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LISBON, PortugalNot always a fan of car designer speak, especially when delving into topics such as “sculpted crease lines” and “emotive surfacing”, I really like head designer, Calvin Luk’s summed-up description of his latest creation, the all-new BMW X3. Standing alongside him at the international launch of the third-generation of one of the most important models in BMW’s current portfolio, Australian Luk says he views the new (G01) X3 as a rugby player dressed in a fitted suit. And, while it helps that it’s the sportiest version of the new range, the X3 M40i, that we’re staring at at the time, I do tend to agree with his observation.

Within what is shaping up to be one of the most fiercely contested segment battles of recent times, the new BMW X3 is, alongside the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace, setting its stall out to be one of the most dynamic-looking options available. Built on BMW’s new larger but lighter CLAR platform, the third-generation X3 is only marginally longer and wider (though lower) than the model it replaces, yet viewed in the metal you immediately get the sense that the brief was to make the vehicle look bolder and more athletic that before. As such, the company's signature grille is that much more pronounced, the roof line is that much more swept and the bonnet creases are that much more appreciable. In the first ever M Performance X3, it’s a package granted even more presence by bespoke bumper treatments (front and rear), neat Cerium Grey highlighting (including side mirrors), tailpipe dimension upgrade and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Serving as a constant reminder of that bold exterior styling, the aforementioned bonnet creases (similar to those on the larger X5) are a prominent sight from behind the steering wheel of the new X3. While the M40i’s cabin is lifted with appropriate touches such as sports seats and chrome accenting, like the exterior package, the new X3’s cabin as a whole feels far more svelte and leaner in its application than before. Certainly the adoption of a new platform (and, accordingly, a 50 mm longer wheelbase) has freed up valuable interior space, but you do also get the sense of a greater emphasis placed on ergonomics in the new car. More sculpted than in the previous model, the fact that the centre console is fashioned to face the driver’s seat is immediately obvious. A welcome inclusion in the new interior package is the presence of a more front-and-centre (10,2-inch) infotainment display that now offers touchscreen (yes, as well as gesture control) functionality. To this end, build quality and the use of materials also appears to have been a key focus of attention when designing the new car – a standard that the workforce at Rosslyn will be looking forward to replicating once production of the new X3 begins in South Africa in 2018.

As aggressive as the new X3 M40i looks, its exhaust note (even in default mode) is arranged to do those looks justice. Powered by a (B58) turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, the M40i fires to life with all the verve and purpose of a modern hyper-hatch. And it’s a feeling that never really leaves. Boasting 265 kW and a sturdy 500 N.m from just 1 400 r/min, the newest member of the M Performance portfolio always feels tightly wound up and ready for action. It’s this fact that perhaps most distinguishes the fastest X3 to date from the likes of the new Audi SQ5, the Ingolstadt model offering a somewhat more convincing dual personality.

That said, I have a feeling the SQ5 would have a tough time keeping pace with the X3 M40i over a mountain pass, such is the dynamic ability (highlighted by excellent body control and hot hatch-like turn-in precision) offered by the BMW. While an adaptive suspension setup is optional, the M40i comes standard with M Sport brakes and suspension arrangements as well as an xDrive all-wheel-drive setup tuned for a more pronounced rearwards bias. Tune all the systems, including the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission, to Sport mode and a bonus feature is a smile-inducing cacophony of exhaust pipe pops and crackles on the overrun; not something obviously associated with a school-run SUV.

Indeed, as a family friendly SUV with the heart of a hot hatch, the new BMW X3 M40i may be the most unapologetically brash contender in this segment. But it is afforded this attitude by the fact that the vehicle it's based on appears to be very well sorted in terms of overall balance, poise and precision. While its bolder styling, compared with the likes of, say, the forthcoming Volvo XC60, will arguably narrow its broad appeal, based on first impressions the new BMW X3, with its sharp new interior packaging and the kind of built-in dynamics that has won BMW so many fans to date, it looks destined to hit the ground running in its latest tussle for segment dominance.
FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY – The ribbon of tarmac ahead snakes left, then right before upstate New York’s lush greenery engulfs it in the far distance. We might have found the US’ bendiest road … and the speed limit is a miserable 45 mph.

That crawl speed is made more frustrating when the engine ahead pumps out 375 kW and we know it’ll power the next-generation M3. I’m at the helm of the X3 M Competition and sticking to the 70-odd km/h speed limit, a warning of state troopers at every turn from new M GmbH boss, Markus Flasch, front of mind.

Soon enough, the road straightens and clear visibility to the verges where Ray-Ban-donning cops might hide (we actually met one wearing aviator-inspired eyewear, his accent and easy-but-alert demeanour reinforcing any stereotypes I might have had) means I can risk dumping the throttle. The response from the new S58 twin-turbo engine is fantastic, the ZF-sourced torque-converter transmission firing through its eight ratios with alacrity.

This instant-then-relentless stream of acceleration, coupled with promising balance in tighter turns on that restricted road, bodes well for our stint later on the private Monticello Motor Club’s 21-turn track at full blast in the mechanically related X4 M Competition.

But before we get to all that...

What is the X3 M? Well, a latecomer to the party, certainly. The segment for midsize performance SUVs has grown apace ever since Porsche first unveiled a Macan Turbo (which has since been pulled from sale pending an updated version's release), Mercedes-AMG added the GLC63 to the mix and Alfa Romeo installed the Giulia QV’s 2,9-litre Ferrari-developed V6 in the lofty nose of the Stelvio. Jaguar’s recently joined the festivities with the F-Pace SVR, Land Rover will launch its RR Velar SVAutobiography in the coming months and Audi, well, continues with the modest SQ5.   

The next M3's engine

Enthusiasts may baulk at this type of car, criticising manufacturers kowtowing to market trends by developing vehicles which are inherently compromised – higher centres of gravity and bulk – instead of remaining true to their sportscar heritages. But the income sheets speak volumes and performance SUVs are profitable. BMW says it’s taken its time developing the M twins, aligning them to the core values of the modern-day M GmbH. That starts with an engine of thrusting low-end brawn and a searing top-end (the digital redline starts at 7 200 r/min).

The S58 unit – which has some relation to the B58 3,0-litre inline-six used in BMW’s mainstream passengers vehicles, but “not much” – is the German brand’s most powerful six-pot ever and employs two turbochargers of equal size, one supplying compressed air to cylinders one through three; the other to the remainder. In Competition models, that means 375 kW (22 kW less in normal X3/X4 Ms) and 600 N.m from 2 600 to 5 950 r/min for a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time of just 4,1 seconds (for reference, we timed the F30 M4 at 4,29 seconds back in 2014).    

An M vehicle is also defined by the quality and volume of the sound it generates. These M SUVs employ two pairs of tailpipes, each 100 mm in diameter, as well as electrically controlled flaps and, on Competition models, a bespoke M Sport exhaust system to elevate the blare. It works: the X3 M sounds better than any other new M product I’ve recently experienced and, while more subdued than its V8 rivals, has its own unique soundtrack.

And a proper M car's handling

Joyous, interactive handling completes the triumvirate of qualities defining an M car. And here BMW has gotten it spot-on.

Taken wholesale from the M5, the M xDrive all-paw system juggles between the security provided by four-corner traction and the interactivity of rear-biased drive. Normally, it favours the latter, transferring power to the front axle only when the rear struggles to bite. Of course, this being 2019, the driver can decide whether this juggling act should lean fore or aft. On track in the X4 M Competition with its rear wheels set wider apart than on the X3, we activated M Dynamic Mode, which in turn switched on M xDrive 4WD Sport (have there ever been so many Ms in a CAR driving impression?). That sent more power to the 265-wide rear wheels, imbuing the SUV with a hint of playfulness on the rear axle exiting Monticello’s many hair-raisingly blind or off-camber corners. Widen the angle and the DSC system steps in and gently trims back power. It’s all very controlled, but lots of fun, too.

Special mention must go to the braking system, which is shared with the M760Li, boasts discs measuring 395 mm up front clamped by four-piston fixed callipers, and has feel in abundance. The setup started to fade during my stint at Monticello but that’s to be expected given the vehicle’s kerb weight – pretty much two tonnes – and the demanding nature of the track.

It’s here, though, where I have to shift the focus from what makes the X3 M a formidable new rival in this class and mention the counter-effect of making a sizeable, hefty SUV handle as well as this one does. The ride is firm. It’ll be too unyielding for some – I found it just-about bearable on New York and New Jersey’s unexpectedly poor-quality road surfaces – and does narrow the X3 M’s focus somewhat from being a do-all family vehicle, to one that’s pitched more directly at performance-car enthusiasts.

Practicality, however, is top-class. The interior is spacious front, back and in the boot (the X4 sacrifices some headroom and packing space, but not much), handsomely finished – although you’ll have to make up your own mind about the Midrand beige/black colour combination on the vehicle picture; I’m not a fan – and promises to be very well equipped when the vehicle makes landfall locally in September 2019.

When it does, the BMW will join an established segment in which it’ll have to nudge aside rivals with more attention-grabbing qualities (the AMG and Jaguar’s V8 engines; the Alfa’s more gently balanced chassis; the Velar’s looks and, well, its supercharged V8) than its decidedly subtler approach. But that’s perfectly fine … M GmbH’s vehicles have always favoured a stealthier approach and the X3 M is no different. I suppose that makes it a proper M car, then?

Latest Resutls for BMW X3

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Heated ventilated seats: opt front heated / opt front + rear heated / opt front heated + ventilated
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Run flat tyres: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: opt / opt lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Directional turning headlights: opt LED
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: opt LED
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: dynamic flashing brake lights
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Sports suspension: Optional
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, Sport+
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std incl brake function (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • TV television: Optional
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear + boot
  • Central locking: remote (opt keyless)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: keyless start (opt keyless access)
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: opt driver
  • Sun roof: opt sliding/tilting panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: opt sliding/tilting
  • Electric seat adjustment: front
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: opt rear / opt surround view
  • Towbar trailer hitch: opt electric detachable
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 747 km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • All wheel drive: full-time
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Transmission name: sports Steptronic
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 245/45 R20 (opt 245/40 R21)
  • Reartyres: 275/40 R20 (opt 275/35 R21)
  • Length: 4716 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1897-2138 mm
  • Height: 1676 mm
  • Wheel base: 2864 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 204 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 12.1 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 550-1600 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1600 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1885 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 640
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2455 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 2400
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 65l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 11.7 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 7.5 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 8.7 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 199g/km
  • Power maximum: 265 kW
  • Power maximum total: 265 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5500-6500 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 140.6 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 500 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1520-4800 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 500 Nm
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 4.5s
  • Maximum top speed: 250 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2998 cc
  • Engine size: 3.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 3.0T
  • Engine + detail: 3.0 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 6
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i6
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 24
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Variable valvelift: Standard
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 2
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator km
  • Brand: BMW
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 05046450
  • MMVariant: X3 xDRIVE M40i (G01)
  • MMintrodat: 2017-09-01
  • Introdate: 2017-09-01
  • DuoportarecordID: BMWX3_3e21



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