Want to carry four people and their things in a hurry?
You could spend around $175,000 on a flagship version of the BMW X3 M or Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S, complete with a fire-breathing engine and suspension designed to deliver the sort of handling you’d expect from an M4 Competition or C63 S.
Problem is, they’re a bit serious. That sort of focus is endearing in a two-door toy, but it can get a bit tiring in a family SUV.
That’s where the 2022 BMW X3 M40i comes in. With a practical mid-sized SUV body it’ll carry four people and their things. And with a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six engine, it’ll do it in a hurry without trying so hard, or shouting so loudly about it.
Does it offer the right blend of day-to-day usability and performance?
The BMW X3 range kicks off at $74,900 before on-road costs for the sDrive20i, and extends to $118,900 before on-roads for the M40i on test here.
Along with a new look and an updated interior, the M40i was hit with a $3000 price rise for 2022.
It’s more expensive than its closest rival from Audi, the SQ5 TDI, which kicks off at $110,400 before on-roads. It’s powered by a diesel V6, and offers a slightly different take on the mid-sized performance SUV formula. At Mercedes-AMG, the GLC43 is priced at $130,724 before on-roads and packs petrol V6 power.
Finally, the Porsche Macan range sits either side of the BMW. The Macan S is $105,800 before on-roads, while the GTS is $129,800 before on-roads. Given you generally need to tick a few options boxes to get the Macan up to spec, it’s the S that most closely rivals the M40i.
2022 BMW X3 pricing:
- BMW X3 sDrive20i: $74,900
- BMW X3 xDrive20d: $77,900
- BMW X3 xDrive30i: $89,900
- BMW X3 xDrive30d: $95,900
- BMW X3 xDrive30e: $104,900
- BMW X3 M40i: $118,900
All prices exclude on-road costs.
The current BMW X3 has one of the biggest, most practical cabins in the mid-sized SUV class.
With big windows, a high roofline, and plenty of space between the front seats, it could be confused for a bigger car at first glance. That’s no accident, given the X3 is dimensionally very similar to the first-generation X5.
The driving position offers a panoramic view of the road ahead, but the sports seats drop low enough and offer enough bolstering to still hold you in place when the inline-six is singing. Tall or short drivers won’t have any trouble getting comfortable, and the chubby M Sport steering wheel is a quality item.
It might be a bit too fat for people with small hands, though. BMW loves a chubby steering wheel, and the X3 is no exception.
All-round visibility is excellent thanks to those oversized windows, and the cameras, sensors, and 3D surround-view built into the latest iDrive system make the X3 a cinch to place in tight garages or parking spots. Sure, a rising belt line and coupe roofline look sharp, but the more conventional wagon body on this SUV is far more practical.
The technology in the updated X3 is excellent. iDrive 7.0 has been usurped in the latest BMW electric cars, but the system is still up there with the best in the business.
Not only is the central screen crystal clear, it feels iPad fast. It responds to touch, voice, and inputs from the classic BMW controller on the transmission, and the big on-screen tiles are easy to discern on the move.
BMW was the first to offer wireless Apple CarPlay, and its system remains one of the most reliable.
BMW has some work to do on its digital dashboard, though, which can’t match the latest Audi Virtual Cockpit for customisability or clarity.
There’s plenty of storage up front, from the space beneath the dashboard (where the wireless charger usually sits) to the deep space beneath the central armrest.
The rear seats in the X3 are excellent. Headroom is standout, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted to our tester, and there’s enough legroom for tall teens to get comfortable. You’ll get three people across in comfort thanks to the broad bench, and the door opening is broad enough to make loading child seats easy.
There are air vents back there, standalone climate controls, dual USB-C ports, and a fold-down central armrest with cupholders.
You get ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seats, along with three top tether points. The rear bench folds 40/20/40, and gets pretty close to completely flat.
The boot opening itself is wide, and features netted pockets tucked into its sides. Claimed space is 550 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1600 litres with them folded.
Power in the X3 M40i comes from a classic BMW engine – a silky smooth 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol inline-six.
It pumps out a very healthy 285kW of power and 500Nm of torque, sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
In the X3 it’s good for a claimed 100km/h sprint of 4.8 seconds, and claimed fuel economy of 8.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.
The engine in the M40i dominates the experience. It’s a smooth, characterful motor that makes the car feel special, albeit without quite the same performance as the more motorsports-inspired engine in the X3 M Competition.
It fires with a little flare of revs, and even in Comfort Mode packs the sort of exhaust note that makes you smile every time you accelerate.
It’s effortless at a cruise, shuffling through the lower gears without breaking past 2000rpm thanks to the huge wave of torque on offer. There’s an impressive duality to it; the engine is able to slide into the background when you aren’t in a hurry, rather than constantly straining at the leash.
Bury the accelerator though and it absolutely rips. The swelling low-end torque gives way to an impressive top-end rush, and the transmission snaps confidently through the gears.
Even in Comfort it gets a move on; flicked into Sport Plus it gets sharper, and holds a lower gear to keep the engine right in the meat of its torque band.
It offers all the performance you could ever need from a mid-sized SUV.
In keeping with its billing as an M Performance car rather than a full on motorsports car, the M40i feels more purposeful than its less powerful siblings, but doesn’t shout too loudly about its credentials.
The ride on 21-inch wheels and liquorice-thin tyres is firmer than in lesser variants, and it can feel a bit jiggly over pimply inner-city road surfaces, but it’s far from unbearable.
BMW has struck a good balance between sporty and daily driving, no doubt aided by the adaptive damping system. There’s a noticeable difference between Comfort and Sport modes, the latter of which is too busy for the commute on average Australian roads.
At highway speeds it’s settled and quiet, with the sort of unflappable stability you’d expect of a bahn-storming SUV. A full suite of driver assistance systems remain standard on the M40i, despite the chip crunch forcing BMW to remove them from lesser models.
Its adaptive cruise control system is one of the smoothest and smartest in the business, and the lane-keep assist strikes the right balance between getting involved when you drift, and leaving you to your own devices when you don’t.
The lane-centring system can be activated independently of the cruise control and lane-keep, and takes a more hands-on approach to keeping the car central in its lane. It’s excellent on long highway drives, although it wasn’t something we left on for day-to-day driving.
With its tall windowline, elevated driving position, and reasonably comfort-oriented ride, the M40i doesn’t possess the hot hatch-like agility of a Porsche Macan, nor the laser focus of its X3 M Competition big brother.
It’s tied down well enough to handle the power on offer, and the steering packs enough weight to inspire reasonable confidence in the bends.
Traction from the xDrive all-wheel drive system is immense in the wet, allowing you to take full advantage of the engine’s outputs, but it majors more on point-to-point pace than outright driver involvement.
X3 sDrive20i and xDrive20d highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Tri-zone climate control
- Automatic tailgate
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Connected Package Professional
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- DAB digital radio
- Driving Assistant
- Electric front seat adjustment
- Head-up display
- Mirror package
- Navigation package
- Parking Assistant
- Reversing camera
- Sport leather steering wheel
- Wireless phone charging
X3 xDrive30i and xDrive30d add:
- M Sport Package
- Anthracite headliner
- Adaptive Suspension
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- M Sport brakes
- M Aluminium interior trim
- M leather steering wheel
- M high gloss Shadow Line
- M high gloss roof rails
- Parking Assistant Plus
- Backrest width adjust, driver
- Leather Vernasca upholstery
X3 M40i gains:
- 21-inch M Sport alloy wheels
- M Sport differential
- Adaptive M suspension
- Instrument panel in Sensatec
- Panorama glass sunroof
- Seat heating for front row
- Lumbar support for driver
- harman/kardon surround sound system
The BMW X3 earned a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP in 2017. This rating only applies to xDrive20d and xDrive30i variants in the pre-update line-up, however.
In terms of category scores, the X3 managed 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 84 per cent for child occupant protection, 70 per cent for pedestrian detection and 58 per cent for safety assist.
Dual frontal, side chest, side curtain and a driver’s knee airbag are standard.
The standard Driving Assistant package (sDrive20i, xDrive20d) includes:
- AEB with pedestrian detection
- Forward collision warning
- Cruise control with downhill braking function
- Lane departure warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Speed sign recognition
- Proactive rear collision protection
The enhanced Driving Assistant Professional suite (xDrive30i, xDrive30d, xDrive30e, M40i) adds:
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Steering and Lane Control Assistant (semi-autonomous mode)
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot assist
- Front cross-traffic alert
- Evasion aid
BMW Australia covers its line-up with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing can be taken care of as you go, or through a Service Inclusive plan. The X3 requires maintenance every 12 months or 12,000km.
A five-year or 80,000km prepaid service plan will set you back $2010.
The X3 M40i slots into a great niche in the packed mid-sized SUV world.
The engine is a classic BMW inline-six with more than enough performance to put a smile on your face, but that extra performance doesn’t come at the cost of day-to-day usability or comfort.
Although it doesn’t have the latest, flashiest interior technology from the electric iX SUV, the cabin is one of the most practical in the mid-sized SUV class, with the sort of space X5 owners have come to expect.
There are few nicer ways to carry your family around in a hurry for the money.
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