New or used, the BMW X3 is a great option for premium-crossover shoppers who want extra doses of sport and class. As expected in this segment, the five-passenger X3 offers a high seating position, all-wheel-drive traction and abundant features. However, it goes a few steps further with potent and efficient engines, above-average handling and genuinely upscale interior appointments.
Now in its second generation, the current BMW X3 is a much-improved vehicle, but it also has significantly more competitors than it used to. As such, the X3 isn't the easy choice it once was. It's still near the top of the class, though, and many years of the first-generation X3 are solid bets as well. If you're looking for a luxury crossover that's not too large, the BMW X3 certainly belongs on your short list.
Current BMW X3
While the X3 may be smaller and less expensive than the X5, you won't feel short-changed. Standard feature highlights on the xDrive28i including a power liftgate, power front seats, BMW's iDrive infotainment interface and a nine-speaker audio system. The xDrive35i is similarly equipped but adds adaptive xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, satellite radio and a 16-speaker premium audio system. Notable options include adaptive suspension dampers, sport front seats, a head-up display and a navigation system that brings a larger iDrive display screen.
The current X3 is available in sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive 28d and xDrive35i trims. In BMW speak, sDrive denotes a rear-wheel drive powertrains and xDrive means all-wheel drive. The 28i models are motivated by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (240 horsepower). The 28d switches to a fuel-efficient diesel-powered four-cylinder (180 hp). The 35i boasts a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder good for 300 hp. Every X3 features an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In reviews, we've consistently found the current BMW X3 to be one of the most appealing luxury crossovers in its class. For those who want an ample dose of driving fun, it's a smart choice, especially if you're willing to pony up for the 35i's remarkably powerful and refined engine. For fuel economy fans, the xDrive28d delivers well over 30 mpg on the highway. Although the ride is rather firm, the X3 nonetheless excels at soaking up bumps, and its trademark sharp handling remains a strong suit. The competition's stiffer than ever in this segment, but the current X3 is definitely a top contender.
Used BMW X3 Models
The current, second-generation BMW X3 debuted for 2011. Styling changes from the first generation are subtle, but the X3 is a little bigger this time around, with a gentler ride, a considerably fancier interior and improved power and efficiency.
For its first two years of production, the xDrive28i featured a non-turbocharged inline-six engine (240 hp) that was turbine-smooth but less fuel-efficient than the turbo-four. The new base engine arrived for 2013, as did standard Driving Dynamics Control and power operation for the liftgate (both previously optional). The xDrive28d and the rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i weren't introduced until the 2015 model year, which also marked the advent of a few new features and minor exterior styling changes. Since then, the X3 has received only minor feature availability changes
The first-generation BMW X3 was produced from 2004 to 2010. Originally, there were two six-cylinder models: the 184-hp 2.5i and the 225-hp 3.0i. The 2.5i was discontinued after 2005. As part of a comprehensive update for 2007, the 3.0i became known as the 3.0si (which was subsequently changed to xDrive30i for '09) and gained 35 more hp for a total of 260. A six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic were available throughout.
Throughout its run, the first-gen BMW X3 provided generous seating space (even for taller adults) and a spacious cargo area. Like the current car, it was also known for being one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs on the market. However, earlier examples were criticized for their unyielding ride and austere interior appointments. Both shortcomings were addressed in the overhaul for 2007, which also brought mild styling tweaks. Accordingly, we advise admirers of this generation to focus on the 2007-'10 models.