TESTED 28.5.18, Surrey ON SALE Now PRICE £51,705
Potent petrol engine gives the X3 an understated edge
When we road tested the third-generation X3 xDrive20d earlier this year, it impressed us with the manner in which it struck a middle ground between composed comfort and BMW’s trademark handling poise and dynamism.
The M40i variant you see before you places a bit more emphasis on the latter of those traits – quite a lot more emphasis, in fact. Under its long, sculpted bonnet sits a 355bhp twin-turbocharged straight six petrol engine that, with 369lb ft of torque, will launch the 1885kg SUV to 62mph from a standstill in a claimed 4.8sec.
And it feels every bit as quick as those numbers suggest. Exercise all of the throttle pedal’s travel and you’ll be greeted with a surge of smooth, linear, and unsurprisingly rapid acceleration.
The only trouble is, the manner in which this performance is delivered isn’t particularly exciting. The soundtrack from that six-cylinder engine is crisp and muscular but not exactly memorable. And while the impressively adjustable and supportive front seats allow you to sit low down in the cabin, you’re still aware of the fact that you’re at the wheel of a high-riding SUV.
Thankfully, though, there’s a remedy. Select Sport mode and a flap in the M Sport exhaust system opens, lending the X3 a far more vocal demeanour with plenty of rifle-crack pops and bangs on the overrun. Throttle response is also sharpened, while the eight-speed transmission is far more eager to kick down and hold on to its selected ratios for longer under throttle.
Selecting Sport also weights up the already fairly hefty – although reasonably talkative – steering, while the adaptive dampers are firmed up too. Riding on lowered M Sport suspension, body roll is generally well contained and xDrive four-wheel drive provides plenty of traction. The X3 isn’t quite saloon-like in the way it tackles bends, but it’s not far off, either. It’s comfortable too.
Those after a fast SUV that’s a touch more extrovert might feel more at home in a Mercedes-AMG GLC43, and a Porsche Macan S is undoubtedly a sharper driving tool. But the X3 M40i isn’t far off, and for that reason it warrants consideration.
Engine 6 cyls, 2998cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power 355bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 369lb ft at 1520rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1885kg
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Economy 33.6mpg (combined)
CO2, tax band 193g/km, 37%
Rivals Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC43, Porsche Macan S