As in American politics, there’s a lot of yin and yang on dealership car lots these days. On one hand, many buyers insist on high-tech, fuel-sipping green vehicles, some of which were profiled last month. Yet other drivers have an unquenchable thirst for high-test power and panache. Here are two of the best of today’s revved-up rides.
BMW X3 M40i
Mpg: 20 city/27 highway
Zero-60 mph: 4.6 seconds
Introduced in 2004, the BMW X3 has held a sweet spot for enthusiasts who didn’t want to sacrifice excitement for the practicality of a crossover.
Fully redesigned for 2018, this third-generation Bimmer is bigger and roomier, with noticeably more rear-seat legroom. Gone are the hard interior plastics, replaced by a sophisticated cabin with premium materials found in the top-of-the-line 7 Series. The base-model X3 is fully capable and a diesel model will arrive soon to satisfy the eco-chic crowd.
But it’s the M40i version — the first X3 with sporty M Performance power and trim — that is oh-so spectacular. Switch on the ignition, and the 355-hp, six-cylinder turbo roars to life. With such a throaty exhaust growl, there’s no need for a jolt of Starbucks to wake you up in the morning. Ditto the thrill when stomping on the accelerator and rocketing from zero-60 seconds in just 4.6 seconds.
Yet the smooth, sure handling is calming and provides some of the best cornering ever in a crossover. Of course, such fun comes at a price: the M40i costs about $10,000 more than a base-model X3. Toss in some must-have goodies such as the blind-spot monitor, heated steering wheel, backup camera, automatic parking, and the sticker jumps to $66,000. Still, this is one BMW that lives up to the “ultimate driving machine” tagline.
Dodge Durango SRT
Mpg: 13 city/19 highway
Zero-60 mph: 4.6 seconds
If American muscle is more your style, then Dodge has really beefed up its Durango crossover with a new high-performance SRT model this year.
The potent Hemi V8 churns out a whopping 475 horsepower to help this 5,502-pound beast scoot just as fast as the BMW X3 M40i, which is 30 percent lighter. Despite the differences in weight, the Durango handles just as well as the BMW and actually performs better when braking from 60 mph to zero. And while the BMW has a very impressive exhaust rumble, the Durango SRT raises the decibel level so you actually feel the earth move under your feet. In other words, subtle is not a word to describe this badass Durango.
Same for styling, with the wide front fascia, large air-intake vent on the hood and a lower, slightly menacing profile. As if that weren’t enough, optional in-your-face racing stripes run the length of the vehicle. Inside are front-row sport seats, second-row captain’s chairs and a third row to seat two more passengers.
An 8.4-inch touchscreen isn’t as large as what some competitors offer, but it’s very user-friendly. And the 506-watt, BeatsAudio sound system comes with nine speakers and a thumpin’ subwoofer. The driver can choose from seven customized settings such as performance, snow and eco, and the 8,700-pound towing capacity is the best in its class.
The biggest downside: fuel economy, which is way near the bottom for similar rides. Suddenly, the decision between this Durango and more fuel-efficient crossovers becomes harder. Yet only the Durango SRT comes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a free, day-long class at the SRT High Performance Driving School founded by renowned race-car driver Bob Bondurant.