Watch a 2018 BMW X3 M40i Make an Attack Run at Big Willow

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At the Motor Press Guild’s Track Day, we drive the new 2018 BMW X3 M40i with a twin-turbo inline-six.

The new X3 M40i is that rare thing: A fun-to-drive crossover. Its 3.0-liter mill puts down 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque split between all four wheels. But what’s more impressive is that the torque curve remains flat from 1,520 rpm to 4,800 rpm. A flat curve like that makes cornering more predictable as turbo lag becomes a thing of the past in this incredible SUV. Well, BMW calls it an SAV, or Sports Activity Vehicle.

Performance Review

2018 BMW X3 M40i

We try our best to not be so easily impressed. But we can’t help it when we drive an SUV that weighs just under 4,300-pounds and can be chucked around like an M4. That’s exactly what we got with the X3 M40i.

Push it to its limits and it never feels like it wants to roll over. Sure, there’s some natural understeer from its AWD and suspension setup. But it’s nothing close to what you’d feel in most other SUVs with similar weight or power. Especially in anything less capable.
 

ALSO SEE: BMW M4 CS vs. Porsche 911 GTS: Drag Race

 
Under braking, it remained stable except for the corner prior to “Omega,” the turn at the top of the hill at Big Willow. However, while it squirmed, neither the ABS nor traction control felt like it wanted to completely take over. It let us have that moment and stay in control of it.

The power from the B58B30M0 is equally impressive thanks to its flat torque curve. Most supercharged (general sense of the word, not necessary belt-driven) engines have either a decent bit of lag or a peaky power and torque curve. However, the combination of twin-turbos on this 3.0-liter inline-six, with its Valvetronic and double VANOS cam timing, gives a flat and broad torque curve of 369 lb-ft from 1,520 rpm to 4,800 rpm. Its drop-off remains steady to a redline of 6,500 rpm. Horsepower, though, continues to increase, peaking at 355-horsepower at 5,500 rpm and remaining there until 5,600 rpm. It remains in the 340- to 350-horse range from 5,600 rpm to redline.

The other impressive feat is its steering feel. Despite being electric power steering with a Sport Setting, it never feels disconnected. It’s one of the best we’ve driven outside of the new Civic Si and Type R, both of which blow the Focus RS’ steering feel out of the water. Not bad for a crossover.

2018 BMW X3 M40i

We couldn’t do a street drive, so that will have to wait for another review. But if the M40i performs this well on the track, and has the ability to seat five and carry luggage, we’re confident that it holds its own on the street. We also feel that it’s a better performing SUV, er, SAV, than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Simply put, you need a far defter foot to throttle the Trackhawk around than the M40i. Sure, power is always fun down the straight, but control around a corner is even more fun. For that, the M40i is a more engaging drive.

The 2018 BMW X3 M40i starts at $54,300 plus taxes and destination charges. The M40i we tested at MPG Test Fest had the $2,550 Executive Package, the $950 20-inch M Double-Spoke Wheels with 245/45R20 front and 275/40R20 rear run-flat tires, and the $700 Adaptive M Suspension. That rings up at just under $60,000, plus taxes and destination. If this was in our budget, we would be at our nearest BMW dealer purchasing an M40i with an Adaptive M Suspension.

Images by Manuel Carrillo III

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