So far, I’ve been quite smitten with our 2018 BMW X3 M40i. It’s a practical SUV yet it drives more like a car and matches the figure-eight time of a 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. It’s easy to forget it’s 5.5 feet tall and has 8.0 inches of ground clearance. Safe to say our X3 hauls, in more ways than one. I was satisfied, to say the least, to have one for a year. That is, until BMW announced the first ever full-M X3 will be available to the masses this summer. The want was strong!

Our X3 is not a full-blown M-car like the one in the video above, but I wondered how close it could get to an X3M with some minor tweaks. The easiest way to improve a car’s overall performance is better ties, and the opportunity arose when our X3’s Bridgestone Alenza 001 RFT needed replacement, so we called up our buddies at Tire Rack, and they hooked us up with a set of lightweight OZ Hyper GT HLT wheels wrapped with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Wheels specs are 20×8.5 inches front and 20×10 inches rear; tires are 245/45/20 front and 275/40/20 rear. After mounting the new shoes, I immediately noticed an improved ride. Amazing what a difference a smaller, lighter wheel makes, but I didn’t anticipate exactly how big until we took the X3 through our standard tests.

After weighing the car with the new setup, we found it shed 34 pounds total, 8.5 pounds per corner. That doesn’t sound like much, but when paired with the sticky Michelins, the X3 put down some much-improved numbers. 0-60 mph was cut down to 4.4 seconds, 0.4 quicker than stock; and the quarter mile time was improved by a similar 0.3 seconds, down to 13.1 at 105 mph. Braking was significantly improved, reducing the 60-0 distance by 9 feet to 103 feet, which all combines to a 0.9-second improvement to the figure-eight time of 25 seconds flat. To put that figure-eight time into perspective, 25.0 is 0.1 second quicker than a 2018 WRX STI, 2011 X6M, and 2008 Mitsubishi Evo X and as quick as a 2007 Ferrari 599 GTB, 2009 911 Carrera S, and 2018 Kia Stinger. Not bad for an SUV.

Our test team was impressed, as well. Road test editor Chris Walton says the X3 “launches hard, shifts very quickly, and maintains trap speeds, so no heat soak. What a little animal. The X3 is no longer a box o’ rocks.” Testing director Kim Reynolds also notes that “you can really stand on the brakes approaching a corner. And they didn’t fade. It’s possible to enter the corner in many different ways: understeer in, rotate the tail with the brakes, or something in between.”

We haven’t tested an X3 M, but BMW claims a 4.1-second 0-60 run, which isn’t much quicker than our X3 M40i. Think it’s worth the extra $15,250 to get into a base X3 M over a base M40i? I would love to find out.

Read more about our long-term 2018 BMW X3 M40i:

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