The new performance SUV from Munich is a winner, and the past few days with the BMW X3 M40i were simply not enough
Photos by Joel Tam
Very fast, very grippy and very noisy is what I’d describe the X3 M40i in a sentence. This isn’t even the ‘actual’ X3 M yet! The M Performance series is like what the 'S' series is to Audi, a mid-level performance range that gives you more than the mild and quiet sibling, but not as scorching hot as the wild one.
But to me, this ‘middle-class’ fast SUV is already hot enough. For starters, it features a tuned B58 unit, a turbocharged 3.0 liter inline-six engine already found in the M240i. It’s an open rumour that the eventual king-of-the-hill X3 M (if it does go into production) will have an enhanced version of this power-plant.
It’s really one of BMW’s best engines (which is not saying much since almost all BMW engines are pretty good). Smooth and really punchy from the get go - it feels even stronger than its 360 bhp and 500 Nm of torque suggest. 0-100 km/h is done in a mere 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h can be reached on the NS highway. It’s really quick!
Despite not being a full-blown M-car, the sporty M bits are all there. M sports brakes, 21-inch M alloy sports wheels, M trimmings on the inside, an M aerodynamic exterior package, and a nice M steering wheel with paddle-shifters.
Oh did I forget to mention the orgasmic sounding dual M sports exhaust - with trapezoid-shaped tips finished in dark chrome? Leave it in Sport mode, and experience how loud and proud this SUV tears up the roads - from the second you start up the car till you’re blasting down the ECP, the X3 M40i is barking, popping and crackling all the way.
The 21-inch Bridgestone Alenzas were quite a surprise for me, I had expected a set of grippier UHP tyres, but they did the job well. Coupled with a variable four-wheel drive system and a BMW Performance Control rear differential that varies the torque, the SUV handled and gripped more like a hot hatch than a 4WD - despite actually growing in size over the previous X3.
I’m still not a fan of how the X3 looks, but the M aero kit does help a little bit. At least it now looks more complete at the front end, where it previously seemed to missing a lower section/lip. The huge 21-inch wheels definitely also lend a hand and making the whole package a bit more menacing and less ‘bubbly’ like the standard X3.
Inside it’s the usual bells and whistles. A 10.25-inch touch screen display with BMW ConnectedDrive Services and a full Harman Kardon sound system is standard. As are other comfort-based features like gesture control, roller blinds, easy access trunk and more. All very useful for the driver that needs it all - even in a performance car.
Like I started out saying, our time with the X3 M40i was really not enough. I crave more with it - I was even daydreaming of how I would take this car up a long mountain drive (e.g. Cameron Highlands). So yes, I’m a fan and I’m quite certain it will tick most, if not all, your boxes too.