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2018 BMW X3 Review

Edmunds Senior Writer Mark Takahashi gets behind the wheel of the fully redesigned 2018 BMW X3. In this review, he covers all of the areas most important to car buyers in the small luxury SUV class: comfort, refinement, technology, performance and utility. Is it the new class leader? Watch the video to find out for yourself.


[MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: What we have here is all new 2018 BMW X3, fully redesigned from the ground up, but it's kind of hard to tell, because there's not a whole lot different about it stylistically. It has a bigger grill. That's about it. However, it builds on the X3 legacy, giving you plenty of refinement on the inside, giving you great driving dynamics and really all of the luxury appointments and features you would expect. Prices for the X3 start right around $43,000 for this, the X Drive 30i. It's the base engine with A 2-liter turbo charged four cylinder. It puts out 248 horsepower. You can step up to the M40i, with a ridiculous 355 horsepower. My colleagues say it's quite the rocket. As far as interior design goes on the new X3, it doesn't break a lot of new ground. But again, it's an evolution. Things are improved here and there. The overall shape pretty much the same, but I like the materials used. They're just slightly sturdier, a little bit nicer. I like the wood trim here, but there's actually a matte wood option that I really, really like. One thing that stands out, maybe a little out of place, is this cover here. It's a little bit like a roll-top desk. It seems out of place, but it does make way for decent-sized cup holders and one of my favorite features of the new X3. Check it out. That is just a wireless charging pad. Sure. Drop it in there, though, you don't have to have it situated in the perfect spot to have it work. You just toss it on there, like I did, and it starts charging. Even better, this is the first car I've been in that has Apple CarPlay that's wireless. You don't need a USB. I'm so much happier now. One thing I really like about the instrument panel is it's a mix of analog and digital. It's got the bezels on the outside with the numbers on it, and on the inside is a digital screen. No matter what the lighting was on my drive this morning and afternoon, it was sharp and easy to read-- really well executed. Besides the center bin and cup holders, you also have this decently deep central armrest bin. There's also a USB port in there, as well. The pockets in the door-- also well-sized. The pocket, in particular, for the water bottle is very large, so you can probably get two in there, honestly. There are little touches here and there that also make me think that they paid a little more attention to detail with this X3. You have these interesting little shapes here in the vents, and it's echoed again in these top lights up here and also, on the outside, on the headlight bezels, as well as the puddle lamps. As far as comfort goes, these seats are as good as you'd expect from any BMW-- just enough adjustments, as well as thigh extenders for taller drivers, and adjustable side bolsters. So if you're slightly wider or narrower, you're covered-- lots of support, lots of comfort for all-day driving. Materials overall are excellent. Everything's got a nice, soft touch to it where it should be. Also new with this X3 is the latest version of BMW's iDrive. Now, iDrive has already been one of our favorites, as far as infotainment systems go. Add in Apple CarPlay, you start getting better and better. But even better, this is now a touch screen. Apple CarPlay just lends itself to being a touch screen. So instead of having to scroll through with the dial to each hotspot, you can just hit the hotspot you want. So here in the back seat, I'm 5 foot 10, an average size adult, and I have plenty of room-- now, plenty of headroom, plenty of knee room, and my feet slide under the front seat, as well. Materials quality is as good as they are up front. Everything's got a nice, soft touch, refined feel to it. Right here, nice center armrest at the right height between the two, and your typical, over-engineered cup holders. Also, you have your own automatic climate control back here, too. And that's standard with all of the X3s. Overall, I'd be fine back here for a very long road trip. As you'd expect, the BMW X3 has a hands-free power lift gate. One thing I'm not a big fan of, though, is this little step up here. It reminds me of the current Cadillac Escalade. It makes it a little bit harder to load big, bulky items in. Behind the rear seats, you have 28.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That's more than the Audi Q5, as well as the Mercedes GLC class. Another bonus-- these seats flip down with just a flip of the lever. You don't even have to push them down. Another thing I like is, let's say you just pulled something large out of the trunk, and you want to close it. Another swipe of a foot, rather ungainly beeping, and you're all set. Properly equipped, the BMW X3 can tow up to 4,400 pounds. I realize that camera systems aren't the sexiest feature in any car these days, but the X3's deserves a shout out, because it is super clear and crisp. And you have this crazy feature where you can do the tour around the car. It doesn't serve any purpose except for its cool factor. [MUSIC PLAYING] One thing I'm noticing about the X3-- that it's an evolution. And I really liked the previous X3 a lot for the same reasons. It's really quiet. It's really comfortable, and the interior is well-made. It's well put together. They've got great materials. As far as acceleration goes, this base two-liter turbo engine is more than enough for the average driver. At the track, it turned a seven second accel run to 60 miles an hour-- not a barn burner, but man, it's plenty capable for everyday driving. So standard features are these different drive modes. You have sport, comfort, and ECO PRO. Comfort is just fine, and it's going to default to that. One thing I like is there's a big difference between comfort and sport mode. Sport mode stiffens up the suspension, dials out some of that body roll, and you get a little more responsiveness. It will downshift a little quicker. It'll hold gears into higher revs longer. And that was borne out at the test track, as well. It turned in some decent numbers, especially for an SUV. You can, indeed, have some fun with this car on a winding mountain road. [MUSIC PLAYING] So here we are on an uphill on-ramp, and let's give it some sauce. This is in sport mode. Those shifts are a little more aggressive, sort of what you want out of a sport mode. I'm in just regular key it mode right now, which is comfort mode. And I'm about to hit a green light here, and let's see how it does. Now, the first couple of feet, it needs a little bit of time to spool up and get some good oomph out of the engine. But after that, it's very decisive. It's a good punch. And even though it's a smaller four cylinder, it didn't sound bad. It certainly didn't sound like we were stressing the engine. The shifts came quick and smooth, pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a luxury SUV. Visibility is all right. This A pillar here is actually kind of thick, but oddly enough, it's not getting in the way too much. I'm not sure why that is, but that is a significant block in your vision. Out the rear, it's OK, at least through the mirror. Add in features like blind spot detection and rear cross traffic and this really good 360 camera, there's pretty much no guesswork left. This X3 is slightly bigger and more roomy inside. At the same time, it doesn't feel like a bigger, heavier SUV on the road. I am a little surprised that the steering effort is so light. Even in sport mode, it doesn't build up that much. That said, it is really easy to maneuver, because of that light effort. [MUSIC PLAYING] Overall, I really like driving this X3. I really didn't think there was that much they can improve on. But they did. [MUSIC PLAYING] In my opinion, this is a brilliant evolution of the BMW X3. It builds on all of the strengths of its predecessor. It's great to drive. The interior is incredibly refined, and it's packed with smart features. It compares really well against the Audi Q5, the Mercedes GLC class, as well as the Jaguar E-Pace and F-Pace. For my money, though, this is as good as it gets. This is the new class leader. For more information on the BMW X3, as well as its competition, head on over to If you want to see more videos like this, hit Subscribe.

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