Living with BMW’s freshly updated and shockingly rapid 2022 X3 M40i is an exercise in restraint. That six-cylinder turbo motor is an absolute unit, hellbent on haulin’ — well, you get the idea. The M40i is a sleeper, a sports car in disguise. The compact X3, now in its third-generation, is arguably the ultimate everyday SUV in BMW’s lineup. It’s petite enough to squeeze into any parking spot or tight condo garage, spacious enough for long trips with friends or family, and capable enough to use all year thanks to the proven xDrive all-wheel drive system. On top of all that, this BMW stuffed with all the luxuries and tech you’d expect from the fine folks over in Munich. There’s a reason it’s perennially a top-seller for BMW.
To be completely honest though, the six-cylinder motor is overkill. The standard X3 xDrive30i has and four-cylinder turbo that feels much stronger than its 248 horsepower rating would suggest. Or, there’s the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e, which serves up slightly more power and can do nearly 30 kilometres on electric power alone. If you’ve got a short commute, you’d hardly ever need to fill up the tank. Both of those X3s start at under $60,000, and are all the car most drivers would ever need.
The updated 2022 X3 M40i makes 382 horsepower, 27 more than before, and will haul itself from a standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. Nobody needs all that, but it’s addictive. The motor delivers a tidal wave of torque without any turbo-lag or peaky-ness. (We’d bet money BMW is sandbagging the power figures on this motor.) BMW’s “B58” engine will certainly go down as one of the brand’s best. Working in combination with the proven ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, this 3.0-litre motor delivers speed on a velvet platter. Even the automatic start/stop function is smooth, thanks to assistance from a new 48-volt mild hybrid system. There really is nothing to complain about; the engine even sounds good.
You can of course find this spectacular mill in other BMWs — the M340i sedan, Z4 convertible, or M240 coupe — but with the X3 it’s a fine pairing of power and practicality.
Such power comes with a price — $68,000 to be exact. The other costs are less tangible. For one thing, you must exercise restraint whilst driving this beast. Deploying the full 382 horsepower must be done carefully. If you move out to pass a truck on the highway and put the pedal to the carpet, for example, you’ll zip past the big rig and be doing silly speeds before you’ve had to time to catch your breath.
For another thing, in order to tame so much power, BMW has stiffened up the X3’s suspension. The chassis feels tighter and more controlled in fast corners, but is noticeably less compliant over bad roads. In downtown Toronto or Montreal where potholes and construction are the rule rather than the exception, you will get jostled around a bit no matter what setting you select for the adaptive dampers. For long hauls on the highway though, the M40i is perfectly civilized.
Seen from the outside there’s little to betray the fact this practical-looking compact SUV is a hot-rod in disguise. The revised X3 get new headlights and an aggressive-looking enlarged kidney grille. Our test car wore lovely 21-inch double-spoke M wheels, as well as red brake calipers and stealthy shadowline exterior window trim. The cabin was kitted out with a customizable digital instrument cluster and a big central touchscreen. Our car was finished with carbon fibre trim and opulent two-tone Merino leather in Fiona Red and Black. The $2,000 advanced driver assistance package added luxuries like steering and traffic jam assist, while the $7,900 “premium package enhanced” stuffs the cabin with tech, including a heads-up display, ambient lighting, Harman/Kardon surround sound, surround-view cameras, and a panoramic sunroof, among many other things.
All told, the 2022 X3 M40i you see here rings in at $84,335 before taxes. Is stepping up to the M40i worth it? Your brain will say no, but your heart — and your heavy right foot — will say yes. Provided you and your passengers can live with the sporty (read: stiff) ride, the big motor will never cease to entertain.
It’s also worth noting that you might actually have an easier time finding a X3 M40i than you would a fully-loaded xDrive30i. (Due to ongoing supply-chain and shipping disruptions affecting the entire auto industry, companies are often prioritizing their higher-end models, like the M40i.)
One final note, and a word of caution: there’s always another rung up the ladder. The X3 M Competition, a full-fat M car with over 500 horsepower and price tag bordering on six-figures, is an altogether more serious proposition. As rapid as the M40i model is, the M Competition is in another league. Good luck exercising restraint now.