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Price Range: $43,445-$55,295

Seating Capacity: 5

Engines: 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 355-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6

Fuel Economy: N/A

Warranty: 4-years or 50,000 miles

Maximum Towing Capacity: 4,400 pounds

Cargo Capacity Range: 28.7-62.7 cubic feet

Similar: Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Lexus NX

In Short: The 3rd-generation of BMW's compact SUV grows up and gets sportier


You have options.

In the rapidly expanding and ever-getting-better world of small luxury SUVs, the newest player on and off the pavement is the 2018 BMW X3. In the past two years alone, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC and Jaguar F-Pace have come to U.S. shores, and for 2018, there's the freshly minted Audi Q5 and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, along with the all-new X3. Arriving the second week of November, 2017, the 2018 BMW X3 models strengthen an already robust array of compact luxury crossover SUVs. It doesn't matter whether you're definition of "sport" centers on inspired acceleration or ragged-dirt-road capability, if you're hot for a sporty, upscale, high-riding 2-row cargo-and-companion hauler, your choices have never been wider and they've never been stronger.

Focusing on the shiny new on/off-road penny from Germany, the 2018 BMW X3 will start in two forms: the volume-directed X3 xDrive30i and the edgier X3 M40i. Starting at $43,445, the X3 xDrive30i's pricing is placed directly on top of it main competitors. Likewise, the M40i's $55,295 price tag resides on the same block as its direct competitors, the Audi SQ5 and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. A diesel-powered X3 looks like it will be coming to the States in the near future, but BMW wasn't able to make any commitments at all at the time of the press launch for the X3.

Though equipment levels are generally comparable between the new BMW X3 and its competitors, there are some distinctions. The X3s, for example, come with all-wheel drive (AWD), a massive stability advantage on any driving surface, as standard equipment. Wireless Apple CarPlay, however, costs extra, and Android Auto is not even yet available.

Look Munich, I'm all grown up.

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From the outside, the new X3 possesses a visual strength that's reinforced by its dimensions. That strength is heightened by the optional 20- or 21-inch wheels. In length, width and interior size, the new X3 are all bigger than the first generation of its big brother, the BMW X5. True, all cars have been growing over the years, but the new X3, while comparably sized to its competition, makes excellent use of the interior packaging. The first-row sport seats didn't absorb the driver, but provided excellent support, and the 2nd-row room is more than enough for all but the longest-legged family members. Headroom in both rows goes on forever.

At the cargo end of the X3 equation, the power rear liftgate opens to reveal a very usable flat-floored area. The luggage area behind the 2nd-row outpaces many of the X3's primary competitors, and if you need to drop the 2nd-row seats to create even more room for cargo, you can do that conveniently with releases at the rear of the cargo bay. Take a look at the pictures provided to get a sense of the wide-mouthed, squared cargo considerations. As a bonus, there is some extra small-item containment available beneath the cargo floor.

Driving the new X3.

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At the European introduction of the 2018 BMW X3, the X3 xDrive30i was unavailable, so most of our time was spent in the new sports car of BMW's small-SUV lineup, the M40i. This BMW is the first M-inspired iteration of the X3, and feels purpose-built to the task of going quick and driving edgy. Appropriately enough, the standard M40i dress code includes a notably firmer M Sport suspension, bigger M Sport brakes, and BMW's Dynamic Damper Control which can automatically monitor and adjust the shock-absorber settings 400 times every second to optimize ride/handling for the road conditions.

As set, the BMW X3 M40i loves playing sports car, chirping confidently into corners and taking full advantage of the X3's rear-biased all-wheel drive and 50:50 weight distribution. Variable sport steering also comes as part of the X3 M40i. Intended as a sharpening of the M40i's steering response, but the added steering effort requires wrestling with the steering wheel to direct the small SUV. This is a case where I'd use the "Individual" setting on the X3's Driving Dynamics Control mode switch (Eco, Comfort and Sport, with a Sport+ mode on the M40i) to set the Steering in Comfort mode -- it's still plenty good there.

With 355 turbocharged horsepower on tap along with the gutsy acceleration of 369 lb-ft of torque summoned from 1,520 rpm all the way up to 4,800 rpm (where the heart of your driving gets done), the 3.0-liter inline-6 comes is a more-than-willing driving partner. And it comes on fierce. BMW clocks the X3 M40i from a standstill to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. That means that when the enthusiast buff books get hold of it on their test tracks, they'll easily be able to drive it to 60 in less than 4.5 seconds, making the M40i by far the quickest compact SUV in its class.

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As far as the X3 destined to be the popular sales leader in the line -- the xDrive30i -- goes, we'll have to wait a little longer to draw any conclusions. Two things we can tell you, however, are that the base X3 engine -- BMW's torquey 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder -- is used in a number of 3 Series models to great praise for its smooth delivery of power. Additionally, for a short stint at the intro, we were able to drive a brief on-road/off-road stretch in European diesels, which were closer to how the non-M version of the X3 would be set up for the U.S. Driving that model, both on and off-road, revealed a very capable non-M-Sportified platform -- which beat our expectations even on heavily rutted dirt roads. The 8-speed automatic transmission (standard for all X3 iterations, though "Sport" iterated on the M40i), shifted like butter. As a bonus, the 3.0-liter diesels we drove would make a splendid, muscular addition to the X3 offerings in the U.S. -- stay tuned for 2018.

Turns out, treating the 2018 BMW X3 a little rough is easy. The SUV features a 4,400-pound maximum towing capacity (same as the new Audi Q5) and is available with a factory-installed trailer hitch -- a first for BMW SUV's. Like many small SUVs, the M40i cabin is not damped especially well for road noise, and in Sport+ mode, you're treated to the full orchestra of the engine, but not to the point of distraction.

It's right behind the wheel.

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From the pilot's chair, the new X3's driver enjoys a supportive sport seat and a good view out. Changing lanes and parking is easy, thanks to good outward vision -- especially to the right side where the third window beautifully opens up the blind spot.

BMW's material choices are all excellent and easy to caress. The dash is dominated by a 10.25-inch touch screen display which can be adjusted four ways: by touch, by voice, by you iDrive controller, or -- optionally -- by gesture control.

Conclusion.

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Figuring out which 2018 BMW X3 will be right for you couldn't be simpler. If you want hassle-free driving and you've got a cabin that sits at the end of a series of poorly maintained dirt roads, test drive the X3 xDrive30i. If, however, you want to carve up every corner you can find (on your war to your cabin at the end of a series of poorly maintained dirt roads), the X3 M40i might be your destiny.

Inside and Out: 2018 BMW X3 Photo Gallery

Numbers and Details

2018 BMW X3 Shared Specs
Warranty: 4-years or 50,000 miles
Wheelbase: 112.8 in.
Length: 185.9 in. (X3 xDrive30i), 186.1 in. (X3 M40i)
Width: 74.4 in. (X3 xDrive30i), 74.7 in. (X3 M40i); including mirrors: 84.2 in. (both models)
Height: 66.0 in.
Turning Circle: 39.4 ft (X3 xDrive30i), 39.7 ft (X3 M40i)
Maximum Towing Capacity: 4,400 pounds
Cargo Capacity Behind Rear Seat/with Rear Seat Folded: 28.7/62.7 cubic feet

2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Starting Price: $43,445
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 248-horsepower @ 5,200-6,500
Torque: 258 @ 1,450-4,800
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Curb Weight: 4,156 pounds
Base Wheel: 18-inch light-alloy

2018 BMW X3 M40i
Starting Price: $55,295
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
Horsepower: 355-horsepower @ 5,500-6,500
Torque: 369 @ 1,520-4,800
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Curb Weight: 4,277 pounds
Wheels: 19-inch light-alloy

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