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2018 BMW X3 M40d – Car Review – Have your cake and eat it

2018 BMW X3 M40d – Car Review – Have your cake and eat it

In April I had the chance to review the BMW X3 M40i on a long weekend to Martinborough with our 5 month old daughter. BMW came back to us to see if we would be keen to test the new diesel M40d in a similar scenario over the Christmas break. And as luck would have it, we had planned to go Masterton for the week to my parent house, making it a pretty similar review to the M40i.

I was very keen to see how the M40d would stack up against the exciting M40i.

The Range

You can now get four X3 models in New Zealand; two diesel models –  the xDrive20d ($92,850) and the X3 M40d ($125,200), and two petrol models, the xDrive30i ($99,850) and the M40i at ($122,150). All are fitted with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

The 20d comes with a 2-litre twin-scroll turbo diesel engine that gives you 140kW of power, and 400Nm of torque. The 30i comes with a 2-litre twin-scroll turbo 4-cylinder petrol motor, which pumps out 185kW and 350Nm of torque.

The two six-cylinder options are both twin-turbo, one is petrol and in the M40i. This engine puts out a respectable 265kW of power and 500Nm of torque and gives you a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds. The M40d has the diesel option and produces 240kW and 680Nm of torque. This gets the M40d to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.

Standard equipment on any X3 is reasonable. Even the base model gets keyless start, 19” alloys, ambient lighting with ‘welcome light carpet’, LED headlights, high beam assist, auto wipers, Driving Assistant Plus, adaptive cruise control, Parking Assistant, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, dynamic stability control, Brake Assistant, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamics Traction Control, active headrests, Hill Descent Control, wireless phone charging, DAB tuner, SatNav, a 10” touch display, multifunction instrument display, 6-speaker audio system, Concierge Services, Real Time Traffic information, 3-zone AC, an electric tailgate, all windows one touch up/down, fine-wood oak trim, electric front seats with memory for the driver, and leather upholstery.

Other than the different engine, the xDrive30i doesn’t add too much more to that, other than 21“ alloys, adaptive LED headlights, Comfort Access System, run-flat tyres, a Heads-Up Display (HUD) and Parking Assistant Plus (including a 3D Surround View).

For your extra $20K, the top of the range M40i moves to 21” alloys, Adaptive M suspension, a Harmon Kardon surround sound system, LED fog lights, electric lumbar support adjust, M Aerodynamics package, M leather steering wheel, M Sport Brakes, and heated front seats. And you get that delicious turbo six-cylinder motor of course.

First Impressions

The only visible difference between the X3 M40i and M40d is that badge on the boot. It’s a good look for the X3, the M aerodynamic package gives it some really strong and powerful lines. Our review car was Sophisto Grey Brilliant Effect, which is a rather elaborate way of saying charcoal. It did not look as good as the Phytonic Blue the M40i that we tested, but it still worked well on the X3. The rest would be down to how it handles, and to find out if you should buy petrol or diesel.

The Inside

As we tested the M40i back in April, I will try not to cover some of the already discussed topics that that article. Unlike the M40i the M40d has a black interior, which was more my cup of tea. It’s simple and clean and unlike the brighter leather does not mark or get dirty as quickly. The leather itself was soft and of a high quality on the seats, doors, and centre console.

The M40d had the same issues the M40i had with the seats. That it’s a sports SUV, without real sports seats. However I did not really notice it as I found that I drove the M40d is a totally different manner.

Sound from the Harmon Kardon audio system is superb, with clear treble and some excellent bass. It’s clarity at low levels is something that always showcases high-end audio quality.

Back in March, Fred tested the X3 which has the same Idrive system and almost the same array of buttons across the dash. Check out  the 2017 BMW X3 xDrive30i for more in depth details on the interior options and features.

As we packed up for our trip I was reminded at how large baby seats are – closer to space pods than the seats I remember being in. We have a Britax Boulevard Clicktight seat, which is great: so easy to move from car to car, and my daughter Aoife loves it too. As she is still an infant, the seat needs to be rear facing, and it needs to be tilted into it lowest position. This takes up a lot of room in the most cars, and was just the same for the X3. The front seat had to be moved forward so much that anyone over 5 and a half foot would have found it cramped, as when traveling my wife sat in the back with Aoife. This is no fault to the X3, but just something to consider, as many think an SUV is bigger than a wagon. More practical yes, but only bigger in the taller sense of the word.

The boot on the new X3 has a very usable 550 litres of space with the seats up, and an excellent 1600 with them down. If you lift up the bottom of the boot (it’s held up with a gas strut, a nice touch) then you’ll find another good-sized cubby in there of unlisted size. Something I did not notice on the M40i is that the parcel shelf can be stowed away in this compartment when its not required. This is amazing, not many do it, but its super handy as the retractable parcel shelf are not easy to store inside the vehicle if you need to take it off. This was great for the our trip as it was good to know its there if we want to use it.

Now that we are three, we seem to travel with the same amount of stuff for 6 adults. Baby seat in the back seat, porta cot, buggy, baby trike, toys, heaps of baby clothes and some Christmas presents. And this is just for Aoife, my wife and I just had one bag each. The X3 handled it well, but it was a tight fight. We managed to get everything in with room to clearly see out the back window.

Just like the base model X3, there’s no spare in here; the M40i is fitted with run-flat tyres.

The Drive

The startup for the M40d was rather different to the M40i. Once you started it up, it just fired into life like any other diesel SUV or ute, without any hint of the possible performance possibilities. The M40i has a bit more of a sporty startup, which would have been nice to have on the M40d as well.

The driving modes are the same as the M40i, Eco, Comfort and Sports mode. Both Comfort and Eco seemed very similar to me. Normally Eco is a bit more laid back, slower to respond to controls so that you do not request more power then required, but it seems to be similar to the default Comfort mode, perhaps there is more going on under the hood.

The default or Comfort mode for the M40d was noticeably firm like the M40i, while still being very comfy. There was not a lot of roll in the chassis, and the throttle control had a good feel for the day to day driver. I spent most of the review in this mode as it was a great balance for the power and driving settings.

On to Sports mode, this is where I got rather excited in the M40i. The M40d has the same performance specs with only a 0.1 of a second between their listed 0-100km/h times. In Sports mode the M40d takes off like a rocket, the surge of power is amazing, as you feel the entire vehicle lean back as you’re propelled forward. 680Nm is nothing to laugh at, that’s 80Nm more than my Twin Turbo V10 Audi RS6. That’s pretty mind blowing when you think itss a diesel engine.

The only downside to this is that it sounds much like a diesel engine, from that outside that is. BMW must have realised that this typical diesel sound was an issue, something that could not be changed due to the type of engine. What they opted for is to modify the sound of the engine inside the cabin. I know, it’s faked or lies or something, but everyone who got in and heard it said it sound pretty damn good. I must admit I didn’t like the idea of it, but the sound it makes is great, very deep powerful grumble. Much better than the sound you hear of the engine outside of the vehicle.

Being over in the Wairarapa again I had the chance to test the M40d on the same open country roads that I tested the M40i. I was surprised to see how difference in how I drove these two cars over time. The M40i seemed to egg on my inner child, while the M40d was a lot more refined and civilised. Which meant I drove a lot more refined and civilised, probably why I got such great fuel economy out of M40d.

Over the first two weeks with the M40d, I managed to travel 960km on a single tank. That pretty bloody amazing consider how much power this vehicle has and how easy it’s to drive efficiently. Fuel economy was a surprise compared to the M40i. My average in the M40i was 11.5, while the average in the M40d was 7.4. Thats a huge difference in fuel use, while almost getting the exact same vehicle. It really puts in perspective the long term overship cost of something like this over the petrol version.

As mentioned in the M40i review, the thing about sports SUV’s is that they are generally just an SUV with lot of power to compensate for the extra weight. The M40i was more than that, and the M40d takes it another level again. If you live on a race track the M40i is the one for you, but if you an average Joe with a family, then the M40d starts to make a lot more sense.

I can hand on heart say that I was not always driving it like a saint, I do like powerful cars and I used the power where needed, for overtaking or an exciting burst down on a motorway on ramp. The M40d made me drive a more sensibly then the M40i, making it a much better car to live with on the day to day

The Competition – Performance Midsize Luxury SUV

There are no other diesel performance SUV’s in the midsize market, which means the M40d has a distinct fuel economy advantage over its petrol alternatives.

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot Space, LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Porsche Macan S3.0L V6 turbo petrol260kW / 450Nm9.05500$132,700
Jaguar F-Pace S3.0L V6 Supercharged petrol280kW / 450Nm8.95508$130,000
Audi SQ5 Sportback3.0L TFSI BiTDi260kW / 500Nm5.45540$121,900
BMW X3 M40d3.0L inline6 Twin Turbo Diesel240kW / 680Nm6.75460$125,200
BMW X3 M40i3.0L V6 Petrol twin-scroll turbo265kW / 500Nm8.95460$122,150
Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 433.0L V6 Petrol twin turbo270kW / 520Nm8.85500$118,800
Jaguar XJ Luxury3.0L V6 turbo diesel300kW / 700Nm5.75478$155,000

The pros and cons

ProsCons
  • Luxury interior
  • Good standard spec
  • Performance ride from an SUV
  • Efficient engine
  • Great handling
  • Big boot
  • Good looking body kit
  • Sounds really good inside
  • No sports or performance seats
  • No Android Auto
  • No theatrics from the exhaust compared to M40i

What we think

I thought that the missing theatrics from the exhaust would make me dislike this car. But it didn’t, if anything it made the car much more livable during the day to day. The overall combination made this SUV at lot more sophisticated and refined compared to the M40i. The power is there if you want to have fun, it’s efficient and the engine sounds good for the occupants and the ride and handling is spot on for a mid sized sporty SUV.

What a great car to end the year on, the BMW X3 M40d would be the one for me, proving that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Rating – Chevron rating (5 out of 5)

2018 BMW X3 M40d

Vehicle TypeMidsize AWD 5-door SUV
Starting Price$125,200
Price as Tested$125,200
Engine3-litre, six-cylinder twin turbo diesel
Power, Torque240Kw/680Nm
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
0-100km/h, seconds4.9
Spare WheelRun-flat tyres
Kerb Weight, Kg1,850
Length x Width x Height, mm4716x1897x1676
Cargo Capacity, litres550/1600
Fuel capacity, litres65
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – combined – 6.7L / 100km

Real World Test – combined – 7.4L / 100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity750kg unbraked

2400 kg braked

Turning circle, metresn/a

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty5 years

3 years free servicing

5 years Roadside Assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star

 

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