2550 and a few other options brought our price tag to a solid $65,045. 

That is a lot of money. What is worse is that BMW charges you for things that many less expensive cars provide for free. There are cheaper alternatives out there but BMW knows what it has and that is a darn good car. The other alternatives are not as much fun to drive and as solid to drive as the X3 so you do get what you pay for.

In the end if you can afford it, $65,045 is still worth it for a car that does so much and makes you feel so good behind the wheel. The M40i with its M Sport suspension and 355 hp engine is a fun vehicle that allows you to make almost no compromises and in the end that is the best bargain.

Specifications

PRICE AS TESTED: base price: $55,495

ENGINE TYPE:turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection

Displacement:183 cu in, 2998 cc
Power:355 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque:369 lb-ft @ 1520 rpm

TRANSMISSION:8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase:112.8 in
Length:186.1 in
Width:74.7 inHeight:66.0 in
Passenger volume:99 cu ft
Cargo volume:29 cu ft
Curb weight:4308 lb

TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 4.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 11.2 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 21.0 sec
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 2.8 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 3.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.0 sec @ 107 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 158 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.85 g

EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 23/20/27 mpg

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