Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $64,400 (plus on-roads), $74,665 as-tested
Engine/trans: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.2 l/100km Tested: 8.7 l/100km
Now sporting a new snout and packed with what BMW claims is $6000 worth of extra value, the midsized X3 was given a thorough refresh mid-year, adding to the appeal of a very accomplished family wagon.
The engine of the entry-level diesel xDrive20d was also upgraded with more power and more torque, and it’s this model that we’ve put through the wringer.
What did we find? Well, not only does the X3 continue to be one of our top picks in the luxury SUV segment, but it’s markedly better than before.
- Bi-xenon headlamps, foglamps, powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, powered front seats, voice command system, cruise control, speed limiter, trip computer
- Infotainment: 6.5 inch colour display, iDrive controller on centre console, USB audio input, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, satellite navigation.
- Options fitted: Panoramic glass sunroof, BMW Connected Drive internet connectivity suite, LED foglamps, 19-inch alloys, sports front seats, adaptive headlamps.
The most visible change - a somewhat minor one - is the new centre console cupholder, which now has a retractable lid that doubles as a flat (but grippy) storage shelf.
Besides that and some new materials for cabin trim and upholstery, it’s largely the same cabin as before.
That means high-quality furnishings and switchgear, plenty of soft-touch surfaces, decent leather trim (though our car had higher-grade Nevada leather as an option) and plenty of space.
And it’s spaciousness that’s one of the X3’s best attributes, with heaps of leg, shoulder, knee and headroom both front and rear, plus enough space (and a relatively clear floor) to enable three adults to sit across the rear bench.
Outward vision is also good, thanks to large windows and a sensibly low beltline.
Our tester’s optional panoramic glass roof ($2308) amplified this sense of airiness, without cutting into headroom.
The X3 rates high for practicality too, thanks to a 500-litre seats-up boot capacity, rear seatbacks that fold flush with the boot floor and an integrated rail system for securing cargo.
The retractable luggage blind also incorporates a net to separate cargo from passengers, and even works when the seatbacks are folded down.
It’s thoughtful features like this that make the X3 one of our faves in the segment.
Negatives? Well, the seat cushions are firm, especially on the rear bench. The back seats could also use a touch more under-thigh support to take some weight off passenger’s bums and improve long-distance comfort.
The standard 6.5-inch infotainment display also looks small, especially when you consider that it’s mounted in a recess designed for the optional 8.8-inch Navigation System Professional display.
Functionally though, it works well.
The iDrive control interface is intuitive and easy to use, and the voice command system allows most functions to be accessed without taking your hands off the wheel.
ON THE ROAD
- 140kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel in-line four
- 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, all-wheel drive
- Double-wishbone front, multi-link rear suspension
- Disc brakes front and rear
It’s still the same 2.0 litre turbodiesel as in the pre-update X3, but some subtle massaging of the engine tune sees power rise from 135kW to 140kW, and torque swell from 380Nm to 400Nm.
It’s a very tractable motor, and the 8-speed automatic gearbox it’s connected to has the right ratio for almost every occasion. Like others of its Bavarian breeding, the X3 is an eager performer on-road.
If only it didn’t seek out the highest gear at the earliest opportunity.
Yes, we know that it’s calibrated that way to deliver good fuel economy (our real-world 8.7 l/100km figure is not bad for an SUV), but if you live in a hilly area the constant shuffling of gears can get a bit wearisome.
The ride is also on the firm side, though the optional 19-inch wheels (18s are standard on the xDrive20d) surely contribute to this. At least they look good.
The way it handles and steers is a highlight though.
Body control is excellent, roll is suppressed, and it turns-in crisply when cornering (the steering is miles ahead of big bro X5’s in terms of feel and precision).
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.58 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, dual front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts (front pretensioning), anti-whiplash front headrests, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
But while there’s more equipment and more oomph from the base-model diesel, one thing is obvious: the bones of the X3 never needed changing. It’s that good.
Debits? We think it could do with softer seat materials, and the gearbox calibration could be a little more relaxed. All in all though, our complaints with the X3 xDrive20d are few, and relatively minor.
In fact, if you’re weighing up an X5 but don’t need the extra load capacity or seven-seat capability, we’d recommend you take a glance into the X3 too.
There’s plenty of space for five, it drives well (and steers better than the X5), and costs less, leaving more money for options (of which there are many, in typical BMW form).
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- X3 xDrive 20i - $60,900
- X3 xDrive 20d - $64,400
- X3 xDrive 28i - $73,400
- X3 xDrive 30d - $77,400