“You’re only getting photos of the two together so I can get mugged off in the forum.” My girlfriend doesn’t know loads and loads about cars, but she knows all too well that fast estates beat fast SUVs on PH. I honestly can’t call the reaction; some on Twitter suggested there’d been an alien abduction to consider such a swap - “bewildered” was my personal favourite response. On the other hand, there are quite a few forum threads running on X3 M40is from PHers that love their BMWs, so let’s see. If this must be the end of my PH tenure, then it’s been a good run…
Just to clarify from the off, this X3 is now very much Alice’s car. The 335i was ‘ours’. We were paying off the loan for the Touring together, whereas the X3 has been purchased outright by her. So, really, your ire (or admiration) should be directed at her. We could have made the 3 Series work (just), we could have got a 5 Series Touring, we could have got an X3 with less than 360hp. But here we are.
And I have to say – in hushed tones – the X3 is pretty lovely. After my very-limited experience thus far, you understand. It feels sufficiently nice that I’m half-expecting someone to collect it next week and return it to BMW, as per the standard press-car scenario. There are all the great bits of a modern BMW interior with all the practicality benefits we were after: the rear bench is far more accommodating than the 3 Series', with more room for baby and people, plus enough boot space as well for doggy and big buggy.
This is all to be expected, given it’s that much bigger and more expensive, but there’s a lot here for both Alice and I (and our son) to enjoy. Loath though I am to say it, an X3 is already making family journeys a little less stressful, and that’s undoubtedly a boon. Alice loves it, most importantly, and I’m really looking forward to more time behind the wheel when the new-car novelty wears off for her and there’s a long journey to do.
Not least because this hasn’t just been bought for easier access to Isofix points and a higher driving position. As an M40i, this X3 is powered by the 3.0-litre B58 straight six that’s also found in the Toyota Supra, Morgan Plus Six, and a host of other M Performance BMWs. As a 2020 car, it’s before the introduction of the mild hybrid tech, but 360hp and 369lb ft is more than enough – BMW reckons it’ll reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds. What’s become immediately apparent after driving the 3s back-to-back is how much more responsive the SUV’s powertrain feels. The gearbox is snappier in its decision making and the additional torque (the 335 makes 295lb ft) ensuring the X3 almost always feels faster. Which I wasn’t expecting.
The Touring was weighed at its MOT, and came in at 1,745kg. The DIN claim for the M40i is 1,845kg, so perhaps the advantage shouldn’t be a surprise. In the same gear at similar revs, there’s not much in it, but it’s the X3 that feels faster. Aided, in fact – and here’s another surprise – by a more stirring soundtrack. The exhaust of the X3 fizzes and rasps really entertainingly, and whatever’s happening with the induction noise is actually more convincing than the 3 Series. Crikey. It was even within 2mpg of the Touring on the 150 miles home from Christmas…
We – sorry, Alice – was also lucky to get an M40i with lots of the option boxes ticked, so this has the head-up display, big wheels, adaptive suspension and panoramic roof. Black wouldn’t have been either of our first choices, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. Especially when dark blue is as interesting as the colour palette gets. Perhaps it’s not the coolest BMW ever made, though it seems a very good one: great powertrain, decent handling, super refined and reasonably efficient. Plus it’s quite practical – I can see already why people like them.
Which is to take nothing away from the 335i, of course. I’ve loved owning it, and did everything possible for us to keep it. In many ways it’s the opposite of the X3, despite them appearing to share so much: rare, unassuming, not the obvious choice. It served us admirably, and I loved driving it. Trying to get some pictures of the two together was a great reminder of what I was so fond of and what will be missed, from the compact dimensions and neatly judged design, to those lovely analogue dials and bum-on-the-deck driving position. No doubt about it, it will be sorely missed. All being well, it’ll be with its new owner by the time you read this; a deposit was taken less than a day after listing the ad, which was a result for January. Obviously, I’d like to take all the credit for the quick sale, but beyond the awesomeness of the PH classifieds, I suspect asking a little less than it probably could have made helped get VDO sold sooner. Buying and selling cars makes me anxious as hell, and being able to sort the process so quickly almost feels worth a few hundred quid over the back and forth.
So there we are: out with the small-wheeled, clear-glassed, big-engined estate, and in with the school-run SUV on 21s. I know - there will be a revolt, and I've got no one else to blame (save Alice). If there’s sufficient interest (and I actually get to drive it), then I can write more updates, but I’m realistic about that prospect. Perhaps if the B58’s well-known tuning potential is explored, there might be a longer story to tell. But rest assured, there is a second car hunt on which will have a little less to do with practicality and a lot more with PH-worthiness. Hopefully more on that next time.
Car: 2014 BMW 335i M Sport Touring (F31)
Run by: Matt
Bought: August 2021 (and sold January 2023!)
Purchase price: £19,500
Last month at a glance: Maybe X3 is the magic number
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