One in three BMWs sold worldwide these days is an SUV, with most of them being manufactured in Spartanburg, but if there is one model that will make a huge impact on BMW’s future sales will be the all-new 2018 BMW X3. Given that BMW has sold over 1.5 million X3s over the first two editions and 14 years, the G01 X3 has some big shoes to fill but judging by our experience in Portugal with the new SUV, the road to success is clearly defined.


And the success story of the new X3 starts with its exterior design, arguably the best SUV design so far by BMW. For 2018, the X3 is all new, featuring a completely new design language, all-new interior, a new chassis, new engines and technology.  All of the elements of BMW’s new design language are there but there’s some additional aggression that some of its other cars don’t have. But it’s still very distinctly an X3. For instance, the way the shoulder line kicks upward toward the Hofmeister Kink is classic X3.

However, the Hofmeister itself is different and looks more aggressive. The now-traditional BMW Air Breather behind the front wheel arch is also angrier than on most BMWs and creates a body line down the side of the car. It’s just far more muscular looking than the outgoing X3.

At the front, it’s nice to see BMW ditch the connected headlights/kidney grilles, a move that works well on the new X3. Out back, BMW refreshed the taillights quite a bit and they now more prominently feature BMW’s traditional “L” shape.

The interior of the all-new BMW X3 follows BMW tradition with its driver-focused and ergonomically optimized cockpit layout and carries over many aspects of the car’s exterior design. For instance, hexagonal forms and precise, sloping edges also play a central role in the interior. The interior as a whole displays exceptional material quality, fit, and finish, with carefully thought ergonomics. One example here is the storage concept, which offers more storage space than ever before and ensures it is easier to access.


The design is just part of the new X3 story. Just as important as its looks are the updates to the chassis and powertrain. Under the skin lies a variant of BMW’s new scalable lightweight architecture. The new X3 is lighter than before, stiffer than before and still maintains its perfect 50/50 weight distribution. There’s also the latest version of BMW’s intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive system.

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According to BMW, it can get from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, making it the fastest car in its class.


Despite using the same double-joint, spring/strut front axle and a five-link rear suspension setup, BMW claims the new X3 will be far more dynamic than before. A lot of it has to do with the better chassis and steering but BMW also claims it has to do with the reduction in unsprung mass. Aluminum swivel bearings and lighter tubular anti-roll bars make it feel lighter on its feet and more agile. It also has improved axle kinematics and a revised electric power steering.

The X3’s overall weight is up to 55kg lighter depending on the model.

BMW X3 xDrive M40i

The top dog in the new X3 lineup is the xDrive M40i, a model tuned and refined by the BMW M Performance Automobile division. Under its hood lies a variant of BMW’s B58 3.0 liter turbocharged I6 engine, similar to what’s in the BMW M240i. However, where the M240i has 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, the X3 M40i gets 355 hp and the same amount of torque. It’s paired with BMW’s ZF-sourced, sport-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission and a more performance oriented xDrive system. The all-wheel-drive system gets a lighter rear differential, updated transfer case and more rear torque bias.

According to BMW, it can get from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, making it the fastest car in its class.

Stiffer suspension and more sport tuned damping, along with bigger M Sport brakes, make the X3 M40i handle and stop as well as it goes. The aerodynamics have also been improved, thanks to a sportier front-end and sleeker roofline – 0.33 drag coefficient compared to the 0.36 in the current model.

Therefore, to really test if the X3 M40i is as exciting in real life as it sounds on paper, BMW gave us the keys to a Long Beach Blue M40i to roam around the twisty roads of Sintra, north of Lisbon, Portugal. Our approach with all-new BMWs is to quickly switch the car to its most dynamic mode, in this case, the Sport Plus. Thanks to the adaptive suspension, the highest driving dynamics offered in this model are immediately noticeable, from the revved up engine to the quicker power delivery, and to the stiffer, heavier and livelier steering wheel.

The ZF 8-Speed also changes its character so now you get to enjoy quicker shifts with that kickback that’s known from other BMWs. Of course, you can choose to let the car do the shifting for you or you can use the shift paddles on the steering wheel.

Luckily the beautiful Portuguese roads don’t suffer from the same traffic jams as in New York or Los Angeles, therefore, the open and curvy roads invite you to properly test a sporty car like the X3 M40i. Going slightly at higher speeds than usual, the new X3 reveals some exciting characteristics, even when compared to its brother, the X4 M40i, which of course, still rides on the previous generation chassis and engine. The turn in response is sharp with extremely minimal body lean and lots of grip.

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The M Performance Exhaust system is another winner in the X3 M40i, with a deep, growling sound


The turbo lag is also minimal and as soon as torque kicks in, the car pushes forward with ease, and quickly rises to 62 mph, or past that. At the same time, the beefier M Performance brakes quickly and promptly stop the powerful SUV.

Compared to the non-M X3s, the spring rates are 5 percent stiffer up front and 8 percent stiffer at the rear, and that could be immediately be felt. Especially since we had the chance to drive back-to-back another X3 – the X3 xDrive30d.

Of course, the Sport Plus mode might not be for everyone, considering that the sportier ride comes with trade-offs like a bumpier experience and a noisier cabin. The M Performance Exhaust system is another winner in the X3 M40i, with a deep, growling sound. Engineers told us that the engine was tuned to misfire one cylinder to make the proper growling sound.

Yet, those looking for a proper kids hauling machine will have a choice as well. The Comfort mode is made for those busy traffic days and daily commutes, where a calmer ride is the preferred choice. The relaxed suspension does a great job at absorbing potholes – little to none in Portugal though – and the impurities of backroads. The steering wheel becomes looser which will make many soccer parents happy. Cue in the adaptive cruise control and you’re getting the perfect driving companion on our busy American highways.

For those that love M or M-derived cars, the X3 M40i might be the best BMW SUV you could buy today. Sure, the X5 M and X6 M are pure beasts and track contenders, but the hefty price and size might not be for everyone. Just like all other M Performance Automobiles, the new G01 2018 BMW X3 is a vehicle that does not compromise everyday driveability in the pursuit of performance and dynamism.

The top X3 model also gives us hopes for the open secret in Munich – the upcoming X3 M – which should be in a class of its own with a lot of followers.

The 2018 BMW X3 xDriveM40i arrives in the U.S. next month with a base price of $55,295 and in Germany at 66,300 euros.

2018 BMW X3 xDriveM40i

Exterior Appeal - 9
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 9
Performance - 9.5
Handling - 9
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 9
Price Point - 9


Just like all other M Performance Automobiles, the new G01 2018 BMW X3 is aa vehicle that does not compromise everyday performance in the pursuit of performance and dynamism.