Class: Premium Compact Crossover
Miles driven: 268
Fuel used: 12.5 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 21.4 mpg
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/29/25 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas
Base price: $42,450 (not including $995 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||B-|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Options on test vehicle: Special paint ($550), Canberra Beige Vernasca leather trim ($1700), Convenience Package ($2850), Driving Assistance Package ($900), Dynamic Handling Package ($1400), Parking Assistance Package ($1300), Premium Package ($3300), front and rear heated seats ($350), space-saver spare tire ($150), Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300), wireless charging ($500), Harman Kardon audio system ($875)
Price as tested: $57,620
The great: Upscale interior ambiance; fine balance of ride comfort and on-road handling capability
The good: Good passenger and cargo versatility; satisfying acceleration
The not so good: Pricing gets steeper as options are added; some tedious infotainment controls; disappointing observed fuel economy versus EPA estimates
The BMW X3 has been completely redesigned for 2018, but you might need to look twice to tell. Like many of BMW’s recently redesigned vehicles, the new X3 doesn’t look much different from its previous-generation predecessor at first glance. Though the 2018 X3’s styling is more gradual evolution than clean-sheet rethink, there is plenty here that’s new… and improved.
The X3 grows a bit with its redesign… it’s marginally wider and longer, and a wheelbase stretch of 2.2 inches provides notably improved rear-seat legroom. There are also several newly available features, such as BMW’s hands-free “gesture controls” for some infotainment-system functions and Apple CarPlay functionality (but no Android Auto, unfortunately).
The xDrive30i is essentially the base 2018 BMW X3 trim level; it’s powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that puts out a healthy 248 horsepower (an 8-hp improvement over the previous-gen model). The engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. (Note that BMW has added a rear-wheel-drive sDrive30i version to the X3 lineup for 2019, but outside of that, the X3 carries over essentially unchanged.)
If you’re looking for an X3 with a more muscle than the turbo four offers, you’re in luck—BMW also offers an M40i model that packs a seriously gutsy 355-hp turbocharged 6-cylinder, along with other performance-oriented hardware and sporty suspension tuning. You can check out our test-drive review of the M40i here.
For most premium-brand compact crossover shoppers, the xDrive30i’s four should supply perfectly satisfying power. It’s smooth and responsive, and the 8-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply and smoothly. The exhaust note is muted while cruising, rising to a fairly sporty growl in fast acceleration.
Our test vehicle was quite liberally equipped. Topping the options list was the $3300 Premium Package, which adds a heated steering wheel, navigation system (with enhanced real-time traffic information), head-up display, and BMW ConnectedDrive Remote Services for a compatible smartphone or other connected device. The $2850 Convenience Package brings “Comfort Access” keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, lumbar support, and Sirius/XM satellite radio with a 1-year subscription.
The $1400 Dynamic Handling Package delivers a sportier driving character via Dynamic Damper Control adaptive suspension, M Sport brakes, Performance Control torque-vectoring system, and variable sport steering. The $1300 Parking Assistance Package consists of the Parking Assistant Plus system, Active Park Distance Control, and a surround-view camera with 3D view. Rounding out the package options was the $900 Driving Assistance Package, which adds a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking and daytime pedestrian detection, and speed-limit info. (Note that BMW also offers a Driving Assistance Plus Package that adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, traffic-jam assist, lane-keep assist, and cross-traffic alert in the front as well as the rear.)
Like the other European luxury brands, BMW has no qualms about charging extra for amenities that come standard on many mainstream-brand vehicles ($300 extra for Apple CarPlay compatibility—really?). Toss in the destination fee and a few other odds and ends, and the $42,450 base price of our tester shot up $15,170, to a bottom line of $57,620. That’s certainly steep, but it’s also in the ballpark of similarly equipped luxury-brand rivals.
And measured against those competitive vehicles, our X3 tester mostly justified its price tag. The interior ambiance is sophisticated and upscale (particularly with the $1700 upgraded Canberra Beige Vernasca leather upholstery) in BMW’s typically understated way. Most controls are logically laid out, but some of our testers complained about the iDrive infotainment interface and the somewhat unconventional “push-forward/pull-back” function of the shift lever (and the awkward location of the Park button on the lever itself).
Interior space for both people and cargo is quite good for the class. A relatively tall roofline and large windows all-around mean there is ample headroom and good visibility for both front and rear occupants. Generously sized door openings and “step-in-height” seats help make entry and exit easy. There’s good load space behind the second-row seats, and those seat backs fold to create a smooth, unbroken load floor.
The BMW brand’s trademark athletic driving character is present and accounted for in the new X3—particularly when equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package and when set to the “Sport” drive mode. The ride is a bit more “active” than some competitors’, but the suspension capably absorbs most bumps and road imperfections.
Foregoing some of the pricey option packages might make the X3 a better value, but regardless of how its equipped, this is a comfortable, versatile luxury crossover with a lot of appeal.
I’ll be darned! “No-hands” tailgates work after all. I’ve rarely had luck with the things, so it was a complete surprise when the hatch on the test X3 opened while I was near it. Now, I was shoveling snow in my driveway at the time, and didn’t really want the tailgate to open at that moment….
Unpredictable tailgate aside, BMW has a generally pleasant compact SUV in the 2018 X3. Having been stretched out by more than two inches from its previous form, it has nice back-seat room for the class, and good headroom. Cargo space isn’t bad, even if the load floor is raised above bumper height, the rear seats don’t rest flat, and they drop off somewhat below the level of the cargo floor when folded.
Also, ride in the “Comfort” setting is ideal for the majority of driving—certainly for in-town operation. There’s crisper steering in “Sport” mode but it requires putting up with a stiffer ride in normal commuting.
If I could change anything, it would be the confounding iDrive-managed audio system. I was able to enter station presets but couldn’t access them. The owner’s manual suggested there was a separate audio-system manual (not included) to explain this mystery of the universe. Finally I just manually scrolled through station lists to hear some of the music I wanted. Suddenly, it’s 1949.
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