NEW BMW X3 M40i

An ‘M’ badge adorns the X3 for the first time, bringing with it abundant performance and genuine driver appeal.

Design: New-found athleticism is matched by more sporting and sophisticated shape and a much more upmarket interior packed with latest tech and eye-catching details. Bigger, bolder radiator grille with active vanes is set higher and dominates front end. Note air breathers behind front wheels, and sculpted end plates on roof-mounted spoiler.

Driver’s Seat: Slip into a comfortable chair draped in soft Vernasca leather and the immediate temptation is to grip that delightful thick-rimmed M-Sport steering wheel and touch the rest of the décor. Aluminium Rhombicle panels, galvanic (metal) embellishers on controls, and Sensatec double-stitched dashboard trim trumpet quality and there’s craftsmanship to match.

Interface: 10.25in touchscreen with moveable tiles and gesture control has been transferred from new 5-Series. Full-colour head-up display is 70 per cent larger.

Start-up: Purposeful, guttural eruption marks this car out as a machine with serious sporting intent.

Cruise: Blown straight-six makes light work of 1800kg and the generous torque is well harnessed by familiar ZF auto. Plenty of steering weight and feel are apparent and M40i rides more smoothly and quietly than you’d expect on 21-inch runflats.

Overtake: Sport+ mode adds instant urgency and makes it easy to exploit engine’s broad torque punch and impressive power. Hold a gear and you’ll surge effortlessly ahead on a long-lasting wave from a paltry 1500rpm. Fuss-free, deceptively quick and unflappable with xDrive aiding traction.

Unleash: It will never be a sportscar but the ingredients are here for a fast and memorable drive. M Sport suspension, Dynamic damper control, M Sport brakes, variable sport steering, and 50-50 weight distribution all contribute to incisive handling. Take to a gravel road and the adaptive four-wheel drive comes to the fore.

Configure: Test car shows off striking 21-inch arch fillers, which are the maximum wheel size for the new X3. But it would be tempting to trade a slither of handling sharpness for a little more compliance. Optional sunroof for full length of cabin? Optional active front seats?

Buy one: It may not be the launch platform for any new tech but it represents a massive advance by integrating the best features from some of BMW’s best mainstream models. Size is nearer that of X5 than X1 and potent petrol engine should even convert diesel devotees.

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BMW X3 M40i

ENGINE 2998cc 6-cyl turbo

POWER 265kW (356bhp)

TORQUE 500Nm @ 1520-4800rpm

TRANSMISSION 8-spd auto

DRIVETRAIN four-wheel drive

LENGTH 4.71m

WEIGHT 1885kg

WHEELS 21-inch alloy

TYRES 245/40 (f) 275/35 (r)

0-100km/h 4.8 secs

FUEL CLAIM 8.9L/100km

PRICE from $119,850

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