30 Minutes With: The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i

Front 3/4 view of 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i.
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

I took the 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i for the first run of the morning (the longest of the day, from the host Monterey Tides Hotel at Sand City, past Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca , onto Laureles Grade and back west via Carmel Valley Road to the Quail.

Map of route from Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade
Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade (map courtesy Google Maps).

Laureles Grade is about five-and-a-half miles of non-stop twists and turns between Carmel Valley Road and CA 68, and thus perfect for a pack of automotive journalists and some high-grade machinery.

Rear 3/4 view of 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i.
The xDrive30i may be the base-level BMW X3, but it is far from a poverty-spec machine.  Starting at $42,450, it comes standard with all-wheel drive,  a 2.0-liter, 248 horsepower twin-power turbo inline four-cylinder 16-valve engine with variable valve control and high-precision direct injection mated to an eight-speed sport automatic transmission with Sport and Manual modes and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.  That's a combination good for a flat six-second 0-60 time, a top speed of 130 miles per hour and an EPA fuel economy estimate of 22 city/29 highway.

Also standard? Enhanced USB and Bluetooth, 19-inch light alloy wheels, sport leather steering wheel, run-flat tires, satin aluminum roof rails and exterior trim, a universal garage door opener, dark oak wood trim, ambiance lighting, rear seatback adjustment, active protection, active driving assistant, LED foglights and headlights, three-zone automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hotspot and an anthracite headliner.

Plus...dynamic stability control, brake fade compensation, start-off assist, brake drying, brake stand-by, dynamic traction control, dynamic traction control, hill descent control, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking and dynamic brake control, power-folding, heated side mirrors, ten-way power front sport seats with driver's seat memory, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, an AM/FM/CD/mp3 Hi, Fi audio system with HD Radio, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, iDrive 6.0 and rain-sensing windshield wipers with adjustable speed.

The '18 is all-new, the third-generation X3, and improvements are pretty much everywhere...from a smoother more cohesive exterior (helped by a 2.2-inch longer wheelbase) to a much more premium interior experience.

Interior view of 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i interior.
The interior of the X3, a weak point in the previous two generations, has been brought up to a standard befitting the BMW brand.  Materials are of a much higher grade.  Put that together with significantly enhanced driving dynamics (you'll be forgiven for thinking you're in a 3-Series sedan when hustling along a winding road like Laureles Grade) and the interior of the 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i is a pretty wonderful place to be.

Of course, this being BMW, there are options, and in this case, they took a car that was within $2,450 of $40,000 to being within $2,380 of $60,000 (after $995 destination charge) :

  • Dark Olive Metallic paint: $550.
  • Canberra Beige Vernasca Leather interior: $1,700.
  • Convenience Package (Comfort Access keyless entry; panoramic moonroof; lumbar support; one-year subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio): $2,850.
  • Driving Assistance Package: $900.
  • Dynamic Handling Package (Dynamic damper control; M Sport brakes; variable sport steering): $1,400.
  • Parking Assistance Package (Parking Assistant Plus; Active Park Distance Control; rearview camera; surround view with 3D view): $1,300.
  • Premium Package (Heated steering wheel; front and rear heated seats; navigation; head-up display; Advanced Real Time Traffic Information; remote services): $3,300, but there's also $350 next to the front and rear heated seats.
  • Space-saver spare tire: $150.
  • Apple CarPlay compatibility: $300.  Android Auto not available.
  • Wireless charging: $500.
  • Harmon Kardon surround sound audio system: $875.
Bottom line: $57,620.  Again, from a starting point of  $42,450.  If you are thinking that a lot of what BMW charges extra for is standard on less-expensive, less prestigious automobiles (rearview cameras, heated seats, space-saver spares and Apple CarPlay), you're right.  But spend time behind the wheel, carving up the twists and turns and suddenly, it doesn't seem like that big a deal.

What is a big deal is that BMW has taken its mid-size SUV and made it a rolling reminder of the precision driving capabilities that were once a given in anything wearing the blue and white roundel.  The new X3 is, in its class, the Ultimate Driving Machine.