2018 BMW X3 M40i

The ultimate driving machine adds a new pony in it’s stall of German thoroughbreds — the BMW X3 M40i. Spritely, tall, and refined the X3 M40i is as posh in the vineyard as it is on the track.

A BMW with an inline-six just feels right. It being a turbo-six does sully it slightly, but 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque justifying the boost is fine. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. In the M40i, that combination is good for 20 city, 27 highway, 23 combined mpg. Among the options selected on this car were the Executive Package, which adds things like gesture control and parking assistant, and the Premium Package that adds Navigation as well as a heated steering wheel and heated seats, front and back.

Cold startup sets the mood of the entire drive experience, whether it’s a mundane commute to work or a blast through a favorite canyon road. And the X3 M40i wants you to feel awake. After a few quick cranks, the inline-six snaps to life with a 2,000-rpm snarl and keeps the audio energy up as vital components start to warm. The I6 sounds so smooth and sweet, turbocharged or no, it’s just a wonderful engine configuration. Naturally balanced and rich in tone.

The rest of the car is just as aggressive, from the sport setting of the adaptive suspension to the fast-reacting steering. SUVs typically offer good cargo space and room in the cabin, and that’s true here as well. But the similarities stop there and veer way toward sport sedan, exemplified by the Pirelli P Zero summer tires that meet the road, with a staggered setup no less: 245/45R-20s in front, 275/40R-20s in back.

So the M40i would be better than a Mazda MX-5 in the snow, but not much else. Similarly, a smooth, flat dirt road would suit the M40i fine, but let’s not push it much further. This is a tall, 340i M Sport wagon.

The cabin carries the same line of thinking as well. The seats offer plenty of low and high bolstering for strong lateral support, as well as good adjustment for lumbar. iDrive has become a favorite of mine for infotainment; it’s easy to use and intuitive. As for the shifter, some cars are getting a bit too fancy, but BMW keeps it simple enough for engaging the eight-speed automatic. And, yes, there are paddle shifters.

SUVs and crossovers have successfully taken over the automotive market, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s now a performance subset. And this is a good example of the breed, highly focused on the task of delivering some fun on any kind of drive.

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