Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The 2019 BMW X3 is one of the coolest kids in one of the coolest classes: the compact-luxury-SUV segment, where it competes with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5. The X3 remains a standout thanks to agile handling, slick technology and German badge appeal. A new rear-drive model makes cost of entry slightly easier for 2019.
You'll Like The 2019 BMW X3 If...
If you want a smaller luxury SUV with a potent choice of engines — including a 6-cylinder — agile handling, handsome styling and European badge appeal, put the X3 on your list. With the introduction of the sDrive30i base model, the X3 is also one of only two vehicles in its segment to offer rear-wheel drive along with all-wheel drive (the other is the Mercedes-Benz GLC).
You May Not Like The 2019 BMW X3 If...
Even with a new base model that starts under $42,000 the BMW X3 is hardly the least expensive crossover SUV in its class. The new Infiniti QX50 begins several thousand less, as does the Lexus NX. We suspect the all-new Acura RDX will undercut the X3, too.
All-new just last year, for 2019 the BMW X3 introduces the lower-priced, rear-wheel-drive sDrive30i model. Newly standard is park-distance control and the Active Guard safety system with frontal-collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
BMW’s X3 has the same design aesthetic as other recent vehicles from the German luxury brand. There’s a wide-view display mounted high on the dash, the iDrive control knob alongside BMW’s unique gear selector, and the same ergonomics of the BMW ownership experience for the past couple of decades. It leans more toward the minimalistic end, but there’s built-in premium feel to its simplicity. Controls for common functions like audio and climate are logical and easy to reach, but the iDrive circular controller for screen functions and even the pistol-like gearshift are best first studied at a standstill. The X3 is extraordinarily roomy inside, even for its compact class. The driver and front passenger have plenty of space, and most rear-seat passengers will find good legroom. Headroom is similarly plentiful, and the cargo space is near the top of the class in both usability and outright space. In addition to a flat-floor cargo area, there’s room for small items should you want to hide them beneath the floor.
If it seems even small cars today are bigger, it’s not your imagination. This new, 3rd-generation X3 is actually a little bigger than the first-generation BMW X5, which is technically a size bigger. But the X3 wears its volume well and doesn’t look oversized. The optional 20- or 21-inch wheels look great, and the wide stance imparts a sense of stability. We think the overall integration of headlights, grille and other elements feels more cohesive on this model than that of the previous generation. The same is true in the back, where the taillights flow cleanly into the tailgate. The X3 M40i wears more aggressive sheet metal, with deeper front and rear bumpers, body-color side-sill extensions, and more aggressive wheel-and-tire combinations.
It may be a cliché by now, but it still rings true: The BMW X3 puts the “sport” in sport-utility vehicle. That’s to say, the company’s penchant for creating sedans that are dynamic, fun to drive and powerful has crossed over into its crossover SUVs. Even the least expensive X3 boasts surprisingly good acceleration and handling. It hits the 0-60-mph benchmark in six seconds flat. The BMW X3 is among the top performers in its class for agile handling, too, thanks to the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system (AWD). New for 2019 is the return of a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) variant. In addition to saving money, it will feel most akin to a traditional 3 Series sedan. The turbocharged 4-cylinder X3 has all the power that most buyers will need, but for those craving an extra helping, the X3 M40i heaps it on with a turbocharged 6-cylinder that enables this BMW to fly from 0-60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. Tied to either engine is a smooth and gratifying 8-speed automatic transmission. With the Driving Dynamics Control, you can tailor vehicle settings to your liking. For example, we found the steering too firm in the Sport+ mode, but the Individual option let us tone that down while still enabling more aggressive settings for the engine and throttle. If you plan to use this BMW SUV for off-pavement excursions, you can take comfort in knowing the new X3 acquitted itself nicely on deeply rutted roads, where its eight inches of ground clearance eased fear of scrapes.
The cost of getting into a new 2019 BMW X3 just got a little easier thanks to the reintroduction of a rear-drive base model. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the X3 sDrive30i starts just under $42,000, while the all-wheel-drive xDrive30i starts closer to $44,000. The more powerful, 6-cylinder X3 M40i is a significant jump in price, starting over $55,000. With options, these prices can easily rise by over $10,000. At its base point, the 2019 X3 is roughly in line with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. Rivals with lower starting prices include the Infiniti QX50 and Lexus NX, while the Porsche Macan is several thousand higher. Before buying your luxury-crossover SUV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying in your area. The BMW X3’s resale value is expected to be about mid-pack, trailing rivals like the Lexus NX, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan.
Out the gate, the new base model X3 sDrive30i comes nicely equipped with power tailgate, 3-zone automatic climate control, 10-way-power front seats, SensaTec faux leather upholstery, rain-sensing windshield wipers, universal garage-door opener and, for 2019, standard parking sensors. Also new is the Active Guard system with frontal-collision warning and the Automatic City Collision Mitigation braking system, which can automatically apply the brakes if the vehicle senses an impending crash. The standard iDrive infotainment system bundles a 10.25-inch screen that can be controlled by touch or the iDrive dial, and a 12-speaker/205-watt AM/FM/HD Radio with USB input and Bluetooth streaming. Apple CarPlay integration is available, but it’s an extra $300. If you’re married to Android Auto, be aware that the X3 doesn’t support it at this time.
The X3 xDrive30i adds all-wheel drive (BMW calls it “xDrive”), and like the sDrive30i model offers three jumping off points: xLine, Luxury and M Sport. The Luxury line, for example, adds chrome trim, while the M Sport gives the standard model sporty-looking flair. While there are plenty of stand-alone options, BMW has grouped many of them into "tiers." The Convenience tier adds amenities like lumbar support, keyless entry, satellite radio and a panoramic sunroof. Premium adds a head-up display, navigation, Apple CarPlay, and heated steering wheel and seats. The Executive tier includes adaptive full LED headlights, digital instrument cluster, parking assistant, surround view with 3D view, and BMW’s Gesture Control. Besides a more powerful engine and other performance gear, the M40i takes a different approach, offering many of those features as stand-alone option packages. Note that both models offer leather as an option, not standard. Other options include the Driver Assistance Plus package that bundles adaptive cruise control, active lane-keeping assist and other active-safety features, while the Dynamic Handling package features dynamic damper control, M Sport brake and variable sport steering. Also in the offering are a premium harman/kardon audio system, wireless phone charger, and Wi-Fi hotspot.
M40iThe X3 M40i is the ideal solution if you’re stuck choosing between a sports sedan and an SUV. With plentiful power from its 6-cylinder engine, surprisingly good handling, sharp steering and excellent brakes, you’d think it was a sporty wagon. But it’s comfortable off pavement as well, something most sporty sedans can’t match. SPACE MANAGEMENTThe 2019 BMW X3 manages its tidy dimensions admirably, offering ample interior space for front and rear passengers, and all their stuff in the cargo area. We particularly like the triple-split-folding rear seatbacks, which allow you to fold down the center section for long objects without having to sacrifice two seating positions.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available for the 2019 BMW X3, and neither is a bad call. The X3 sDrive30i and xDrive30i get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder putting out 248 horsepower. This is an engine that’s been doing yeoman’s duty under the hoods of virtually every BMW out there these days, and if you choose it you’ll likely never feel shortchanged. With the new sDrive30i model, you can once again get a rear-wheel-drive X3. The xDrive of the others means they are all-wheel drive, a good choice if you live in cold-weather states or plan light off-roading. The upgrade engine in the X3 M40i is the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that, again, finds itself under the hood of many other BMW vehicles. With power (355 horsepower) and torque (369 lb-ft) to spare, this engine hardly ever feels strained. Both come connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and both drive all four wheels. Fuel economy is better than many of its rivals, too. To help eke out more miles per gallon, the X3 uses a start/stop system that cuts engine power at idle. If you’re not keen on the engine constantly switching off and on in traffic, it can be defeated with the press of a button. 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4248 horsepower @ 5,200-6,500 rpm258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,450-4,800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (RWD), 22/29 mpg (AWD)3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6355 horsepower @ 5,500-6,500 rpm369 lb-ft of torque @ 1,520-4,800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
The 2019 BMW X3 is one of the coolest kids in one of the coolest classes among cars: the compact-luxury-SUV segment. Here it competes for the hearts, minds and dollars of upwardly mobile buyers who may also be considering a Mercedes-Benz GLC or Lexus NX, or an Audi Q5 or Acura RDX. The BMW X3 stands apart from such rivals by the fact that it was among the first of its kind, the trendsetter of the segment. Beyond its aspirational badge and German pedigree, the 2019 X3 is a real-deal BMW. It touts the brand’s dynamic performance and fun-to-drive manners while also boasting the latest technology and a cadre of creature comforts. The BMW X3 is hardly the least expensive compact-luxury SUV, but it’s still among the most desired.