Our test route begins at the Penha Longa Resort in Southern Lisbon and straight out of the gate we’re into the narrow and twisty roads of the Sintra Mountains. We’re in the first strongly designated X3 M-car, a BMW X3 M40i. What the heck?
With Sport mode engaged, everything tightens up, the exhaust note turns vainglorious and just a few corners into the drive, I realise the game has changed. The X3 M40i is resplendent in Sport mode, properly fast and dynamically poised. There’s unashamed barks and pops from the engine on over run and for a second I feel like I am in a BMW 240i. Just for a second though – this car is way more comfortable. 0 – 100km/h in v4,8 seconds puts it squarely in the face of any AMG, Porsche or Jag equivalent. There’s nothing to leave you wondering what car you’re in either, with uncharacteristically plenty M badges littered throughout the cabin as well as blue sports brake calipers and quite dramatic alloy designs.
The mountain pass eventually drops down to sea level for what becomes a scenic drive along the Lisbon coast. Comfort mode softens everything up and lightens the steering for a more calming driving experience, but even in this mode, the X3 feels set up for more go than it’s Audi SQ5 counterpart.