New For 2014

A quiet year for the X3 mostly sees changes to the standard equipment list. New standard features on both models include a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors (inside and out), 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, ambient lighting, BMW Assist eCall, and BMW TeleService. Additionally, the optional navigation system now includes a touch pad.

Vehicle Summary

The BMW X3 is a highly capable all-around vehicle in the popular, premium-brand compact SUV segment. The X3 was a pioneering entry in this category, but the first-generation X3 suffered from a harsh ride and some downmarket interior materials. The current X3 addressed both those shortcomings and now makes a convincing alternative to the larger X5.

Overview

For the X3, the second time’s the charm. The current version feels very much like part of the BMW family. The turbocharged engines are familiar BMW fare. The steering has the characteristic BMW heft, and the ride is firm but no longer punishing. The X3 is also quite agile for an SUV, although it doesn’t feel as lithe and isn’t as fun to drive as the lower-riding 3 Series wagon. The X3 interior — with high-quality materials and a standard iDrive controller (now supplemented with a touch pad on cars equipped with navigation) — also looks similar to what you’ll find in much of the BMW lineup. The list of optional equipment is long and can rapidly inflate the price.

In contrast to many BMWs, the X3 lineup is very simple. There are only two models, the four-cylinder 28i and the six-cylinder 35i. Both come standard with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive. The 28i uses the same 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbo four found in the 328i and the 528i. It makes an impressive-for-its-size 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. (The previous-generation X3 offered the option of a manual transmission, but that’s now gone.) As it does elsewhere in the BMW lineup, the 2.0-liter gets commendably good gas mileage, in this case 21/28 mpg (city/highway). The four-cylinder’s chief negative is its diesel-like sound quality, particularly at idle.

The 35i comes with BMW’s 3.0-liter turbocharged straight six. This engine, which is even more widespread in the BMW lineup than the turbo four, is a smooth operator that delivers muscular response. Here, its output is 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, which is sufficient to send the X3 from rest to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Again, the eight-speed automatic is your only transmission choice. Compared with the four-cylinder, the straight six sees its EPA ratings drop by 2 mpg both in the city and on the highway.

You’ll like:

  • Agile handling
  • Plentiful luxury equipment
  • Very quick (35i)

You won’t like:

  • Less fun to drive than a 3 Series wagon
  • Turbo four sound quality
  • Gets pricey quickly

Key Competitors

  • Audi Q5
  • Infiniti QX50
  • Mercedes-Benz GLK
  • Range Rover Evoque
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