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BMW X3 M40i 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
8.1
Australians can't get enough SUVs. So it makes sense for BMW to wave its M Performance wand over the compact X3, to produce a quick, capable and entertaining package.

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BMW's 'B58' six-cylinder engine is what's known in the trade as 'a cracker'. Three litres and a turbo's worth of silky smooth power, it delivers big dollops of torque with the kind of immediacy once reserved for much larger units.

It's already a perfect match for the M140i hatch, as well as the M240i coupe and convertible. And once you hit on a winning formula, why not spread the joy into the ever-growing world of SUVs?

Enter the X3 M40i, the first performance variant in BMW's compact SUV range, sitting just under $100k (before on-road costs) and aiming up at a quality field of similarly sized and specified performance versions like the Audi Q3, Jaguar F-Pace, Merc-AMG GLC, Porsche Macan, and Volvo XC60.

BMW X3 2018: M40i
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$84,260

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

It may have been born In Munich, but the X3's parentage is Australian, with the car's exterior design developed by former Sydney-sider Calvin Luk (also responsible for the X1, F20 1 Series, and just released Z4).

BMW is the master of design convergance, and the current X3 recognises the brand's heritage while seamlessly integrating with the current, exceptionally broad model range.

The biggest visual clue to the M40i's status and performance potential is the 'M Aerodynamics Package', consisting of a roof-mounted wing, 'Black Chrome' tailpipes, and various exterior trim elements finished in 'Cerium Grey'.

The headlights are adaptive LED. (image: James Cleary) The headlights are adaptive LED. (image: James Cleary)

The nose treatment is unique with a more aggressive lower air intake, and exclusive pieces in the vents either side framing LED fog lights.

Big 21-inch rims are shod with fat Pirelli P Zero rubber, the headlights are adaptive LED, and high-gloss 'Shadow Line' trims, including the roof rails, have been pinched from the BMW Individual collection.

Inside, branded sill strips remind you you're in an M40i before you've even hit the driver's seat, and the general look and feel of the cabin will be familiar to any current-generation BMW owner.

There's heaps of space everywhere, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for the driver and front-seat passenger. (image: James Cleary) There's heaps of space everywhere, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for the driver and front-seat passenger. (image: James Cleary)

One thing that does stand out, however, is the 12.3-inch hi-res colour instrument display, which shifts its layout and colour palette through each of four drive modes – 'Eco Pro', 'Comfort', 'Sport', and 'Sport+'.

The seats are immaculately trimmed in 'Vernasca' leather, the front pair featuring neatly integrated additional side bolsters for extra lateral support and a racier look.

Look up and you'll see the 'BMW Individual Anthracite' headliner. Move to the straight ahead and you're confronted with an 'M leather' trimmed sports steering wheel.

A standard ambient-lighting system allows you to dial in one of six colours to set the mood, and aluminium trim elements are combined with 'SensaTec' (faux leather) trim over the instrument binnacle and dashtop.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Gradual bracket creep has seen the current X3 sneakily out-grow the original (E53) X5 SUV that turned the BMW world upside down, close to 20 years ago.

At just over 4.7m nose-to-tail, and close to 2.0m across, the X3 is substantially longer (+49mm) and wider (+25mm) than its X5 ancestor, with an extra 44mm in the wheelbase to boot.

So, no surprise there's heaps of space everywhere, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for the driver and front-seat passenger.

The seats are immaculately trimmed in 'Vernasca' leather. (image: James Cleary) The seats are immaculately trimmed in 'Vernasca' leather. (image: James Cleary)

Storage runs to a medium-size glove box, plus a pair of cupholders in the centre console and some oddments space in a roll-top covered area in front of the gearshift, which also offers up a 12-volt power outlet and a USB port.

There's a covered bin between the seats, which doubles as a comfy armrest, plus big bottle holders and storage bins in each door.

Switch to the rear and the generosity continues, with enough head and legroom for me (at 183cm) to sit comfortably behind the driver's seat set for my position.

Width is a different story, with enough shoulder room for three adults to get by on short journeys, but for anything lengthy it's best to stick with a kids/young-adult zone policy.

Individual vents with climate-control adjustment are a big plus, and back seaters are also provided with netted map pockets, door bins including bottle holders, and a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest.

  • With the rear seats upright, luggage capacity runs to 550 litres. (image: James Cleary) With the rear seats upright, luggage capacity runs to 550 litres. (image: James Cleary)
  • It has more than enough space to accommodate the 'CarsGuide' pram. (image: James Cleary) It has more than enough space to accommodate the 'CarsGuide' pram. (image: James Cleary)
  • It also held our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). (image: James Cleary) It also held our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). (image: James Cleary)

The cargo area is properly thought through, with embedded rails on either side of the space to accommodate longitudinal movement of the standard tie-down hooks.

There's a netted storage space behind the passenger-side wheel tub, a 12-volt outlet, a pair of pull-out shopping bag hooks, two lights shining from near the door opening back into the load area, and release handles to unlock the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat.

With the rear seats upright, luggage capacity runs to 550 litres. More than enough to accommodate the CarsGuide pram or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). Flip the seatback forward and 1600 litres of space opens up.

Tyres are run-flat, so don't expect a spare of any description. And if you're keen on hooking up a trailer your limit is 2.4 tonnes braked and 750kg unbraked.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   9/10

Cost-of-entry to the X3 M40i club is $99,529 (before on-road costs), which pitches it into a performance SUV cage fight with the likes of Audi's RS Q3 ($84,911), the Jaguar F-Pace 35t S AWD ($104,827), Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 ($103,129), Porsche Macan GTS ($113,700), and Volvo's XC60 T8 R-Design ($92,990).

When you're giving six figures a solid nudge it's fair to expect a lengthy features list and the X3 M40i doesn't disappoint.

It has an 'M leather' trimmed sports steering wheel. (image: James Cleary) It has an 'M leather' trimmed sports steering wheel. (image: James Cleary)

Included as standard are adaptive LED headlights, a head-up display, the anthracite headliner, 'Comfort Access' (keyless entry and start), dual-zone climate control air, 'iDrive6' multimedia (managed through controller, touch or voice), automatic headlights, 'Driving Assistant Plus' (lane-departure warning, approach control and person warning with light city braking function, and active cruise control with 'Stop&Go'), as well as a Harman/Kardon 16-speaker Surround Sound audio.

Then there's the 'Adaptive M Suspension' system, an auto tailgate, the 'M Aerodynamics' package, 'M Sport' brakes (four-piston fixed calipers front, two-piston floating rear), 'M Sport' diff, digital instrument display, sat nav, 'Parking Assistant Plus' (parking distance control, surround view, panorama view and 3D view), 'Performance control' (torque vectoring by braking), leather seat trim with the front seats heated, and the 'BMW ConnectedDrive' suite ('BMW Connected+' smartphone app, real time traffic info, concierge services, and more).

Even for a car in the region of a hundred grand, that's a bucket load of fruit, without touching on the performance and passive safety tech included (covered in those sections).

One thing that does stand out, however, is the 12.3-inch hi-res colour instrument display. (image: James Cleary) One thing that does stand out, however, is the 12.3-inch hi-res colour instrument display. (image: James Cleary)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The 3.0-litre B58 in-line six-cylinder engine is an all-alloy unit featuring direct injection and forced induction, courtesy of a single 'TwinScroll' turbo.

It also features a water-to-air intercooler, 'Double Vanos' variable cam timing, and 'Valvetronic' variable valve lift.

BMW's 'B' engines are a modular design, based on cylinders of the same dimensions and 500cc capacity. Rather than cast iron cylinder liners they use 'Electric Arc Wire Spraying' technology to form a thin coating of iron on the cylinder walls, to save weight and reduce manufacturing complexity.

The 3.0-litre B58 in-line six-cylinder engine is an all-alloy unit featuring direct injection and forced induction, courtesy of a single 'TwinScroll' turbo. (image: James Cleary) The 3.0-litre B58 in-line six-cylinder engine is an all-alloy unit featuring direct injection and forced induction, courtesy of a single 'TwinScroll' turbo. (image: James Cleary)

Maximum torque of 500Nm is available from just 1520rpm all the way to 4800rpm, with peak power (265kW) on call from 5500rpm to 6500rpm.

Transmission is an eight-speed 'Sport Steptronic' (torque converter) auto, with drive going to all four wheels via a performance-tuned version of BMW's 'X Drive' all-wheel-drive system, incorporating a variable torque split from front to rear, and an 'M Sport Differential working in concert with the DSC to apportion torque across the rear axle.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 8.9L/100km, the X3 M40i emitting 204g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over roughly 300km of city, urban and freeway running (some of it 'enthusiastic') we saw an average figure of 12.7L/100km (at the bowser), although we managed 8.1L/100km (dash indicated) on one lengthy freeway trip.

Stop-start is standard, and I must admit to turning it off much of the time, although with the system enabled restarting was subtle and swift.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded and you'll need 65 litres of it to fill the tank.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

For some, the idea of a performance-focused SUV is a contradiction in terms. Why lift a car up, give it a higher centre of gravity, then try and make it handle like a low-slung sports car?

Happily, the world isn't a logical place. Lots of people want their SUV practicality delivered with a sting in the tail, and the X3 M40i offers up exactly that.

Under the bonnet of the M140i/M240i this engine is a proven gem, and it's just as lively in this application.

We may have even given the standard launch control function a workout, to see if the factory 0-100km/h claim of 4.8sec is realistic. And let's just say the X3 M40i feels sub-five fast.

With 500Nm on tap from just off idle through to 4800rpm, it's always eager and ready to rip with even a modest squeeze of the right pedal. Mid-range response is immediate and strong, accompanied by a satisfyingly guttural growl from the 'M Performance exhaust'.

Big 21-inch rims are shod with fat Pirelli P Zero rubber. (image: James Cleary) Big 21-inch rims are shod with fat Pirelli P Zero rubber. (image: James Cleary)

And if you really need to get the groceries home quickly, 265kW of peak power between 5500 and 6500rpm makes for an urgent top end.

The eight-speed auto is smooth and quick, the wheel-mounted paddles adding to the fun, especially in Sport mode.

Rolling on 21-inch rims wrapped with high-performance Pirelli P Zero (run-flat) rubber (275/35 rear – 245/40 front) the adaptive suspension has to balance day-to-day comfort with special occasion B-road response, and it does a damn good job of it.

Comfort mode is as good as its word, managing to smooth out the truly ordinary bitumen we Australians laughingly refer to as roads, while Sport buttons everything down as best it can.

But you've got to remember, compared to an M240i coupe, the X3 M40i is 268mm taller, it's ground clearance is 74mm greater, and it's 58kg heavier. So, despite its slick suspension set-up, the M40i still handles like an SUV. A dynamically outstanding one, but an SUV nonetheless.

That means more body roll in cornering (accentuated by the fact you're sitting higher), although the nicely weighted, electrically assisted steering manages to deliver decent road feel.

Like a swan gliding effortlessly across the lake, with legs paddling busily under the surface, the X Drive AWD system and M Sport diff help the X3 M40i put its power down effectively and without fuss, turning you into a backroad-blasting hero.

The sports front seats are nice and grippy (with standard heating a welcome inclusion on chilly mornings), and the M Sport brakes are professional grade.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The X3 scored a maximum five-star rating following its most recent ANCAP assessment in late 2017. So, no surprise it features a comprehensive array of active and passive safety tech.

To help you avoid a crash the X3 features, AEB, ABS, brake assist, EBD, blind spot monitoring, ESC, 'Emergency stop signal', forward collision warning, fatigue detection, lane-departure warning, pre-crash systems, reverse collision avoidance, speed sign recognition & warning, as well as a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. Phew!

But if, despite all that, a collision is unavoidable you're protected by dual front, front side (chest), side curtain and driver's knee airbags. There are also three child restraint top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

On top of that, the X3 M40i features an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian impact injuries, active front head restraints, and an 'Intelligent Emergency Call' system that dials for help as soon as the car detects a serious impact.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Warranty cover is three years/unlimited km, with 24/7 roadside assistance included for three years, and additional support from BMW 'Servicemobiles' (07:00 – 23:00 every day) staffed by trained techs and stocked with key service parts.

Maintenance on the BMW X3 is controlled by a 'Condition Based Servicing' system, which piles real-time data (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, and how the car has been driven) into an on-board algorithm to determine whether an annual vehicle inspection or service is due.

BMW offers the 'Service Inclusive' program, a one-off advance payment to cover scheduled costs at the 'Basic' or 'Plus' level.

Verdict

BMW has form when it comes to performance SUVs, in the shape of M versions of its larger X5 and X6 models. And it has expertly applied that experience here. The X3 M40i is properly quick and dynamically sharp, yet comfortable, refined, and most of all practical when it needs to be. The price tag is large for a compact SUV, but the M40i's quality, value and all-around ability justify it.

Could the X3 M40i have you voting Family Fast? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$72,990
Based on 147 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$59,800
Highest Price
$92,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M40i 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $84,260 – 96,800 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i Pricing and Specs
M40i IND COLLECTION 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $89,870 – 103,290 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $60,170 – 69,190 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $60,170 – 69,190 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features9
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
James Cleary
Deputy Editor

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