Full 2014 BMW X3 Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 BMW X3 receives minor updates to feature availability, but otherwise it's unchanged.
Among compact to midsize luxury crossover SUVs, the 2014 BMW X3 stands apart from most rivals. With its superb driving dynamics, spacious and upscale interior accommodations, and solid fuel economy ratings, the X3 is a front runner in this class and definitely one you'll want to check out, particularly if you have a family.
BMWs are typically known for providing an engaging experience behind the wheel, and that trait certainly holds up for the X3. While it's not quite as sporty as its smaller sibling, the X1, the X3 still provides much more feedback and entertainment through turns than the average luxury SUV.
A lot of that fun also comes from what's under the hood. BMW offers two engine choices, both turbocharged: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder (xDrive 28i) and a 3.0-liter inline-6 (xDrive 35i). If you're unsure about the idea of a four-cylinder luxury SUV, the X3 will make you a believer: The xDrive28i version offers plenty of power plus the bonus of great fuel economy. Going with the larger engine in the BMW X3 xDrive35i does drop fuel economy a little, but in return you get one of the quickest models in this class.
Inside the 2014 BMW X3, you get more of what BMW is known for: impressive quality. We've found that the X3's front seats provide great support for both long road trips and enthusiastic drives on back roads. Materials quality is first class, with understated wooden trim, brushed-metal accents and a general refinement that elevates the cabin ambience. The X3 also lives up to expectations for utility, as its rear seat is roomy and cargo space is competitive.
Other compact luxury crossovers, such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 are down on interior room, but they're just as luxurious and stylish, and potentially a bit more fuel-efficient, thanks to available diesel and hybrid variants. The X3 tends to be pricey, too, and it's worth looking at less expensive crossovers such as the Acura RDX or Volvo XC60 if you have a keen eye on the budget. Overall, though, the 2014 BMW X3's wealth of strengths make it a top recommendation for this class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW X3 crossover SUV is available in two trim levels that correspond to engine choice: xDrive28i and xDrive35i.
The xDrive28i model comes standard with 18-inch wheels; rear privacy glass; automatic headlights; foglamps; automatic wipers; a power liftgate; auto-dimming mirrors; cruise control; dual-zone automatic climate control; eight-way power front seats with memory functions; leatherette premium vinyl upholstery; a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; Bluetooth phone connectivity; the iDrive electronics interface; and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio input.
Besides its more powerful engine, the xDrive35i adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof and wood trim. These items are options on the xDrive28i.
The Premium package includes the panoramic sunroof (xDrive28i), keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, four-way lumbar support for the front seats, satellite radio, cargo area nets and tie-down points. The Cold Weather package includes heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. The Technology package gets you a head-up display, a navigation system with a larger main iDrive display, smartphone app integration and the BMW Remote Services emergency communications system.
The Driver Assistance package adds front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. On top of this you can add the Driver Assistance Plus package, which has rear- and top-view parking cameras and a lane-departure warning system.
The M Sport package features 19-inch wheels, special exterior trim, sport front seats, a sport steering wheel and transmission shift paddles (35i only). The Dynamic Handling package adds adaptive suspension dampers, enhanced speed-adjustable power steering and an enhanced torque-vectoring version of the all-wheel-drive system.
Some of the above items are available as stand-alone options. Other stand-alone options include automatic high-beam headlight control and a 16-speaker surround-sound audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard on all BMW X3s, along with an automatic stop-start system. The latter shuts off the engine when stopped and then starts it when you take your foot off the brake in order to save fuel.
In Edmunds performance testing, the four-cylinder X3 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is average overall for the segment and as quick as some six-cylinder crossovers. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
The X3 xDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It uses the same eight-speed automatic, and AWD is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the 35i hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest vehicles in this segment. Fuel economy is rated at 19/26/21, which is actually better than some of the X3 xDrive35i's less powerful rivals.
Every 2014 BMW X3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, automatic brake drying (useful in rainy weather), front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front seat head restraints, stability control and hill descent control. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification and on-demand roadside assistance.
The optional BMW Remote Services system upgrades BMW Assist with stolen-vehicle recovery and remote door unlocking. Other optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, rear- and top-view parking cameras and a lane-departure warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an xDrive35i stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is an average distance for the segment. An xDrive28i with the M Sport package stopped in 127 feet.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The X3's interior will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a BMW product. Classic analog gauges, sensible ergonomics and a restrained overall aesthetic combine to create a pleasant driving environment. Occupants will feel cocooned within the high-quality materials covering the seats, console and dash.
Overall, we're fond of the iDrive electronics interface, particularly with the higher-resolution screen that comes with the navigation system. The menu structure is straightforward, the graphics are crisp and processing times are quick, which helps minimize the amount of time you spend looking away from the road. That said, new owners should sit down and familiarize themselves with iDrive before hitting the road, because it's still a complex system and you can't master everything while the car's in motion.
Room for front passengers is more than ample, while rear legroom is downright generous and pairs with a truly comfortable seat. Indeed, this is one of the most family-friendly vehicles in the class. Total cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is 63.3 cubic feet, which makes it one of the larger compact luxury crossovers.
Don't dismiss the 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i based on its four-cylinder power plant. Acceleration is very quick, and it's one of the most fuel-efficient models in the crossover segment based on EPA estimates. The auto stop-start function that comes with this engine can be an annoyance in heavy traffic, because the engine doesn't restart as quickly or smoothly as we'd like when transitioning between the brake pedal and the gas (fortunately, you can manually disable this feature). If your budget allows, though, the X3 xDrive35i will be hard to pass up, as its acceleration is very impressive, while fuel economy is still quite good in normal driving.
The X3 delivers on the promise of BMW performance in other respects, too. Take it around a turn with enthusiasm, and it feels light and nimble. As small luxury crossovers go, it's one of the sportiest, particularly with its optional suspension and drivetrain add-ons. And while the ride quality is definitely firm, most people will find the 2014 BMW X3 quite livable, whether commuting along city streets or taking long trips on the highway.