Kuyper: Power injected into compact BMW SUV

A 3-liter, 355-horsepower inline turbocharged six-cylinder engine is mated to a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission in the M40i model of the 2018 BMW X3.
A 3-liter, 355-horsepower inline turbocharged six-cylinder engine is mated to a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission in the M40i model of the 2018 BMW X3.

One of BMW’s “ultimate driving machines” arrived for a week of driving pleasure. It was the M40i model of the 2018 BMW X3.

The M designation made the X3 special. How special is a matter of opinion. Price has to be taken into account when determining if an M designation is worth it or not. Pricing for an ordinary X3 SUV starts at $41,000. Add M to the SUV’s equipment, and the price goes up another $14,500.

A huge chunk of the price is for a 3-liter, 355-horsepower, twin turbocharged six-cylinder engine, which replaces the X3’s standard 2-liter, 248-horsepower turbo four cylinder. A shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission mates to both engines.

The X3 M40i is a gas to drive. It is quick, very quick. BMW claims the M can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, but automotive media members brag it can do 4.4 seconds. No matter. The M is in the same league as a Porsche Macan S turbo, Audi Q5 or the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43.

A rumble comes out of the twin exhausts when the engine is turned on.

Does one need all this muscle in an SUV, even a luxury SUV such as the X3? Probably not. But this muscle is available, and if the money is there, why not?

Lower cladding and bumpers are body colored. Brake calipers are blue and the chrome trim is smoked. There are black exhaust tips beneath and black roof rails above.

Lesser M elements include multiple badging inside and out (no need to be shy), such as a door sill alloy finish with the M40i designation.

Run flat Pirelli performance 245 tires are mounted on double spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels. Although performance tires are rated safe at up to 149 mph, the M is limited to a top speed of 130.

An M suspension system adapts in nanoseconds to road conditions. The ride will be, and was during the test week, very accommodating. Driving a rough road will not slow you down.

All X3 models come equipped with a massive assortment of standard features. Memory for two includes heated and foldable exterior power mirrors, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power driver’s seat and sound settings. When the X3 is shifted into reverse, the passenger’s exterior mirror folds down to make it easy to see the curb. The four windows are power express up and down.

There are three 12-volt outlets, front, rear and trunk.

A three-zone (two front, one rear) micro-filter ventilation system for temperature and air circulation comes with replaceable charcoal filters.

There is no shortage of safety mechanics or electronics. See the BMW website for details.

The Radio Data System HiFi Sound System has 12-speakers and a 205-watt digital amplifier for AM-FM-satellite high-definition radio (free for a year, all access), Bluetooth wireless communication for hands-free mobile phone and audio streaming, USB and auxiliary ports, CD and MP3 players, iDrive 6.0 system (say what you want to do, from finding a destination to choosing a radio station, and let the system do the rest) with on-board computer, and seven programmable memory buttons.

Information and controls are fairly simple to use and understand, but it will take a little practice to get used to them.

The X3 design is new for 2018, but the iconic kidney grille remains the same, perhaps with a bit more curvature to it.

If one is into the BMW X series of SUVs, one can choose from the X1, X2, X3, X4 , X5 and X6. The M option dangles as a viable, if expensive, option.


Vehicle: 2018 BMW X3 M40i

Type: all-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact luxury SUV

Price: $54,300

Engine: 3-liter, 355-horsepower, twin turbocharged six-cylinder

Transmission: eight-speed shiftable automatic

Towing: 4,400-pound trailer

Acceleration: zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, top speed 130 mph

Fuel: premium

Fuel tank: 17.7 gallons

Weight: 4,230 pounds

Length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 186.1, 74.7, 66, 8

Tires: 245 runflats front, rear

Wheels: 19-inch front, rear

Cargo: 28.7 cubic feet rear seat upright, 62.7 cubic feet rear seat flat

Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles with roadside assistance, free scheduled maintenance first 3 years/36,000 miles


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