I’m close to the perfect target customer for the BMW X3 M40i. I’m relatively young (32), am married, have two young children, and enjoy sporty driving. If my pockets were deeper, I’d be exactly the customer BMW was looking for when it was developing the X3 M40i. Which maybe makes me a bit biased when I say that the X3 M40i is the very best do-it-all BMW on sale in America.
If this were Europe, I’d say the best do-it-all BMW on sale was the BMW M340i Touring (or M340d, if diesel tickles your fancy). Alas, this isn’t Europe and the 3 Series Touring isn’t sold here in the ‘States because us Americans are seemingly allergic to reason. Since the long-roof 3er isn’t on sale here in America, the next best thing is this, the BMW X3 M40i. However, that’s not such a bad thing, as the newly facelifted X3 M40i takes an already excellent package and makes it better.
Prior to my recent test drive, the last time I’d driven an X3 M40i was back in 2017. So when it recently came time to review this new X3 M40i LCI, I had mostly forgotten what it was like to drive. I remembered enjoying it but the actual driving experience was fuzzy in my mind. It didn’t take long to get reacquainted to it, though.
Despite some changes to its exterior and interior, the same basic recipe applies to the BMW X3 M40i; based on the X3, has a stonking B58 engine under hood, and handles like a slightly taller 3 Series Touring. It’s a recipe that works and one that just felt right, immediately upon setting off. However, there are some differences between the car I drove back in 2017 and the one I drove only a couple of weeks ago.
New Look, Same Taste
BMW’s modern LCI updates are usually rather tame. The BMW X3 M40i LCI is no different. Sure, its headlights are slimmer and snazzier, its kidney grille is sharper and sportier, and its taillights have a cool three-dimensional look to them (they actually look like the energy swords from Halo, which is awesome). But, for the most part, its updates are minimal. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the X3 as a whole is a handsome SUV.
The X3 M40i isn’t the best looking SUV in its class, even after its updates. In fact, it’s probably towards the bottom of the list, as SUVs like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Volvo XC60, and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class are all a bit more stylish. However, there’s a handsome simplicity to the X3 M40i that makes it charming. It’s a car that will look better with age and one that its customers will grow to appreciate more and more as the years go by. I certainly came to appreciate its design more just throughout my week with it.
Inside, there are some minor updates but it’s mostly the same. If you’ve been inside a modern BMW, you’ve seen the inside of the X3 M40i. Its iDrive system, climate controls, instrument panel, shift lever, and iDrive controller are all identical to virtually every other Bimmer currently on sale. While most of its updates are welcome; such as the new shift lever that replaces the old phallic one, the new iDrive system, and the nicer looking iDrive controller; not all of them are improvements.
For instance, the new climate control buttons, while nicer to look at, aren’t as intuitive to use as the old knobs. Also, the new instrument panel, with its Live Cockpit Professional digital gauges, is fine, it’s a visual downgrade from the semi-analog gauges of the pre-LCI car. The new fully-digital gauges barely even offer any more customization, so they seem updated for purely aesthetic reasons but they actually look worse now. Which is a bit annoying.
Other than that, though, the interior is mostly the same as before but, again, that’s not a bad thing. Quality is excellent, the seats are great, and outward visibility is top-notch. Driving the X3 M40i long distances is a joy.
Just as Good as I Remember
As I said before, it’d been a while since I’d last driven X3 M40i. However, jumping back in after a few years reminded me of why I liked it so much back then. For starters, the X3 itself is such a great SUV package; it’s the right size — not too big but still very spacious, it has a great seating position for an SUV, it offers excellent outward visibility, and it’s ergonomically near-perfect. So from the start, the X3 M40i has a great foundation on which to build. Then you start throwing in the M Performance bits that make it an M40i.
It all starts with the engine; a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six (B58) that makes 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive but you probably already knew that because nearly every BMW uses that same combination. That doesn’t mean it gets old, though. I’ve driven BMW’s B58 in nearly every iteration, since it was first introduced on the F30-generation 340i, and it never ceases to amaze me.
Power is effortless and always remarkably smooth. I don’t know how BMW is able to make an engine punch so hard without even the slightest fuss. It must be capable of 500 horsepower and BMW throttles it back to 382, just so it never feels stressed.
In the BMW X3 M40i, it’s perfect. There’s just enough power to make sports cars look foolish but not so much to tall-riding SUV feel nervous. When I first drove the X3 M40i a few years back, its power and performance had blown me away because I’d yet to feel a proper B58-powered M Performance car before. However, I’ve become so accustomed to its on-demand power that the X3 M40i just felt normal. That’s not to say it’s no stupid-fast — it is — but it feels familiar if you’ve ever driven a modern B58-powered car.
My only annoyance is BMW’s new mild-hybrid system’s auto start/stop. It can’t be disabled independent of drive mode, unless BMW is hiding the button or function somewhere because I couldn’t find it. Which means you have to put it in Sport mode to not have the system on, which is annoying. Other than that, though, it’s outstanding.
Not Quite an M340i But That’s Okay
In ‘Merica, we don’t get cool, fast BMW wagons. If you buy Audi or Volvo, you can get cool wagons but not from BMW (hear that, BMW? Your competition gives us wagons…). Which means if we want something quick but that’s also more practical than a sedan, we have to buy SUVs. While modern performance SUVs such as the BMW X3 M40i have gotten really, surprisingly good to drive, they’re still not on par with the best sedans or even wagons. That’s true of the X3 M40i as well, as it’s not quite as good as the M340i sedan.
That’s okay, though. The X3 M40i is great to drive when you consider what it is. Take its size, weight, and height into account and the X3 M40i becomes a shockingly fun package. It steers better than you might think, has excellent body control, and rides really well. It’s not quite as nimble as an M340i but it’s not too far off. And, to be completely honest, I’d rather drive this X3 M40i than an even old F30 BMW 340i.
No one is going to confuse the BMW X3 M40i for a proper sports car but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. The flip side is that it has a great back seat with loads of room, a large trunk, and tons of headroom for all passengers.
Best Do-It-All BMW?
There’s honestly nothing the 2022 BMW X3 M40i does poorly. There’s never an egg on its face. It’s so good, so well-rounded, that it’s impossible to not at least appreciate. Well-rounded, do-it-all cars rarely evoke emotion, they’re rarely cars we fall in love with. However, there are a few that are just so damn good overall that it’s hard to not love. One of them is the Volkswagen GTI, which might be the best do-it-all machine on the planet. I’m gonna put the BMW X3 M40i alongside it. For under $60,000 to start, I can’t see a better overall package with a BMW Roundel on the hood.