What it is: The M40i is BMW’s top trim X3 SUV that pushes the X3 as close to a sports car as you are going to get. BMW currently makes six different crossover/SUV vehicles ranging from the X1 to the X6 with the X3 falling right in the middle and being the choice for most consumers shopping in this segment. It’s gotten bigger than previous generations, and delivers a raised driving experience with RWD or AWD drive-trains that can handle most anything you throw at it.

BMW refers to the X3 as a “Sports Activity Vehicle” and I think that branding is spot on. Turbocharged engines are very en vogue with car manufacturers because they can deliver both fuel economy and extra performance depending on how hard you press down the pedal, and the X3 has moved to an all-turbocharged lineup. The regular X3 gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder whereas the M40i gets the 3.0-liter turbocharged six cylinder that has been found in BMW’s sportier trims for years.

The result is quite startling. A 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds is much quicker than you would expect from a car this size. Only AWD is available on the M40i trim, and it will grip and launch you forward as fast as the turbocharger can pack air into the engine. The M40i comes with M sport brakes, a sport transmission, and my test model had the Adaptive M Suspension ($700) which all really round out the performance car experience.

My test model also came with the other two main equipment groups, the Platinum Package ($2,950) and the Executive Package ($2,550) which do force the price higher, but are likely an easy check box for shoppers of the M40i considering they add navigation, a head-up display, front and rear heated seats, a full digital instrument cluster, and more. This was certainly a car that I looked forward to not only driving, but riding in every morning. The leather in this tester is called “Cognac Vernasca Leather.” BMW even makes the name of their leather seats luxurious.

The M40i loves to cruise on the highway, and you feel like a racecar driver knowing that you have 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque ready to rip as soon as you hammer down the throttle. I can assure you that merging onto the highway at speed is not an issue.

MPG: 23 combined/20 city/27 highway

Price: $54,300 base price. $65,920 as-tested.

Upsides: Does everything and does it stylishly.

Downsides: Is the world ready for a $65,000 BMW X3?

Wrap-up: The X3 M40i is the Swiss Army Knife of mid-sized SUVs. It’s an actual SUV, not a wimpy crossover, and has a tow rating of 4,500 pounds. It runs the 1/4 mile in 13.0 seconds (faster than the GLC43, Macan S, or F-Pace S) and is packed to the hilt with new technology and luxurious surfaces. If you don’t need third-row seating then it’s hard to ignore. BMW’s legendary ‘M’ badge is not misplaced on the rear of the X3 M40i.

Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.