There seems no end to the SUV boom. BMW sold over 1,5 million BMW X3s since it’s first introduction in 2004. Now 14 years later the third generation celebrates its debut and BMW once again expects to sell more X3s than ever before. Part of the line-up is a new BMW M Performance model X3 M40i that triggered our particular interest. We flew to Portugal to take a closer look at the new BMW X3.
In addition to the top of the line M40i there are two petrol engines; both with a 2 liter four cylinder engine producing 184 / 252hp and 290 / 350Nm of torque, and two diesel engines; a four cylinder 2 liter with 190hp and 400Nm of torque and a six cylinder 3 liter with 265hp and 620Nm of torque. Our favorite, the X3 M40i, comes with a 3-liter six cylinder petrol engine with 360hp and 500Nm of torque.
The 0-100 km/h sprint is done in just 4.8 seconds. 0,1 seconds faster than the slightly more powerful Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 (367hp) and more than half a second faster than the Audi SQ5 (354hp) that needs 5.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h from standstill. Just like it’s competitors the M40i is limited to 250 km/h top speed.
Almost equally important as the performance is the design of the new X3. With a larger BMW kidney grill, shaped front bonnet and new LED headlights the new X3 has a stronger and sportier presence than ever before. From behind the new design with large LED rear lights and twin tailpipes emphasizes the width of the car making it look a lot better than the X5 from behind. From the side the X3 also looks a lot sportier than it’s predecessor. The only thing I don’t like is the square shape of the wheel arches but overall it looks a lot better than the last X3 and is an appealing offer in this competitive segment.
Inside the dashboard received a make-over but the available buttons remain largely the same. New is the touchscreen infotainment display and digital driver display that replaces the analogue speedometer and rev counter. As with most other recent BMWs the design is quite conservative compared to the last generations. And although BMW offers several different ways to interact with the infotainment system, touch, gesture, voice and iDrive controller, the software is a bit overwhelmed by all the new functionalities added to BMWs over the recent years. This obviously harms usability of the system and makes it hard to find what you are looking for.
The new BMW X3 can be equipped with the latest set of BMW assistance systems including adaptive cruise control, lane assist and lane change assist that we also tested on the latest generation BMW 5-Series. I highly recommend ticking these boxes while ordering your BMW X3 as it makes driving a lot more comfortable and safer at the same time.
The BMW X3 M40i brings a new level of sportiness to the X3 line-up. The weight distribution is 50:50 front and rear and with a Cd value of 0.29 it has class leading aerodynamics. The M Sport suspension can be equipped with adaptive dampers so you can chose between Sport and Comfort. The X3 M40i is significantly stiffer than the standard X3 in both Sport and comfort mode but it is not as spine crashing hard as some other SUVs with sporty aspirations.
It is incredibly quick and rivals the GLC 43 AMG for sheer driving fun on these Portuguese b-roads. Along comes a very addictive sound; drivers are treated with a full buff on upshifts and pops and crackles on downshifts – fake or not, it does sound good.
Swapping b-roads for the highway the X3 M40i morphs from a corner eating beast to a pleasant travel companion. Thanks to the (optional) acoustic glass it is pretty quiet and with other desirable optional extras like seat cooling, head-up display and the various driving assistance systems it leaves little to be desired for comfortable long journeys.
Overall the BMW X3 M40i is a very versatile and sporty SUV. In terms of driving dynamics, design and performance it gives the SQ5 and GLC 43 AMG fierce competition. The interior redesign is quite conservative which might appeal to part of the target audience but I was hoping for more progress.