BMW X3 M40d

Taking M40d out of its depth exposes brilliance

Every now and again a car comes around and shocks us by being able to do things that it really shouldn’t be able to do. The new X3 M40d is one of those cars that did more than you’d ever expect. 

I recently spent a few days in Johannesburg to attend the VW Motorsport academy – a three-day course that puts aspiring racing drivers through their paces on everything from fitness to on-track driving drills, lectures and more covering all things racing. One of these drills included skid pan driving including the slalom, gymkhana, and oversteer and understeer practice. 

Driving on the skidpan is a very technical and difficult skill to master, so not having much experience on that surface, I decided to fly up a day early for the Academy and dedicated the extra afternoon  to practicing on the skidpan. The BMW Car Club Gauteng happened to be hosting its Bridgestone Skidpan Gymkhana event on the day and we perchance had an X3 M40d on test at our Jozi office, so we arranged with our friends at BMW that I could use it as my weapon of choice for the event… 

Initially I thought an X3 would never work on the skidpan – it’s a large, heavy SUV designed for comfort more than speed and when I rocked up at the event in the M40d, it seemed that my gymkhana rivals had exactly the same thoughts as me. I received many a confused look and one chap even asked if I was only spectating! 

It never took too long before I had to line up for my first run on the gymkhana course, still quite skeptical about how it’d go, but knowing that I’d push for the best possible time regardless of what was underneath me and enjoy the experience of learning how a car behaves on that slippery and slick surface. For my first set of runs, I lined up against a much smaller and nimbler looking BMW 140i…

One of the officials counted us down and we set off. The X3 has a great launch, which vaulted me into the course and I went as quick as I dared but erred on the side of caution as it was my first run on that extremely slippery course. As I made my way around, I quickly discovered that this X3 was easier to maneuver than I has expected – that xDrive all-wheel drive system provides the rear with enough power to step it out and initiate a slide, but it also sent enough grunt to the front wheels to allow me to perform awesome four-wheel drifts and controlled donuts around those tiny radii. 

I braked as late as possible to stop in the blocks perfectly as I came to the end of that first run and of course immediately looked to my right to notice that M140i coming to a halt about half a second after I did! I was properly surprised with what the X3 just managed to do, and it seemed the rest of my afternoon's rivals were even more shocked than me! 

A significant number of them emerged from the spectator’s hut to watch my second run, where I adjusted my lines a bit and went at it with a little more commitment. This time around I waited about 2 seconds after I stopped in the blocks before that M140i did the same. The guys watching seemed even more shocked and confused this time round, and that is when I knew that this X3 is more than just a luxury SUV.

I had four runs left in the X3 and soon found myself in a groove – the car was doing exactly what I wanted it to do and by the end of the afternoon, I'd managed a time a second off of the quickest time of the day Byron  a purpose-built Gymkhana 1 series machine with a highly experienced driver behind the wheel! Needless to say, the X3 M40d blew my expectations right out of the water – and everyone else’s too! 

Besides its incredible skid-pan ability, the X3 is also a fantastic daily driver – as you’d expect this time! 

It drives exceptionally and has more than enough power and torque to cruise with ease on highways and perform overtakes that give the occupants in the vehicle you’re passing a small fright. Inside its luxurious cabin, the X3 M50d is spacious and comfortable, the sound system and Infotainment are typical BMW top notch, the steering wheel is light and the car feels deft and easy to drive, regardless of its relative bulk. 

From the outside, the X3 M40d could potentially do slightly better – simply put, its looks do not quite do its performance justice. Another small issue I have is that it looks too similar to big brother X5. 

All in all, the M40d is more than just an all-rounder – it outdoes itself in almost every way possible. If you’re looking for a luxurious daily driver SUV, that can beat your mate’s sporty hatchback on the dragstrip or even on the skidpan, then look no further – the BMW X3 M40d is the car for you! – Giordano Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini & BMW Car Club Gauteng

Engine: 240kW 680Nm 3-litre turbodiesel I6
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h: 3.31 sec
0-100km/h: 4.76 sec   
0-160km/h: 11.19 sec
400m: 13.2sec @ 175km/h
80-120km/h:         3.34 sec
120-160km/h: 4.76 sec       
VMax: 250km/h 
Fuel: 6.8 l/100km
CO2: 179 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y unl/5y 100Kkm
RATED:         9

The BMW Car Club Gauteng is a vibrant and busy organization that caters for BMW fans through its regular race series, gymkhana and skid pan events like Giordano competed in and a strong social calendar. Find out more at and also

Auto Bakkie Race has revised its Road Test Rating System to deliver a more versatile 1-10 score. Over the past few years, very few cars tested ever achieve less than 75% in our previous scoring system and hardly any more than 95%. The new ABR Rating works in a 1 to 10 basis, where 1 represents a traditional score of  75% or less and 10 is 95% or more.

Auto Bakkie Race road tests all cars using state of the art Racelogic VBox test equipment, both at coastal altitude or at the Reef. All cars are tested starting at the same point on the same test road in all tests. Reef tests are differentiated by (1500m ASL). Where we have tested both sides, both sets of figures are published. Coastal acceleration data most often delivers quicker results due to the higher oxygen content of air at lower altitudes.