BMW X3 M40i Ranked as Ski Critics #1 Compact Luxury SUV for 2023
The BMW X3 goes head to head with the Porsche Macan and comes up as the winner for best in class Luxury Compact SUV in 2023. Both the Macan and the X3 are awesome SUV’s to drive, and BMW commands the #1 rank for the following reasons:
- When you compare equally priced vehicles – Macan T vs. X3 M40i, the BMW blows the Porsche away in performance. The Macan T just doesn’t pack the punch at this price point.
- BMW is more reliable, especially in the base model. The Porsche Macan Base and T trim use the Audi 2.0 engine, which is not as durable as the BMW. The BMW engines are far superior to the Audi power plants, offering up to 30% more life. Audi and Porsche have been plagued by the Audi engines that burn excessive amounts of oil, and stop functioning around 100,000 – 110,000 miles.
- Price and overall affordability is much better for the BMW X3. You can get a much more powerful X3 M40i with M-Suspension, leather seats, premium sound for $65,000, vs. the underpowered Macan T with Sports Chrono, leather seats and sound for $67,000. BMW includes 3 year 36,000 mile service opposed to none at Porsche. When you add up the components of longer life, better mileage, and lower repair cost you’ll save an additional $25,000 with the BMW.
- Porsche has lost some of its good looks, and the new grill is less aggressive and much more feminine compared to past years. I used to love the signature “shark’s head” front end on the Macan, but now it’s more of a snorkel scoop.
- Space is important: The BMW offers more room where it matters compared to the Macan. The X3 has more drivers leg room, more leg and head room in the back seat, and much more storage in the back. You can easily fit 188 cm skis in the back with seats folded, where it’s tight in the Macan. Also, being 6’3″, I find the Macan is just a bit cramped in the drivers seat compared to the BMW X3.
- BMW X3 has 8″ ground clearance standard, vs 7″ with the Macan. You can spend $2,500 for the air suspension on the Macan to allow up to 9″ of clearance at speeds less than 25 MPH
All of this comes together with a superior driving and ownership experience with the X3. The X3 M40i is a race horse with 382 HP under the hood to push you back in the seat, even if you’re already going 80 MPH. With the M-Sport suspension, the BMW is balanced, planted, and a super fun ride on the windy corners. There’s enough comfort and give in the suspension allowing for a very comfortable ride over those rugged mountain roads and your suburban variety of pot holes.
You really need to step up to the Macan S, which now has the old GTS (Porsche designed and built) engine if you want to go toe to toe in performance to the X3 M40i. You’ll need to spend about $77,000 for the Macan S vs. $65,000 for the equal X3 M40i. At these trims you would have a difficult time deciding which one is a better driving vehicle, and probably just be dispositioned by the brand you prefer.
Here is what I enjoyed in my test drive of the X3 M40i:
Driving: With the M-Sport suspension, the X3 really corners well. The steering felt very intuitive, precise, balanced, and fun. You really get a good sense of the road, and significant command around the corners. You get a “superman” feeling that you can drive through any corner at full speed. Also, you get this planted feel on the road, where it would take a category 5 hurricane to knock you off your line. it took me over 10 minutes in my test to realize I the controls in the “Comfort” setting. To be honest, the comfort setting felt like the sport setting in my 428i. When I did click into Sport hold on…. I would not imagine that I would go into Sport Mode often on the M40i, and would probably just keep in Comfort. Sport mode is a bit too race ready for most situations.
Driving in the Snow: The XDrive system is among the best performing drive systems in the snow. (Period). With proper snow tires there isn’t any type of snow driving situation that the XDrive does not handle. Maybe, if you’re in 12″ deep mucky snow with soft mud, you’ll be better off with a Land Rover Defender, or 4Runner due to the higher ground clearance and off-road capable systems. Otherwise, you’re golden in the X3.
Comfort / Interior: The inside is very BMW feeling. Simple, elegant, intuitive, and luxurious. I really like the newer iDrive system including the knob. It’s so easy to navigate to the various features without feeling strained or distracted from driving. That said, the HK stereo wasn’t quite a powerful as mine in the 2015 4 series. Maybe it’s the larger cabin, but the sound system seems to be a bit less powerful. There is good room for 4 adults, but it would be tough to fit four 6′ tall men for a long road trip. If you have a family with 1-2 kids, you’ll do great.
Pro Tip: Don’t get the space saver spare tire unless it’s super important to you. When you add this, you’ll lose room in the back and you can’t lay items flat with the seats folded down. If there’s one knock in this model, the poor execution here is very apparent.
BMW X3 xDrive 30i – This is the 4 cylinder with 248 HP and 0-60 in 6 seconds. You can get a well equipped with the M-Sport suspension, leather seats, and premium stereo for about $57,000 which is quite good considering all that you get. In reality this has all the power and acceleration you need to have a blast driving up the the slopes.
BMW X3 xDrive M40i – Here you get an enhanced 6 Cylinder 382 HP with 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds. For those who love that BMW acceleration you will not be disappointed. A well equipped version will jump up in price and you should expect to pay around $65,000 or more to get the essential features.
BMW M3 – For those who want a race car / SUV and willing to pay the price for both the added cost, and the bumpy ride – this is the one. You know who you are if you’re seeking 473 HP and 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. You’re going to spend at least $80,000 for this top of the line version. I would not necessarily recommend this trim for the hard core skier as you get a lowered suspension, and stiff ride over the uneven mountain roads.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for the most fun driving, high utility, and cost efficient Luxury Sport Compact SUV the BMW X3 M40i is the best in the world. There is nothing on the road in this category that will beat the X3 M40i