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      10-02-2018, 05:02 AM   #1
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[Review/Comparison] X3 M40i/Audi SQ5

Overview
I posted this over on Audi World. I want to also share the review here since I see a lot of people asking about how this car compares to the SQ5.

After owning a 2018 SQ5 that was subsequently totaled from road debris, I wanted to share my views on my new BMW X3 M40i. Back when I bought my SQ5 in August of 2017, the M40i was not out yet. So, I only had the choice between the GLC 43, Alpha Romeo Stelvio, Porsche Macan, and Jaguar F Pace. This is my first BMW, though I have driven different ones before. I will try to be as unbiased as possible.

Below is my take on the new G01 X3 M40i:

Exterior


Whether you’re a fan of BMW’s kidney grill or not, their prominence is only going to grow on future models. I like the aggressive look of the new X3 because in the words of my wife, “it looks angry”. The front has nice creases in the headlights, giving the front end a nice sporty look. Add this to the M specific bumper, larger intakes, and black accents that increase the fierceness. There are bright LED fog lights which nicely blend into the front end. To accent the car, BMW uses their signature blue M Performance brake calipers that look great with the Pythonic Blue exterior.

Lighting: Coming from an SQ5 Prestige with full LED headlights, I expected good visibility form BMW’s ‘Adaptive LED’ headlights. Note: The adaptive part of these headlights stems from their ability to pivot as you turn the wheel for maximum visibility. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. These headlights were impressive. Since I live in West Texas (where street lights are a light suggestion), nighttime visibility is key. The headlights made me realize how much of the road I was missing because their normal range (low beams only) was far better than my SQ5. This observation was confirmed after the IIHS released their crash test data, which includes lighting.

Moving around the back of the car, you will find revised rear LED tail lights, real exhaust ports and a gunmetal colored lower facia. I know many people who think all Mercedes, Audi and BMW models look the same year after year, but I think this refresh does just enough to set it apart. No rear fog lights are offered, and none are really needed. The taillights are very bright, as with any full LED setup. Reverse lights are also LED’s, unlike the US versions of Audi’s Q5 and SQ5.

Keyless entry works like a charm, with the ability to unlock only the driver’s door or all doors. You can change this setting in iDrive to include the trunk as well. To lock the car, you simply need to touch the ribbed spot on any handle, making accidental presses nearly impossible. Each door handle pulls straight out.



Interior


Seating:
BMW’s choice of interior styling offers a welcoming environment with their driver- oriented set up. I opted for the Cognac Vernasca leather because of how well it goes with my Pythonic blue exterior. The front seats offer something I wish Audi did in their SQ5, adjustable side bolsters via their 14-way power seats. I am not the largest of people at 5”8’ and 143lbs, so thankfully these seats offer more flexibility without sacrificing comfort. For those of you who are on the larger side, these seats don’t appear to be welcoming like in my old SQ5. My wife, who is 5”1’ /100lbs, finds her seat to very comfortable once the bolsters are adjusted to the narrowest setting. While the leather isn’t diamond- stitched for the classic upscale look, I enjoy the simplicity of BMW’s styling here. I’m not happy with BMW for not offering their M Sport steering wheel on the X3 M40i, a standard on RoW vehicles (rest of world). There’s nothing inherently wrong with the current one, but I prefer the M Sport one for the look and feel.

Materials: From the dash to trunk, you won’t find any unwanted hard surfaces or ‘cheap-feeling’ areas. BMW uses a stitched soft-touch material on the upper door sills and dash that reminds me more of leather than the weird rubber-like material of my SQ5. Interior trim options range from aluminum to wood, all complementary to specific seat colors. I have the Grey Poplar wood, which tied with the standard Aluminum Rhombical trim. Doors are trimmed in the same leather as your seats, giving the cabin a more luxurious feel. One complaint I do have is the use of a gloss plastic around the center console, since it’s impossible to keep clean and will show scratches in direct sunlight. This is one area I’m willing to accept, given the excellent design of everything else.

Technology: Inside the center stack offers natural-feeling controls for iDrive which are simple and intuitive for anyone who can use a smartphone. The center screen on my M40i is 10.3” with a 1440*540, and has vivid colors with a refined appearance. iDrive offers a vast amount of customization options from driving modes, to display contents to climate control. All these settings can be saved to your key, so there’s no need to change them back when your spouse or guest uses the spare key. I was happy to see the car readjust all settings automatically, including the driver’s seat when I tried using the second key. There’s also gesture support, which while somewhat gimmicky, has also proven to be especially useful. There are a few supported gestures, one of which you can remap to a variety of things, depending on your preference. BMW has much better remote support with the BMW Connected app vs the MMI on. I enjoy being able to see a 360 view of my car while at the store, or just about anywhere. You will also can do the following things remotely:

∑ Lock/unlock the car

∑ Turn on/off headlights

∑ Honk the horn,

∑ Turn on climate control (this can be scheduled too)

∑ Locate car

∑ Etc.



BMW’s instrument cluster, while fully digital, doesn’t have the same refinement Audi offers with their Virtual Cockpit. This is going to change with the release of iDrive 7.0 in the new X5 later this year. I found BMW’s digital gauges retained their classical styling with modern touches. There are 3 different gauge clusters you get depending on the driving mode, Sport/Sport+, Comfort/Adaptive, and Eco Pro. Of course, if you’d rather not have the cluster change on a drive mode basis, there is a way to disable this option in iDrive as with almost every setting. Customization inside is near infinite! Moving on to the full color heads up display (HUD), you get to see everything from media options to route guidance. BMW’s implementation here is the best so far. You can customize the HUD by adding/removing elements you do not care for (speed alerts, current speed limit, nav directions etc.).

One area I am extremely pleased with is the wireless (Qi based) charging tray. For those of you who are not aware, Qi is the wireless charging standard that beat out Powermat (back by Duracell). All new/old phones with wireless charging will be fully supported. I tested my Samsung S9+ and Note 8 in the tray during some spirited drives and the phone never once stopped charging. I’m glad BMW understands how consumers are using larger phones and made their wireless charging tray accommodate them without missing a beat.

Storage:
Interior storage space in my X3 M40i is very generous (not quite ‘American’ sized like a F-150 or Tahoe), with room for my rather large Note 8 and S9+ inside the center console or wireless charging tray. From the small bin on the left side of your steering wheel to the glove box, I never felt more storage was necessary. I was pleased to see normal sized cup holders and could be hidden via the roll top like cover, which also covers your wireless charging phone tray. USB ports are found (2 in total) in convenient areas. One lies within the phone tray and another in your center console. These support 5V/2A+ charging, leaving ample power for most devices. Trunk space is slightly more than in the SQ5 with side bins to keep smaller items. Unfortunately, there is no cargo net to keep items in these side areas, making me question why they exist.



Performance and Driving

Anyone who has driven a recent BMW should know their vehicles are very driver-oriented. There was a time when BMW’s were true driver’s cars, but with modern technology some of the great things (steering feel) are lost. You will be happy to know the steering has some good feedback and is not entirely numb like some other models. Of course, the steering will never be E36/E46 M3 quality here, but for a sporty SUV it remains closer to the Macan than SQ5.

Drive modes: Whether you will be launching the M40i from a stop light or simply commuting to work, there is a driving mode for both. Every time the car is started, you will be in comfort mode, which basically translates to ‘normal’ with a relatively numb acceleration mapping. Adaptive is the next option, which falls between comfort and Sport. In Adaptive, mashing the pedal will result in a wall of power more quickly. Now, if you really want to have fun, Sport/Sport+ are the best drive modes. Who can resist the nice ‘burble/crackle’ you get on every up and down shift. By unleashing the beast in Sport+, you really get to see the M40i come to life. I was impressed with the sheer brute force the TwinPower (twin scroll) I6 provides, even though its power/torque are nearly identical to my SQ5. Whether or not the M40i is faster than others, it certainly feels that way. The M40i feels a class above the SQ5 in terms of acceleration and power. Staggered wheels provide good traction for the rear-biased AWD system, while also offering better looks. I generally drive in Adaptive most days and sometimes Sport+ while merging onto a highway, or to scare my wife (she doesn’t enjoy this when it’s unexpected).

Handling/Ride Quality:
No one is expecting a 2-ton SUV to be a nimble sports car, although given the near perfect weight distribution, there’s no noticeable under/over steer that I’ve seen so far. Between the front and rear you get a 50.6%/49.4% split in weight, making this SUV feel sporty. On the other hand, my SQ5 featured a front heavy approach, sitting at a 54.3%/45.7% split. Steering is accurate and responds how you would expect. BMW has variable ratio steering like Audi’s “Dynamic Steering,” offering a faster ratio for the first ~90 deg. of steering; this makes low speed maneuvering easier.

AWD: There’s no doubt Audi’s Quattro system destroys X-Drive here, thanks in part to the sport differential and torque vectoring. I’ve been able to slightly lose traction in corners, where my Audi would remain firmly planted. You could call the BMW more fun thanks to this, since you can feel like you’re in a RWD SUV in those situations. I’ve yet to test my M40i on anything but wet roads, so I cannot speak to how well the system works in snow. During the one time we had rain since purchasing my car, everything felt firmly planted with no fear of losing grip.

Wheels:
My car was optioned with a 21” wheel, featuring dreadfully awful run flat tires. Keep in mind there are no non-run flat tires available in the OEM spec of 245/40 R21 & 275/35 R21 103Y at the time of writing this. Thankfully, I will be replacing these with 20” wheels and non-run flat tires within the next month or so. I find the ride to be a little bumpier than my SQ5’s plush air suspension. Active dampers on the M Suspension option help smooth out bumps, while my run flat tires fight to counteract this. I test drove one with regular tires, which provided a smooth ride and fixed my main complaint.



Conclusion


Overall, I feel the X3 M40i is the best sporty small SUV on the market, aside from Porsche’s Macan. Audi, Mercedes, Alfa all have good offerings, BMW simply does what I prefe. If you want a sporty SUV without the ‘Porsche tax,’ this is currently the best option out there. Audi will offer a better ride for daily commutes with its air suspension and Mercedes might be a little faster, but BMW blends these two with better dynamics—this equals a nice sporty SUV.

Full sized pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/znYpVNutTtIifPgX2
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      10-02-2018, 08:14 AM   #2
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We are cross shopping the SQ5 and X3 M40i right now, and agree with a lot you have to say. The BMW feels just a tad "sharper" in the handling department, but feels a bit smaller inside. I don't think it is smaller, it just feels that way to me.

The SQ5 we drove had the sports package and tended to hobby-horse when getting on and off the gas, which was a bit odd. I REALLY like the SQ5 red interior with black carbon trim, though.

I'm not sure that Quattro "destroys" X-drive. I hear that all the time, but we've owned an SQ5 and an X3 35i, and both get us around in the snow with all-seasons just fine. My wife commented that the X3, hands down, out handles the SQ5.

We decided that either of these SUVs would work for us, as they are really both great "cars".
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      10-02-2018, 10:50 AM   #3
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Audi looks like an appliance.
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      10-02-2018, 01:07 PM   #4
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Nice review but is the Macan really that more,superior? The Stelvio seems to be the real benchmark would put outside steering feel the M40i is almost on par with the Macan
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      10-02-2018, 01:40 PM   #5
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Thanks for spending the time to write this out. Nicely done 👍🏼😀
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      10-02-2018, 03:14 PM   #6
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Nice review, interesting to hear the areas where the audi is lacking or bmw is lacking from an Owner's POV. Did not know that about the reverse lights. That sounds like something BMW would have done a few years ago.
2018s really got screwed over on the steering wheel.
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      10-02-2018, 05:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X4guy View Post
Nice review but is the Macan really that more,superior? The Stelvio seems to be the real benchmark would put outside steering feel the M40i is almost on par with the Macan
I decided the Stelvio wasn't for me within seconds of sitting in one. Seriously nasty and cheap feeling.
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      10-02-2018, 10:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlastairM View Post
I decided the Stelvio wasn't for me within seconds of sitting in one. Seriously nasty and cheap feeling.
Yes, while their engines are nice it lacks in quality and basic durability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZHPsedan View Post
Nice review, interesting to hear the areas where the audi is lacking or bmw is lacking from an Owner's POV. Did not know that about the reverse lights. That sounds like something BMW would have done a few years ago.
2018s really got screwed over on the steering wheel.
I agree I'm, not sure why Audi has full LED fog/reverse lights for RoW vehicles but not in the US. I replaced mine with proper LED bulbs anyway because it bothered me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidLX3M40i View Post
Thanks for spending the time to write this out. Nicely done 👍🏼😀
Thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by X4guy View Post
Nice review but is the Macan really that more,superior? The Stelvio seems to be the real benchmark would put outside steering feel the M40i is almost on par with the Macan
Well, the Macan handles like a dream and feels akin to a sedan, not an SUV so in that regard yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RegieX View Post
Audi looks like an appliance.
It sort of drove like one too at times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmed View Post
We are cross shopping the SQ5 and X3 M40i right now, and agree with a lot you have to say. The BMW feels just a tad "sharper" in the handling department, but feels a bit smaller inside. I don't think it is smaller, it just feels that way to me.

The SQ5 we drove had the sports package and tended to hobby-horse when getting on and off the gas, which was a bit odd. I REALLY like the SQ5 red interior with black carbon trim, though.

I'm not sure that Quattro "destroys" X-drive. I hear that all the time, but we've owned an SQ5 and an X3 35i, and both get us around in the snow with all-seasons just fine. My wife commented that the X3, hands down, out handles the SQ5.

We decided that either of these SUVs would work for us, as they are really both great "cars".
The SQ5 was so stable with Quattro taking corners was boring. Even with DSC off the car was still on rails unless you really hit a slippery surface. Meanwhile, my M40i can throw the back end out with DSC on if you really want and to me, that's more enjoyable. I hope that clears thing up My SQ5 was fully loaded except for the weird Dynamic Steering.
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      10-03-2018, 08:01 PM   #9
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SQ5 fake exhaust tips are a deal breaker for me, they bother me THAT much.
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      10-03-2018, 10:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjl View Post
SQ5 fake exhaust tips are a deal breaker for me, they bother me THAT much.
They are pretty annoying, I mean every other car has real exhaust tips, even the Q3/Q7 but no not the SQ5...
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      10-04-2018, 09:05 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndroidRobot View Post
They are pretty annoying, I mean every other car has real exhaust tips, even the Q3/Q7 but no not the SQ5...
Its mind boggling how Audi allowed this to happen. It was the only reason why I didn't even consider the SQ5 after owning an S4. The exhaust growl hooked me on the M40i.
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      10-04-2018, 11:44 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjl View Post
SQ5 fake exhaust tips are a deal breaker for me, they bother me THAT much.
Same here...the overall looks of the SQ5 aren't bad. Having that hideous rear bumper and fake exhaust tips that don't even exist is probably one of the worst design decisions from a German auto MFG to date. It's sad when the base model Q5 aesthetically speaking actually has a nicer rear bumper and real exhaust.

I was actually anticipating this vehicle as I always enjoyed the original SQ5. This was a major failure on their part...I wouldn't consider looking at one merely because of that.
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      10-04-2018, 01:01 PM   #13
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Apparently Audi's fake exhaust is contagious, the new 2019 A6 is a faker too! Some guys might like fake things, I like the real thing!
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Last edited by ContactPatch; 10-04-2018 at 01:09 PM..
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      10-04-2018, 02:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjl View Post
SQ5 fake exhaust tips are a deal breaker for me, they bother me THAT much.
I feel like this is insignificant in the grand scheme of things and I could overlook it is it was the clear class leader but it really bugs me.

Is it down to saving money?
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      10-04-2018, 06:09 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T16ole View Post
I feel like this is insignificant in the grand scheme of things and I could overlook it is it was the clear class leader but it really bugs me.

Is it down to saving money?
I could be wrong here but I think it's Audi's way of forcing people to stop expecting exhausts for when electric vehicles take over as normal
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      10-04-2018, 07:46 PM   #16
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One thing between the two is the possible deals you can get. Here in the Boston area you usually can get a better deal on the BMW X3 M40 than The Audi SQ5. In Germany It seems you can get better deals on the Audi's than the BMW. When you factor what can be a sizable price difference it can sway your decision. They are both excellent cars.
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      10-05-2018, 05:46 PM   #17
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I test drove an SQ5 and it felt horrible. Hated it. It felt sloppy, slow, non-dynamic. Coming from an Audi S3 the SQ5 felt noticeably slower than the S3. I wanted to get an SUV but after driving the SQ5 I determined that SUVs werenít for me. So I went back to looking at the Audi S5 Sportback. Was all set to get it and something told me to test drive the X3. BMW dealer didnít have an M40i to test drive so I drove the xdrive 30i. The BMW felt sportier than the SQ5. After driving the Xdrive 30i I cancelled the SQ5 order and ordered an M40i without even a test drive. The Xdrive 30i felt that good.

After break-in I immediately noticed that the M40i was faster than the S3, while the SQ5 felt slower. The X3 M40i is in a completely different performance league than the SQ5. Which leads me to this, I will never trust any comparison review (or really any car review). Every comparison review or review of the M40i mentioned the Audi SQ5 as a competitor. All reviews talked as if the only difference between the two is the badge. And I can only recall one reviewer mentioning that the X3 is significantly faster than the SQ5, the rest made it seem like they were comparable.

The entire time I had the S3 I couldnít wait to get rid of it. Audi has the center console column gear-shifter downshift/upshift reversed. I thought I would get used to it but I never did. Pushing the lever forward for an upshift is something I could not adjust myself to do. BMW has the upshift and downshift in the proper position. That alone is enough for me to never consider an Audi product again. Not unless itís a true-manual.
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      10-05-2018, 05:57 PM   #18
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I too drove both the SQ5 and M40i, no comparison in my opinion. While I think Audi has done a nice job on the interior fit and finish, appointments etc., the overall performance, steering feel (or lack there of), and fun factor was most definitely missing.

I currently drive a 2017 540i, and Iím cautiously moving to an M40i X3- but after driving it once I was sold! Call me an SUV skeptic and sedan aficionado, I was quickly convinced that the X3 is game changing. Hard to justify a 5 series (and Iíve had 6 of them!) to be honest as the new X3 interior is quite similar, and I love the pano roof and interior space and riding up Hugh!
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      10-05-2018, 05:59 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony View Post
I test drove an SQ5 and it felt horrible. Hated it. It felt sloppy, slow, non-dynamic. Coming from an Audi S3 the SQ5 felt noticeably slower than the S3. I wanted to get an SUV but after driving the SQ5 I determined that SUVs weren’t for me. So I went back to looking at the Audi S5 Sportback. Was all set to get it and something told me to test drive the X3. BMW dealer didn’t have an M40i to test drive so I drove the xdrive 30i. The BMW felt sportier than the SQ5. After driving the Xdrive 30i I cancelled the SQ5 order and ordered an M40i without even a test drive. The Xdrive 30i felt that good.

After break-in I immediately noticed that the M40i was faster than the S3, while the SQ5 felt slower. The X3 M40i is in a completely different performance league than the SQ5. Which leads me to this, I will never trust any comparison review (or really any car review). Every comparison review or review of the M40i mentioned the Audi SQ5 as a competitor. All reviews talked as if the only difference between the two is the badge. And I can only recall one reviewer mentioning that the X3 is significantly faster than the SQ5, the rest made it seem like they were comparable.

The entire time I had the S3 I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. Audi has the center console column gear-shifter downshift/upshift reversed. I thought I would get used to it but I never did. Pushing the lever forward for an upshift is something I could not adjust myself to do. BMW has the upshift and downshift in the proper position. That alone is enough for me to never consider an Audi product again. Not unless it’s a true-manual.
Had an MK7R for awhile after owning a DCT M3 and it was a huge annoyance. I cannot for any reason understand why VW does this. That and the S3 and MK7R are notoriously FWD oriented - was not impressed with their Haldex. Only kept that car for 1yr...honestly most people rave about them but I wasn't that impressed. The driving dynamics of my 12yr old Evo MR was miles better...granted also better than my M3, but not by much.
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      10-06-2018, 11:08 AM   #20
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I got a lot of heat for my review on the Audi forums but you can't hide from the truth. When I got my SQ5 there was no M40i out so it wasn't an option. The only things I really miss are Audi's Air Suspension, Android Auto and their steering wheel which is very nice. BMW is the clear winner in this segment as a whole.
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      10-06-2018, 01:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmee150 View Post
The Stelvio will probably catch fire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlastairM View Post
I decided the Stelvio wasn't for me within seconds of sitting in one. Seriously nasty and cheap feeling.
That is true, was only referring to the driving dynamics, been tempted but I canít. Rather the Macan as an all rounder.
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      10-06-2018, 02:36 PM   #22
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We have been debating between the X3M40i and SQ5 because our 2016 SQ5 lease is up in 2 weeks.

Just put in our order for the X3. SQ5 pricing isn't out yet for 2019s, plus we liked the touch screen for Apple Car Play and driving dynamics of the BMW were a bit better. Now, the wait begins.
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2013 X3 3.5 | SAP | DHP | NAV | CWP | AW | Mojave
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