BMW’s X3 AWD is one of five in the company’s SUV line-up. The line includes the smallest X1 that is based on the Mini Countryman, the X3 compact, X4 that is a coupe-like sedan version of the original AWD X3, AWD X5 three row midsize, and recently debuted full-size, three-row, 7-seat, X7 that will be available in March 2019.
The X3 has been redesigned for 2018 and upgraded with more technology, a host of safety features and a luxurious leather interior. Added too was Apple CarPlay (optional), but as of this review, Android Auto isn’t offered.
Offered in sDrive30i, xDrive30i and hot M40i, we were privileged to test the AWD xDrive30i that comes standard with a proven turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 248-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. This grunt is routed to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters plus Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro modes. The combination gets EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 29-highway mpg. X3 attains these numbers in part with start/stop engine technology.
Performance wise, there’s no want for power especially when the turbo kicks in. Dead stop acceleration is exhilarating and passing power is equally as responsive. And like all BMW powerplants, the engine emits a sweet, whine of sorts that typifies BMW’s precision engines.
If you’re inclined for more gusto, step up to the M40i that comes with a 3.0-liter turbo inline 6 cylinder that puts out a whopping 355-hp and generates 369 lb/ft of torque from a low 1,520 to 4,800 rpm range.
X3’s interior is posh and masterfully laid out with dark oak wood trim on dash and doors. It’s enhanced with exceptionally supportive sport front seats that have extended under thigh support. Those are comforting to have on long trips. A 10.3-inch wide view touchscreen display sits like an iPad atop the vertical stack. It features a split screen with 3D capability and is controlled by a rotary dial on the console. It also provides a forward view as well as a 360-degree surround rearview sand when in the Parking Assist mode. It even comes on to show what direction cross traffic is coming from, a notable BMW accident avoidance feature.
Voice control is an added feature and easily recognizes a driver’s voice unless it has a heavy accent of some kind. The display also serves BMWs infotainment system that in addition to display functions, requires a dedicated study of the owners manual as it’s a bit complicated. There’s also a weather app with 5-day forecasts.
As for BMWs famed electronic iDrive automatic transmission shifter, it takes some getting used to. After a week-long test, we finally acclimated to finding Park gear that initially was an uncertainty, despite its “P” showing up on the shifter handle.
X3s HVAC system is straight forward and easy to use as is the smartphone charger that’s nestled at the base of the vertical stack.
After an easy 18-inch step-in into the three passenger heated rear seats, they split and fold in 40/20/40 fashion. This split is nice in that long items like skis, fishing rods, hockey sticks or curtain rods can be carried in between the outboard seats without sacrificing seating for two. Head room in back is ample and leg room is decent provided the fronts aren’t racked too well rearward.
Behind the rear seats is a spacious 28.7 cubic foot cargo area that measures 34.5 inches deep, 44 wide and 28.5 high. Flip them and space increases to 62.7 cubic feet for 65 inches of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a shallow bin for stowing smaller items out of sight.
As all BMW’s are noted for excellent handling characteristics, the X3 is no exception.
With the optional driver-adjustable Dynamic Damper Control, the X3 handles like a sports car in tight, sharp turns. It’s agile, precise and planted. In Comfort mode, steering becomes light and the SUV is nimble and parks easily in tight spots. Or, engage Park Assist and the system will parallel park it for you. Switch to Sport mode and the steering and suspension tightens up for increased sporty handling.
The ride on premium Pirelli 19-inch tires is smooth and quiet but a tad on the taut Euro side, even in Comfort mode. It’s inherent in BMW’s fine handling vehicles.
Now all this excellence doesn’t come cheaply. The X3 began life at $42,450 and escalated sharply when adding a long list of optional safety and convenience features. For example, dark olive paint added $550; Cranberra Beige Vernasca leather $1,700; convenience package ($2,850) included a panoramic sunroof, lumbar support and satellite radio; Driving Assistance Package ($1,400); Dynamic Handling Package ($1,400) that adds adjustable dampers, performance control and variable sport steering; Parking Assist Package ($1,300) with active park distance control, rearview camera, surround view with 3D; Premium Package ($3,300) offers heated steering wheel, nav system, heads-up display, remote services and front/rear heated seats an extra $350; Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300); wireless charging ($500); Wi-Fi Hotspot is standard; Harmon/Kardon surround system ($875); and delivery ($995), brought the bottom line to $57,620. Now this price includes a very long list of standard features such as forward braking collision system, lane departure warning, cross traffic alert and much more.
But even as important as those are, the X3 garnered impressive government safety ratings of a full five stars for frontal crash/side barrier crash; four stars for rollover; and five stars for side crash. All impressive ratings that some comparable SUV/crossovers haven’t attained.
Added to that, X3 comes with a 4-year, 50,000-mile new vehicle; 12-year unlimited mileage rust perforation; and 4-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance warranties.
Whichever X model you choose, the mid-level X3 can satisfy most families of four. But if more interior room is needed, there’s always the X5 or newest X7. All excellent BMW choices.