Up: Practical, seriously fun, that exhaust
Down: Most options are a minimum $500
Neutral: The M40i starts at $55,000 which is not bad!
If you’ve read some of my work, you’ve probably gotten the impression that I dislike SUVs. I think they’re too big, they drink too much gas, and, more often than not, there’s only one person in the entire vehicle. But then my friend Jake Fredrickson at Luxury Auto Mall got me into the new BMW X1 a few years back and I praised it on its small size, nimble agility, and its marketing strategy of labeling it an SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle). Of course, that was just a one-off review. I still went about my days sneering at four-wheeled-freighters without a care. That is until Jake told me I should check out the all new 2018 BMW X3 M40i. “You’ll love it,” he said, smiling, “it’s stupid fast.”
I stopped at LAM the day after they received the new X3 M40i. The sky is dark due to a looming June storm, but its been dry all day. A sales associate pulls the freshly washed SAV to the front and water droplets are still falling from the Black Sapphire Metallic paint. It looks nice, but I’m not sure it visually deserves the “M” moniker. But after giving me a quick tour around the vehicle, Jake hops in, starts it up, and revs the engine. Snaps, crackles, and pops all spit out the back end. “Well that’s unexpected,” I thought.
As I pulled out of the lot I kept the X3 M40i in comfort mode. I told myself to get a feel for one of BMW’s most luxurious vehicles before putting the hammer down. From experience, I quickly recognize how comfortable, quiet, and civilized another “ultimate driving machine” is and applaud BMW’s engineering team. However, when I just got the climate and cooled seats set just right, the first drop of rain lands on the windshield. I guess it’s now or never.
The entirely digital display switches from white highlights to red and a big M2 pops up in the center of the tachometer. There’s no traffic so I punch it. M3 changes to M4 and then to M5 as the X3 M40i blinks through the 8-speed automatic sport transmission. The twin scroll turbo pushes the variable valve controlled 3.0 liter inline 6 engine to 355 horses and each one causes my smile to grow wider. But somehow the sub five second acceleration to 60 mph isn’t the most fun part, it’s the deceleration. Pulling that left paddle causes the M Sport exhaust to snort all kinds of angry sounds out the back. And if that doesn’t make you happy, then I don’t know what will.
Since the rain is still restraining itself to a few drops, I selfishly take the X3 M40i back to my house to show my wife. On the way I call her up and tell her she has to check this thing out, just as Jake told me.
When I pull into the driveway, she hops in and I show her all of the cool buttons and features. Just as in the 2018 7-series I reviewed last fall, the gauge cluster completely changes itself with all of the modes and the backup camera does a complete 360 degree view of the outside of your car. She’s not interested in that, however. She likes the air-conditioned seats, the adjustable interior lighting, and the comfort of the entire vehicle. Naturally, I had to display the sport mode for her as well and the rush brought her the same smile that I had earlier. “If I were a mom, I’d much rather have this than a minivan,” were her parting thoughts.
After taking pictures, I decided to do something I had oddly never done in a car review; try out the sound system while driving in 5:00 traffic. You know, what normal owners would do every day? And the perfect soundtrack for my simulated commute was the recently released Kanye West album “ye”. This was the first time I really got to crank these tracks up and, let me tell you, the Harman Kardon speakers did not disappoint. Pouring rain and jammed traffic were silenced by the crispness of the speakers and it felt like I was inside the music, not just listening to it. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a superior stock audio system to date.
One final thing to note is BMW’s build quality. Certainly it applies to all of their vehicles but the 2018 X3 M40i is specifically well put together. It’s also something very hard to describe. The best way I can attribute it is to think of my very first car, a 1992 Chevy Cavalier, and then compare it to the most recent newer vehicle I’ve driven, in this case a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek. The Crosstrek is miles ahead of the 90s Cavalier in build quality, performance, and handling, but the BMW feels like that same jump ahead of the Crosstrek. Something to certainly consider next time you’re shopping for a vehicle with a friend and they say, “BMW’s are just too expensive for what they are.”
It seems that Jake, and BMW, have made a liar out of me once again. I absolutely loved the 2018 BMW X3 M40i. In fact, it might be one of the best all-around vehicles I’ve ever driven. But, to my defense, BMW still considers the X3 an SAV and not an SUV so my argument goes untarnished…until I drive the X5, I presume.
This 2018 BMW X3 M40i (and lots of other X3s) are currently for sale at Luxury Auto Mall of Sioux Falls. Stop by and talk to Jake Fredrickson for a test drive!