2018 BMW X3 M40i Review

From pretty good to seriously good in one generation


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Authoritative power, sports car handling, evolutionary but much improved exterior styling, refined interior, pretty affordable for a premiium performance crossover.
Negatives: Sometimes frustrating technology.
Bottom Line: The X3 M40i is proof that the brand doesn't need to build an X3 M because it delivers ample thrust and performance that most owners will never get to exploit on the road. It provides a whiff of BMW's past greatness in the way it drives, and the interior is one of the best in class. BMW redid the X3 brilliantly in both trims.
After six years of the 2nd-generation X3, BMW saw fit to make their already good X3 that much better, going after the likes of the Audi A5 and the new Volvo XC60. The changes seem evolutionary, but the new X3 has more than appearance changes. It takes things up a few notches in terms of refinement, power, and style. We drove the top trim M40i for a week to see how much BMW has pumped into its new small crossover. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

9.2

 

M Performance status in this case means BMW fits as standard the firmer M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes with blue-painted calipers, and variable-ratio steering setup, most of which are optional on the four-cylinder X3.

Ride Quality: The adaptive setup is near perfect, providing excellent compliance in Comfort and a truly excellent performance in Sport mode.

Acceleration: The twin-turbo six is one of the best things about the M40i. It's powerful, very responsive, possesses minimal lag, and shifts quickly thanks to the excellent 8-speed automatic.

Braking: The M Sport brakes that are standard on the M40i are good but not the best in class, which is held by the Audi SQ5

Steering: The electrically assisted steering is good but lacks feedback. Turn-in is very quick.

Handling: Though the M40i's grip is the same as the lower trim xDrive30i, it's one of the best balanced performance crossovers and also one of the lightest. It never felt out of sorts when pressed hard in the turns.

Technology

8

 

Though the iDrive system is the best it's ever been, we're not huge fans of its functionality. It's visually beautiful, at least.

Infotainment System: iDrive 6.0 can be frustrating for two main reasons. First, it tends to be hard to stream music because it frequently defaults to the first artist and song and then plays them in order when you're trying to shuffle music from your smartphone. Second, the layers of functions are just far too deep for our liking.

Controls: The controls are excellent, especially the center console control knob, which actuates perfectly. We do wish the audio volume knob was larger, though.

Styling

9

 

The X3 finally looks fully baked and mature. The first two generations were lacking something, erring on the side of slightly juvenile when it came to the exterior.

Front: The front end looks more full, much like the current X5. Gone are the headlight housings that mate with the grille. The intakes are larger, and round foglights in the bumper have been replaced by horizontal versions in the lower fascia. It looks great.

Rear: The change between the 2017 X3 and this one are just as drastic as ones in the front. The taillights are less angular and the transition between the portion on the tailgate and the body is more fluid. The roof spoiler now has contours at the outer edges, giving it a racier look.

Profile: The rising beltline crease is now gone, replaced by a straight crease along the door handles. The greenhouse looks slightly taller, and overall the X3 looks bigger.

Cabin: There was really nothing wrong with the old X3's interior because it was rich and refined, but the dash seemed a bit on the thick side. Now, the infotainment screen rises from the dash instead of being embedded in it, giving the cabin a more open look and feel.

Comfort

8.5

 

You won't get gobs of room in a small crossover, but the new X3 does a pretty good job of toting five people around in luxury accommodations, if not voluminous space. BMW interiors are better than ever, and it shows here.

Front Seats: We love the front seats in the X3 thanks to their rich leather, great adjustability and the sport seats with added bolstering and thigh support.

Rear Seats: There's a bit more room thanks to the lengthened wheelbase, and headroom is also good due to the tall greenhouse.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): BMW's are generally built like tanks, and the M40i is solid and noise-free.

Visibility: The big glass all around merits excellent outward visibility. The added 360 Surround View Camera is nicely added option.

Climate: The climate control system was decent, but at times felt like it wasn't blowing cool enough based on the settings.

Safety

9.7

 

The X3 is pretty much as safe as it gets, nailing crash tests across the board, coupled with excellent levels of accident avoidance technology and safety features.

IIHS Rating: The X3 received the Top Safety Pick+ rating thanks to "good" scores in all categories, "superior" front crash prevention and "good headlights". Its only demerit is the "marginal" in LATCH child seat system ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The M40i comes with automatic high beams, Active Driving Assistant, brake drying and brake fade control, and Icon Adaptive Full LED lights.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with the Driving Assistance Package that includes Active Blind Spot Detection and Lane Departure Warning, the Premium Package with head-up display; and the Executive Package with Parking Assistant Plus, Active Park Distance Control, rear view camera, and Surround View with 3D.

Storage/Cargo

8.5

 

The X3 improves a little in the cargo area from the previous model, giving a couple of extra cubes behind the second row while still providing a solid amount of room with the rear seats folded flat.

Storage Space: The X3 provides a big center console binnacle with a nifty accordion-style sliding door to keep stuff out of sight. It's bigger than the last model's and super-convenient. The armrest and door pockets are also well-sized for small gear storage.

Cargo Room: There's 29 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 63 cubic feet maximum, bigger than the Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Type, and Porsche Macan. We love the twin track rails and the sliding D-rings for tie-downs. The load floor is nice and flat, too.

Fuel Economy

7.2

 

The EPA numbers for the M40i are pretty good considering the power the engine packs. Most owners will want to exploit the M40i's capabilities and likely won't see those numbers if they drive like we do.

Observed: 18.2 mpg

Distance Driven: 149 miles

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport mode 100% of the time, which likely accounts for the lower efficiency. We drove on local roads and highways equally.

Audio

8.1

 

The M40i's stock system is very good, and you don't have to pay anything extra to get great sound. If you want to get the upgraded Harman Kardon system, you have to upgrade by paying an additional $875, but then you have to add the $2,950 Premium Package to even get it.



Final Thoughts

The X3 M40i shows the world that it may not need an X3 M because for everyday driving duties with a solid dose of driving fun are all here, along with premium digs and a new slick design that's the best the X3 has ever been. We're not huge crossover fans, but the X3 M40i proves that BMW still has it when it comes to driving excitement combined with top notch luxury. The M40i is a hoot to toss and capacious and comfortable enough to bring the family along.
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