2018 BMW X3
Compact luxury crossovers are the Swiss army knives of the automotive world, promising four-seasons comfort in a package spacious enough to stow a big yard sale find or a week's worth of vacation luggage, yet small enough not to drive like a truck. The BMW X3 delivers on all fronts. It earns high marks for its potent yet efficient engine options, plush cabin, and dynamic handling.
All-new for the latest model year, the X3 is BMW's middle-ground crossover, slotting between the X1 and the X5 in terms of size and price. The third-generation model wears the familiar silhouette that has characterized the nameplate since its inception. It boasts a tall, bold front end with sharp-looking headlights separated from the kidney grilles. Out back, BMW's traditional L-shaped headlights become softer for a more contemporary look.
The standard 18-inch alloy wheels do a nice job of filling the wheel wells, giving the X3 a purposeful stance. Rugged-looking add-ons (including plastic trim around the wheel arches) also comes standard.
The X3 belies its mid-level positioning with a handsome cabin that's understated in design ad upscale in material quality, with supple leather and attractive wood trim creating a luxurious ambiance. Simple, effective, and old-fashioned white-on-black analog gauges contrast with BMW's latest iDrive infotainment system, which has evolved over the years into one of the most user-friendly interfaces for controlling entertainment, navigation and climate control functions. Gesture control technology that has seeped down from the 7 Series is available at an extra cost. Alternatively, redundant controls composed of conventional knobs and buttons provide an alternate means of accessing often-used features.
The X3 comes standard with front sport seats. Passenger space is ample - even for rear seat passengers - and super-supportive sports seats along with heated seats at all four corners can be spec'd to make the experience even more comfortable. When it comes time to fill the X3 full of cargo, the 'ute can swallow 28.7 cubic feet, or 62.7 cubes with the 40/20/40-split rear seats folded flat.
Since it's still fairly new, the X3 is available in just two variants named xDrive30i and M40i, respectively. All-wheel drive comes standard regardless of which flavor you select.
The most basic X3 uses the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's ubiquitous across the BMW line-up. In this application it makes 248 horsepower between 5,200 and 6,500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from 1,450 to 4,800 rpm. It shifts through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The M40i offers a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six tuned to produce 355 horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque 1,520 and 4,800 rpm. It also shifts through an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual shift modes.
The xDrive30i scurries from zero to 60 mph in six seconds flat. The M40i model performs the same task in a sports car-like 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy checks in at 22 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in a combined cycle with four cylinders under the hood. Add two more and those figures drop to 20, 27, and 23, respectively.
Standard and Optional Features
The list of standard features includes high gloss black trim, a start/stop system, hill descent control, 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding and heated door mirrors, LED fog lights, LED low beams and halogen high beams, aluminum roof rails and exterior trim, chromed exhaust tips, 10-way power-adjustable front sport seats, rear seat back adjustment, SensaTec upholstery, dark oak wood trim, a cargo cover, floor mats, a 12-speaker sound system, a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, dynamic cruise control, a keyless ignition, automatic three-zone climate control, a passenger-side mirror that automatically tilts down when the driver engages reverse, rain-sensing wipers, a power tailgate, ambient lighting, tinted windows, a universal garage door opener, and an armrest for the rear passengers.
The M40i builds on the xDrive30i with 19-inch alloy wheels, upgraded brake and suspension components, a variable sport steering system, a full body kit, gloss black roof rails and trim, gray accents on the grille and the front air intakes, 14-way adjustable front seats, a remote-operated tailgate, and, of course, a six-cylinder engine.
Buyers have several options to choose from. First, they can select one of two appearances package named Luxury Design and M Sport Design, respectively. The first relies on chrome to give the X3 a more upscale look; the second adds a body kit. Next up are the options, which are grouped into several tiers.
The Convenience tier adds keyless entry, a moon roof, lumbar support, and a year-long subscription to SiriusXM. The Premium tier adds everything previously mentioned plus a heated steering wheel, navigation, heated front seats, a head-up display, and real-time traffic information. Finally, the Executive tier bundles the features from the two previous packages plus gesture control, park assist technology, a digital instrument cluster, a surround-view camera, automatic high beams, and full LED headlights.
There are also a few standalone options, including wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, trailer hitch, a panoramic moon roof, window shades for the rear passengers, Apple CarPlay compatibility (which many auto-makers offer for free), a space-saver spare tire, adaptive cruise control, and dynamic damper control.
All X3 models are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems. BMW's Assist eCall technology, which adds an emergency request button, also comes standard.
The X3's main competitors are the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Audi Q5, and the Volvo XC60. Buyers can also look at the Acura RDX, the Lexus NX, and the Infiniti QX60.