The era where mid-range luxury SUVs can tangle with American muscle cars has arrived. Take, for example, the $58,795 BMW X3 M40i, which sits between the X3 xDrive30i and the X3 M. It’s powered by a 382-hp turbocharged inline-six that propels this SUV to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. As impressive as that standalone number is, the fact that it flirts with lighter, more powerful V-8-equipped Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros is bonkers. These Detroit icons will outpace the X3’s 12.8-second, 107-mph quarter-mile pass, but they can’t fit 24 cabin-sized boxes in their cargo hold during that time.
Behind new-for-2022 headlights and the X3’s larger grille, BMW’s ubiquitous and rugged 3.0-liter B58 delivers a 27-hp boost over the BMW inline-six used before the 2020 model year. of the engine to go from smooth operation to lag-free torque spurt never fails to impress. Neither does the ZF eight-speed automatic, which has a relaxed demeanor in normal operation that turns into an ability to smash quick gear changes when it’s time to work. The powertrain has been augmented by a newly added 48-volt hybrid system that fills in lulls in the engine’s powerband, but were it not for the buttery auto stop/start operation, its presence under the hood would not be detected.
Even with the electric motor and accompanying battery, the X3 M40i weighs 4378 pounds, just 70 more than the previous M40i. Coming from the junior range of BMW’s M performance tuning kit, the X3 M40i comes standard with M Sport disc brakes measuring 13.7 inches in the front and 13.6 inches in the rear. Our test car ran on the optional Bridgestone Alenza 001 RFT 20-inch summer tires ($600), which helped it stop from 70 mph in a tidy 158 feet. BMW’s Adaptive M dampers are also standard on the M40i, which keep the bodywork largely under control as the Bridgestones cling to the skid at 0.88g while the optional electronically controlled limited-slip differential maximizes traction available on the rear axle.
Although the M40i offers a dynamic showcase on the track, its daily use is very expensive. BMW has not yet adjusted the electrically assisted steering to our liking, it’s as if a Porsche or Cadillac product had never honored its reference fleet. The steering rack’s overactive response to inputs from the chunky M Sport steering wheel requires frequent mid-corner corrections, and there’s simply no idea what the front wheels are doing. And we’d like to walk the glassy road that BMW uses to validate adaptive damper tuning, because in the real world the two damper modes can also be labeled Spine Compression and Rigor Mortis.
The interior got subtle changes for the mid-cycle refresh, including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and touchscreen infotainment display. With a tested price of $64,990, our slightly optional X3 M40i lacked high-tech niceties like adaptive cruise, wireless charging and 360-degree camera system. The front seats don’t offer the comfort of those in the Genesis GV70, nor does the interior have the same level of opulence as the Korean luxury brand.
While the M40i shines as a performance machine, it’s too narrowly focused. Other manufacturers have figured out how to make their sport SUVs drive smaller than their profile suggests without compromising regular use, but the M40i falls short. The X3 might be just a start of launch control away from embarrassing an unsuspecting muscle car, but it’s a few lines of code away from greatness.
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