MUNICH – BMW will extend its X3 lineup to include a 355-hp turbocharged 3.0L in-line 6-cyl. gasoline-engine-powered M40i M Performance model when sales of a newly engineered third-generation version of the midsize CUV launch in the U.S. later this year.
The new range-topping X3 model runs the same engine and gearbox combination as the recently introduced X4 M40i M Performance in a move that will see it square off against performance-based rivals including the Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and Porsche Macan Turbo.
Revealed here for the first time ahead of planned public premiere at the Frankfurt auto show in September, the ʼ18-model X3 has been extensively re-engineered with a new platform that allows an incremental increase in dimensions, more interior space and reduced curb weight over the outgoing second-generation X3, which first entered North American showrooms in 2010.
Upgrades to the new CUV’s electrical system include a range of driver-assistance systems, such as the latest generation of BMW’s active cruise control and driving-assistant-plus package, which incorporates both lane-change assist and lane-keep assist with side-collision control.
Headed by the new X3 M40i M Performance, the lineup initially consists of five models, including the X3 xDrive30i that is expected to underpin sales in the U.S. Other markets also receive an entry-level X3 xDrive20i as well as a pair of diesel-powered models in the form of the X3 xDrive20d and more powerful X3 xDrive30d.
Further variants of the new BMW CUV are under development, including a new plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid X3 xDrive40e and a full-electric X3e, the latter set to arrive in 2020 as a rival to the likes of the upcoming Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.
The design of the new X3 is credited to Calvin Luk, a young Australian who also led design work on the second-generation X1 and upcoming third-generation Z4. “The plan from the outset was to give the new model a more athletic spirit while retaining the visual formality of its predecessor. It is known within the design team as the rugby player in a suit,” he says.
At 185.7 ins. (4,717 mm) in length, 74.7 ins. (1,897 mm) in width and 66.0 ins. (1,676 mm) in height, the new BMW is 2.4 ins. (61 mm) longer, 0.7 in. (18 mm) wider and, in its most sporting M40i M Performance guise, 0.6 in. (15 mm) higher than its predecessor.
By comparison, the recently introduced second-generation Audi Q5 stretches to 183.6 ins. (4,663 mm) in length, 74.5 ins. (1,892 mm) in width and 65.3 ins. (1,659 mm) in height.
According to Luk, the increase in dimensions was driven by customer demands for greater interior space and by the need to further distance the new X3 from the smaller second-generation X1 launched in 2016.
Sporting a bold new front end with a prominent kidney grille and extensively contoured hood with greater structuring than the outgoing model, the ʼ18 X3 will be offered in three trim variants.
The luxury line receives LED headlamps and taillamps as standard, together with aluminum roof rails and 18-in. wheels. Above it is the xLine, which gets aluminum grille highlights, more rugged-looking bumpers and off-road-focused 19-in. wheels. The M Sport features its own unique bumper design, optional blue-painted brake calipers and more sporting 19-in. wheels.
The top-of-the-line x3 M40i gets a further range of individually styled elements along with optional 21-in. wheels.
Based on BMW’s CLAR (cluster architecture) platform, the new CUV also receives a 2.1-in. (53-mm) longer wheelbase than the second-generation X3 at 112.8 ins. (2,865 mm). That’s led to a subtle shift in weight distribution, which BMW puts at 50:50 front-to-rear.
Although it has grown in size, the added use of lightweight metals and alloys, including hot-formed high-tensile steel within the floorpan and other load-bearing areas of the body structure as well as aluminum for the hood and doors, reduces curb weight 121 lbs. (55 kg) taking increased standard-equipment levels into account, BMW says, the new X3 M40i tips the scales some 11 lbs. (5 kg) below the earlier X3 xDrive35i at 3,990 lbs. (1,796 kg).
Despite the increase in dimensions, including a larger frontal area, BMW says extensive wind-tunnel development has netted the X3 a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.29 – an improvement on the old model’s 0.32.
Drag-reducing measures include louvers within the grille that open and close depending on the engine’s cooling requirements, more extensive underbody cladding and a sizable spoiler atop the tailgate. Although the new CUV sports air-breather elements at the trailing edge of the front wheel arches, they only are for stylistic effect.
In its bid to provide the latest X3 with more upmarket qualities than its predecessor, BMW has focused its engineering efforts on enhancing refinement in the ʼ18 model. As well as receiving more sound-deadening material within its new platform, the CUV features as standard a windscreen with acoustic glass that is claimed to dramatically reduce wind noise. The same glass is available as an option for the front side windows.
Inside, the interior is completely restyled with many elements mirroring the exterior’s focus on hexagonal shapes and beveled edges. Up front is a new, higher-quality dashboard closely modeled on that used by the 5-Series and featuring for the first time a freestanding infotainment monitor. Responding to customer feedback, BMW has created additional storage, including larger bins within the center console and door pockets that accept 1-L bottles.
Among the more contemporary options is a 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) digital instrument display, a head-up display unit with multicolor graphics and a 10.2-in. (25.9-cm) infotainment monitor – the latter of which boasts standard touch control but also can be ordered with conversational speech and gesture-control function.
Along with additional legroom brought on by the increase in the wheelbase, BMW says rear-seat comfort has benefited through a 0.8-in. (20-mm) increase in seat height, placing the occupant higher above the floor and allowing a more relaxed seating position. “We put a big effort into enhancing the rear-seat experience,” Luk says. “The rear-seat passengers are not left out. They’re still part of the party.”
Trunk capacity goes unchanged as before at 19.4 cu.-ft. (549 L), extending to 56.5 cu.-ft. (1,599 L) when the standard 40:20:20-configured split-folding rear seat is stowed.
BMW confirms the new X3 initially will be produced with two gasoline and two diesel engines in a five-strong model lineup, with buyers offered either a standard 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission along with the latest version of the German automaker’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system and Driving Experience Control function that offers various driving modes.
At the top of the range, the X3 M40i’s turbocharged 3.0L in-line 6-cyl. gasoline engine delivers 355 hp and 369 lb.-ft (500 Nm) of torque. Combined with a standard 8-speed automatic and an xDrive all-wheel-drive system biased toward the rear, it possesses a claimed 0-62-mph (100-km/h) time of 4.8 seconds and limited 155-mph (250-km/h) top speed with combined-cycle fuel consumption of 28.7 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) on the European test cycle.
Among the competition for the new performance-based X3 model is the Audi SQ5, which runs a turbocharged 3.0L V-6 gasoline engine developing 349 hp and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. Other rivals include the Mercedes-AMG GLC43, whose turbocharged 3.0L V-6 gasoline powerplant kicks out 362 hp and 383 lb.-ft. (519 Nm) of torque.
The new X3 performance leader will be joined from the outset of production by a pair of turbocharged 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engine-powered models in the form of the 181-hp X3 xDrive20i and the 248-hp x3 xDrive30i.
Also planned is the X3 xDrive 20d, which runs the latest evolution of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0L 4-cyl. diesel engine delivering 187 hp, and the X3 xDrive30d, whose turbocharged 3.0L in-line 6-cyl. diesel makes 261 hp.
BMW already is talking up the dynamic qualities of the new X3. Its newly developed suspension retains a combination of double wishbones up front and a 5-link arrangement at the rear, but efforts have been made to reduce the unsprung masses through the adoption of aluminum swivel bearings and hollow anti-roll bars. Further changes are found in the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which receives a more rear-biased delivery of drive.
Buyers can opt for a sports suspension that forms part of the M-Sport package. It offers a firmer spring and dampers as well as beefed-up anti-roll bars. There also is a dynamic damper control option with electronically controlled dampers.
The new third-generation X3 will be produced at BMW’s Spartanburg manufacturing base in South Carolina, as well as sites in Rosslyn, South Africa, and Dadong, China. Further assembly operations are planned for factories in Kaliningrad, Russia; Chennai, India; and Kulim, Malaysia.
First introduced to the BMW lineup in 2003, the X3 has captured more than 1.5 million sales worldwide, including 616,000 for the first-generation model and 924,000 for the second-generation model introduced in 2010.