Your cries of outrage are heard: “But it’s not even a real ‘M’ car…” And in the X3 M40i’s defence, it doesn’t need to be. This is a nice segue way model that has enough poke and composure to ensure that it’s the perfect balance between sophisticated SUV and a signature BMW with a naughty secret – fun…should you press the right buttons. For a week we were able to sample the quirks and delights of this modern SUV and we were thoroughly impressed, even though a few appointments confused us.
With the X3 M set to arrive later in the year, we wanted to find out if the X3 M40i’s exceptional level of interior polish, safety and technology was worthy of an M Sport badge.
Transmission: Eight-speed ZF automatic
0-100kmh: 4.8 seconds
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbo producing 265kW and 500Nm
Fuel consumption: 8.9L/100km (more if you have a heavy foot)
1. Is it actually fun? The short answer is ‘yes’…but only if you want it to be.
There’s three modes to choose: Comfort, Eco and Sport. Plonk it into Sport mode, play with launch control and the boosted engine will sling you to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds complete with fake engine noises “enhanced” through the speakers. I forgave BMW for this because the M Sport exhaust was a hoot, popping and crackling wherever the speed limits permitted.
2. It can also be a fuel efficient beast should that be what you want.
It’s astounding that a car which weighs 1.8 tonne can be rated at 8.0L/100km – 11.7L/100km. We weren’t on the throttle for a majority of our drive (it is Sydney after all) and we managed an 8.5L/100km. My VW Golf at home does more than that. Be warned though, as constant aggressive launches and cruising in Sport mode will see this figure in double digits.
3. The wheel and brake package are sexy as hell.
You can blame the 21-inch M light alloy wheels paired to uprated M Sport brakes for this. Just look at those titanium and pressed graphite hues…
3. It’s not just looks, it also handles.
Find a quiet little backroad, plant it and you’ll be rewarded with composed steering feel and snappy response (for an SUV) thanks to an M Sport diff which does its best to put down the power with confidence.
4. The interior is where you experience full BMW range.
Step inside this plush cabin and you’ll be greeted with a beautiful chunky steering wheel wrapped in soft grippy leather – a nice appointment in SUV territory.
5. The seats are just as accommodating and they even have side bolsters.
Decently bolstered seats in an SUV can mean one of two things: ‘pretender’ or ‘fun included’. You already know which one we chose but the bonus is once again BMW’s choice of leather grade and overall support. It’s a luxurious place to park yourself into and feels more premium lounge than car interior.
6. The same can also be said for the plush rear seats.
Our passenger said they could sleep back there nightly.
7. The dash leather on the X3 M40i is surprisingly nice.
After our experience with one of the new 3 Series which had a rougher leather dash, the uprated leather lining on the dash console was a nice touch. It also flows well with the car’s other elements.
8. Old school woodgrain, anyone?
Woodgrain isn’t a common choice in modern cars these days but BMW made it work here. Just look at how well it fuses together with the dark grey leather, modern aluminium and polished black plastics. I felt like I was sitting inside a Bang & Olufsen speaker.
8. Speaking of speakers…
They’re not B&O but there’s 16 of them supplied by Harman Kardon and the sound is exquisite…but it’s not all perfect. Remember those synthetic engine noises? They come through these bad boys. Thumbs down.
9. The infotainment screen is massive and visually striking to look at.
At 10.25-inches, BMW’s iDrive 6.0 infotainment screen caught the attention of all our passengers and made for seamless navigation trips.
11. The screen also makes for perfect parking every time.
The most useful thing is BMW’s parking assistance. Hit reverse and a top view of your car shows up depicting all the obstacles around you thanks to the car’s plethora of sensors and cameras that capture the external environment in real time. The chances of you hitting something whilst parking is minimal at best – you’d have to try.
12. It caters to both older and future drivers.
What’s that you see? A 7-stacker CD player. We’re not sure if modern cars even come with CD players these days but the X3 did and we loved it (because we’re old and have a dusty CD collection). The volume control via circular finger waving in the air was a bit gimmicky but definitely fun – our passengers were messing around with it all night.
13. The full digital cluster is nicely done with lots of information thrown at you.
Whilst the dials are pretty to look at on a 12.3-inch TFT instrument display, the HUD was a bit harder. The projection didn’t seem as big or as vibrant as the one on the 3 Series we recently drove. This had us looking twice sometimes – HUD first then squinting back on the digital speedo. The lane assist function was also a bit too intrusive for our liking.
14. A moonroof is extra cool in this particular car.
Sure the moonroof is commonplace in modern luxury cars but it all felt a bit more special sitting this high in the X3.
15. Turn down the lights and things get sexy.
The ambient mood lighting in our X3 M40i was a lava red/orange and made for a very sexy place to be come dusk. Aesthetically pleasing without being distracting is the best way to describe it.
16. Even the external puddle lights are cool.
Proof that not all night time puddle lights are made equal.
17. Wireless charging for later generation smartphones is a winner…
But the 2 x USB ports was definitely not for a car of this size. 4 x USB ports would be more ideal especially if you have kids in the back.
18. Rear tailgate sensor to open and close the boot.
Wave your foot under the rear bumper and the boot opens. Great for hands-free luggage loading or storing your unruly passengers.
19. There’s plenty of space throughout the car.
The quality interior makes the X3 M40i but the space comes in at a close second. Ample legroom front and rear combined with a huge 550-litre boot space makes for great vehicle versatility. We also lost count of how many drink holders are in there.
20. Overall the X3 M40i is an SUV that’s easy to drive with good steering and response.
It’s no BMW sports car but it’s evidently less boaty than other premium SUVs out there.