2018 BMW X3 M40i Test Drive and Review

Terry Box | March 28, 2018
2018 BMW X3 M40i Test Drive and Review

Back before the revolution, sleek cars danced gleefully in the streets while bulky, broad-shouldered trucks sullenly lugged loads.

It was how the universe rolled.

If you wanted serious performance five or so years ago, you opted for svelte and agile – not some growling road-beast capable of towing a small house, but the lines began to blur a few years back – kind of like with my transgender postman and his metallic-purple hair -- and trucks suddenly started acting a lot like cars.

Take the 2018 BMW X3 M40, for example, a two-ton crossover that can out-accelerate most of Bimmer’s “ultimate driving-machine” sedans.

What’s next – millionaire celebrity athletes talking rather than tweeting?

Here’s what it has come to, kids: We Americans bought 11.1 million trucks last year and 6.1 million cars, meaning, I guess, that we are a heavy-metal nation.

We hide it well. The dark metallic-blue X3 I had recently looked like a tall, fairly chiseled wagon rather than some clumsy, boxy crossover.

Find outportant –not to mention befuddling – it danced like a sedan.

My X3, of course, wore traditional BMW kidney-bean grilles topped by a long hood.

Bimmer’s designers freshened the look by moving the X3’s wheels to the far corners of its body, giving it a taut, confident stance for a two-ton wagon.

Meanwhile, its sides swell with lean muscle around the flared wheel-openings, complemented by a prominent line slicing through the door-handles.

The “M” in my X3’s wordy handle indicates a performance model, though not a pure, purpose-built hot-rod like an M2 or M3 sedan. (And, yes, it is confusing.)

Still, huge blue “M” brake calipers flashed behind fine-looking silver-and-gray spoked 20-inch wheels, wrapped with meaty 245/45 tires up front and 275/40s in back.

Best of all, BMW’s signature 3-liter six-cylinder engine growled thickly beneath the hood, ready to unleash six hammers of hard-hitting torque.

With turbocharging and direct fuel-injection, the six is rated at an impressive 355- horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of neck-popping torque.

Though the still-tight engine in mine suffered slight turbo-lag initially, it responded milliseconds later with a full-boil vengeance, shoving occupants into their seats as it growled and howled through 6,800-rpm shifts.

Aided by all-wheel-drive and a great eight-speed automatic, the 4,300-pound X3 can rip to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Here’s where it gets a tad strange: As you probably know, the X3 rides on a version of the well-sorted 3-series sedan platform, and just for the record, the new X3 is a full half-second faster to 60 than a 3-series sedan with the six, all-wheel-drive and 400 pounds less weight.

I couldn’t help but wonder if truckish crossovers – which are more profitable than cars – are now the priority for automakers, receiving a larger portion of the development dollars?

Beats me, but the X3 exhibited the same basic deft handling and road composure as a 3-series sedan.

If I pushed the 66-inch tall X3 into a moderate-speed corner, it leaned slightly, but settled quickly on its suspension, rotating confidently through the curve.

Find outr, the X3 felt as eager to dive crisply into corners as most of BMW’s canyon-carving sedans, returning a reasonably good ride with its Euro-firm suspension.

And get this: The X3 sported quick, nicely weighted steering with good feedback from the road – kind of like BMW’s sedans did a decade ago.

Did I miss the e-mail on this seeming seismic shift?  Probably – they used to call me Disc Lock at the newspaper, but at least I can contemplate this new order in another one of Bimmer’s rich interiors.

Granted, with a window-sticker of nearly $66,000, the X3 darn sure better provide some fine hides – and does.

A smooth black dashboard, for example, slid gently down from the windshield, wrapping around a tablet-sized display screen in the center of the dash.

Beneath it was a sleek horizontal panel with knobs and buttons to control the stereo and climate systems – though I still had to tune the stereo with a dial on the console.  Fine-looking saddle-colored leather seats offered supportive bolsters, while a pretty decent electric shifter managed most of the time to give me the gear I wanted.

Likewise, the X3’s black door-panels wore saddle-colored centers and the back-seat had good leg- and head-room if you clock in at less than six-feet.  If not, the area behind the backseat contained 29 cubic feet of cargo space.

As an M40 model, the X3 comes stuffed with a lot of features, but the options on mine included blind-spot and lane-departure warnings ($900); the premium package with heated seats, steering wheel and navigation ($2,950); and the executive package with parking assist and distance control, as well as “surround-view” ($2,550).

I could live fine without any of them, and weirdly – as an affirmed car-guy – I could also live with the X3, easily one of the best crossovers on the market.

Could we work a deal to throw in an M2 coupe as well? I’m sure Jerry will understand.

2018 BMW X3 M40i

  • What I liked most: The X3’s physics-defying performance and handling.
  • What l would change: Maybe we could move the stereo-tune dial off the console.
  • MSRP: Base price, $54,300; as equipped, $65,920.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway and 23 mpg overall with filler on the right.
  • Official color: Phytonic Blue Metallic.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 527 miles.
  • Weight: 4,308 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 186.1 inches long/74.7 inches wide/66 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 17.2 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: 4,400 pounds.
  • Spare tire: None – run-flat tires.
  • 2018 BMW X3 in a few words: A mid-sized luxury crossover that can do just about anything but shine your shoes.
  • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile basic and powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Spartanburg, S.C.
  • Manufacturer’s website:
  • E-mail me at [email protected]
Tags: BMW, New Vehicle Reviews, x3
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