With a blip, rip, and a snarl of its exhaust note on startup, the BMW X3 M40i has entered our long-term fleet for a year of amassing miles. This tuned and tweaked version of BMW‘s mainstream SUV is the performance offering for the third-generation X3. Press the start button, and it’s immediately obvious this is not a standard-issue X3. As soon as the straight-six fires up, the engine goes into a burbly, deep, high-revving idle that most certainly announces your daily departure from the neighborhood to anyone with ears. More important, though, is that it’s a daily reminder that this X3 means business and craves more than just jaunts to work, Home Depot, and the grocery store.
The 2018 X3 M40i replaces the standard car’s four-cylinder turbo for a turbocharged inline-six that makes 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This gives the M40i a notable 107 hp over the X3 xDrive30i. But it’s important to note that this is not a full-blown M car like, say, an X5 M. Rather it’s a BMW that’s been massaged by the M division with a slurry of added parts and tuning meant to sharpen all aspects of the driving experience. What this means is that M has enhanced the driving experience here but not as thoroughly as it will when it rolls out the promised X3 M later in 2019. Yet letting the M division shape its magic into the X3 makes a lot of sense because most agree that, unlike some of BMW’s current car and SUV offerings, the X3 has embodied BMW’s core driving dynamics ever since the gen-one vehicle went on sale here in 2004. So yes, take your already well-driving crossover and make it louder, faster, and handle better. And in doing so, become directly competitive with Audi‘s SQ5 and Mercedes‘ GLC 43.
Included in the M40i’s price is BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control (adjustable ride) and a sport-tuned eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters. Notable M equipment includes better brakes and steering, plus an adaptive suspension. The steering and brakes come standard, but the suspension is a $700 add-on. Default wheel size on the M40i is 19 inches, but this test car has been upgraded to large-and-in-charge 21-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Alenza 001 RFT tires ($1,900).
Additional standard equipment includes a stitched dash, leather sport seats (with a muscular-looking stitching that looks like Batman’s suit), adaptive LED headlights, and a burly body kit that’s unique to the M40i and gives the vehicle a substantial-looking stance while parked on the curb. Unique puddle lights known as the “welcome light carpet” cast a multi-hockey stick design onto the asphalt below the rocker panels, and the same design is also mimicked in the dome lights and HVAC vents inside the cabin.
Additional options include BMW’s Premium package ($3,300), which includes heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, and a head-up display. The Executive package ($2,250) includes parking assist, gesture control, an upgraded all-digital instrument panel, and 3-D surround view, which uses onboard cameras to help you avoid rubbing the X3 on any hard, inanimate objects while parking.