During Car of the Year testing back in 2015, lead photographer William Walker and I thought it would be fun to count how many M badges adorned the 340i M Sport we had in the competition. I can’t recall the exact number, but I think we got to 30 and decided we’d better get back to the bazillion other cars we had left to shoot. Point is, you can get the fabled M badge on any BMW nowadays, some more deserving than others. Our X3 isn’t a full-blown M-car, so does it deserve the 15 M badges it sports? We took it to our test track to find out.
The X3 M40i takes 4.8 seconds to hit 60 mph and 13.4 seconds to cover the quarter mile at 103 mph. According to road test editor Chris Walton, “The numbers say it’s quick, but it’s so undramatic that it doesn’t feel this quick.” This lack of drama can be attributed to the buttery-smooth B58 engine (the most powerful version available until the Z4 arrives at dealerships) and the ZF eight-speed, arguably the best automatic transmission in the industry. For comparison, the first E46 M3 we tested in 2001 took 4.7 seconds to reach 60 mph and 13.2 seconds at 106.9 mph for the quarter mile. The M3 is 18 years older, but it’s a legitimate M car and weights about a thousand pounds less, so it’s fun to know the X3 won’t be embarrassed in a straight-line race. Braking is also comparable: The X3 takes 112 feet to stop from 60 mph compared with the E46 M3’s 111 feet. That’s thanks to its 13.7-inch vented discs up front and 13.5-inch vented discs at the rear, 0.9 and 0.6 inch larger than the M3’s, respectively.
Our X3 also impressed testing director Kim Reynolds in the figure eight. He was “surprised at how much it rotates after braking and turning in. This thing is well balanced,” which is a characteristic of the E46 M3 and M cars of the past. The X3 does understeer at the limit but not overwhelmingly so, a trait undoubtedly engineered in to appease BMW lawyers. Steering is direct though not as crystal clear when communicating what the front wheels are up to. Then again, neither was the E46 M3.
I can no longer tell whether the M badge on any given vanilla BMW came with the car from the factory or is a cheap eBay knockoff, but it’s safe to say the X3 M40i has enough M mojo that it deserves to rock a few (or 15). I’m curious to see for myself if it can hold its badges on at a road course. Track day, anyone?
Read more about our long-term 2018 BMW X3 M40i:
|2018 BMW X3 M40i|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$68,670|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/355-hp/369-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,282 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||186.1 x 74.7 x 66.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.4 sec @ 103.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||112 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.9 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/27/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/125 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.86 lb/mile|