2016 bmw x3
Starting at
$42,450
Engine
2.0L Diesel

Power
180 hp
EPA - est City/Hwy
27/34
Seats
5


2016 BMW X3 The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review
Bengt Halvorson

Bengt Halvorson

Deputy Editor

DISLIKES
  • Pricey options
  • Start-stop should be smoother
  • Noisy idle (28i)
  • Tall, but not much for the trail

The stylish 2016 BMW X3 skips the ruggedness thing entirely and instead succeeds in being one of the sportiest and tech-loaded yet fuel-efficient compact crossovers.

The 2016 BMW X3 manages to keep just the right stride in the crossover market, offering a strong combination of style, practicality, and safety, with loads of technology options, a responsive driving experience, and fuel efficiency that's surprisingly good. For families and all their daily needs, it's a great pick.

At face value, it satisfies the image-conscious in some of the same ways as the related 3-Series sedan, while granting drivers more passenger space. Just don't expect the X3 to look rugged or outdoorsy—it doesn't. Instead, it looks lean, pert, and graceful, like a tall sport wagon—but with just enough visually in common with the larger X5. Inside, the X5 is elegant but soft, calming, and decluttered—actually blending a driver-centric cockpit feel with the brand's warmer interior look.

Last year, the X3 received a mid-cycle refresh, bringing a set of significant changes, as well as some new variants in the model lineup, while for the most part preserving all the fundamentals. New twin-circular headlights (with optional LED lamps) were the most noticeable part of it, plus a more flamboyant version of the BMW kidney grille, exterior mirrors with integrated signal lamps, and some other minor changes to the front and rear appearance. Inside, the X3 manages to be elegant but soft, calming, and decluttered—actually blending a driver-centric cockpit feel with the brand's warmer interior look.

Otherwise, the BMW X3 family continues with its all-turbocharged engine lineup, including the new TwinPower 4-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's the perkiest and most V-6-like of the current crop of German turbo fours, and moves the X3 with no hesitation, foot to the floor. Last year heralded the arrival of a rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i model, for those in warmer-weather climates, that should be even a bit more spirited for the lack of all-wheel-drive weight.

There's also now a xDrive28d model, packing BMW's punchy 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder. It makes 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque (with maximum twist available from just 1,750 rpm), the diesel X3 can hit 60 mph in under eight seconds.

With the xDrive35i, you get a 300-hp, 300 lb-ft TwinPower inline-6 that sizzles to a 60-mph acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, and to a top speed of 150 mph. As we've noted in repeated drives of various X3 variants, it's all a little disconcerting how agile and athletic this vehicle can feel—because the seating height is so tall, yet it lacks the squat, nosedive, and excess motions that in this class are quite common.

All X3 versions except for that base sDrive28i come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, which splits power delivery 40/60 percent. It sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels in normal driving but can flex to send 100 percent to the rear; we've found it is especially good for maintaining traction and poise when the road surface is slippery.

You should focus in on the X3 especially if back-seat space, cargo space, and overall versatility are priorities in an upscale crossover. The X3 is sized in the vicinity of models like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, and Cadillac SRX, but it seems to package in a little more usable space than many of the other entries.

With seating for five, the X3 has 19 cubic feet of rear storage area that swells to 56.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. The rear seats now all have a ski pass-through and 40/20/40 segments for better flexibility and seat back folding. In back, there's space carved out for feet, under the front seat, and headroom soars. We recommend the sport seats in front for their extendable thigh bolsters and more aggressive side bolstering; they may feel firmer at first but they're better in long-distance support. Throughout the cabin, BMW has paid close attention to the details.

The X3's standard-equipment list is quite good on its own, and if you can hold back on some of those other high-test options, you get a lot, including a power tailgate; dynamic cruise control; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; Bluetooth calling and audio connectivity; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, HD and satellite radio, and a USB port.

For 2016, a new Enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity kit bring mobile-office capability, Bluetooth sync for a second phone, and voice control for contacts and music. And X3 xDrive35i models get the Harman Kardon surround sound system.

Many of the desirable extras are in major packages. The Technology Package brings many of the top-tech items, including navigation, the head-up display, real-time traffic info, Remote Services, and BMW Apps. Then there's a Cold Weather Package that brings a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats, and headlight washers, while the Dynamic Handling Package includes the Dynamic Damper Control and variable sport steering.

There's no X3 M, but the M Sport does a long way toward looking the part, with a unique aerodynamic package, high-gloss Shadow Line trim, a choice of six paint hues, and two exclusive 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheel options; the interior of the X3 M Sport gets an Anthracite roof liner, sport seats, and other M-bred touches.

EPA ratings for the xDrive28i now land at an impressive 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. Rear-drive sDrive28i models earn the same numbers. The 300-horsepower xDrive35i earns 19/27/22 mpg highway ratings, while it's the new diesel model, the xDrive28d, that's the efficiency leader in the lineup at 27/34/30 mpg highway.

Styling
8.0

The 2016 BMW X3 gets to its pert crossover look by building up from sport sedans, not down from trucks.

The 2016 BMW X3 is definitely not as bold, rugged, or ostentatious-looking as some models in this class. Instead, it looks like a very nicely proportioned, yet tall, sport wagon.

Unlike some compact utility vehicles, the X3 keeps its proportions in line—slotting nicely below the larger X5 without any awkwardness—while appearing just a little more lean, pert, and graceful than its bigger sibling.

Last year BMW gave the X3 a design refresh that brought twin-circular headlights (with optional LED lamps), plus a more flamboyant version of the BMW kidney grille, some minor front and rear tweaks, and new exterior mirrors with integrated turn-signal lamps.

While those changes only served to keep the X3 updated with some of the aesthetic details from the rest of the BMW lineup, the X3 still hits the spot, with graceful swooping belt-line crease, a nicely tapered nose that isn't too high and blunt, and chiseled lines next to the hood that actually serve to lower the belt line visually. LED-lit taillights are shaped like those on a 5-Series or 3-Series sedan.

Together it pretty much adds up to the opposite of the rugged (and faux-rugged) SUV look. And in all, the X3 is infused with more attention to detail and attention to surfacing than before, without a lot of excess styling pieces that aren't functional.

The instrument panel design will be familiar to anyone who's driven a BMW in recent years. The dash arcs to envelop controls and angles them at the driver, adding to the more sedan-like air surrounding the new SUV. But perhaps more importantly is that it's fitted completely with soft-touch surfaces; everything from the middle of the doors on up is soft to the touch and nicely grained.

With recent infusions of a little more chrome and brightwork, plus high-gloss black trim, we did actually prefer the less garish look of this generation of the X3 when it made its debut several years ago. Yet even with that, the X3 is elegant, calming, and uncluttered—actually blending a driver-centric cockpit feel with the brand's warmer interior look.

The 2016 BMW X3 gets to its pert crossover look by building up from sport sedans, not down from trucks.

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Performance
8.0

The X3 offers better steering and handling than most crossovers, with responsive, economical engines as well.

The 2016 BMW X3 offers performance that is right in line with what BMW shoppers will expect—provided they don't expect much if any off-road ability out of this crossover.

Last year brought a new rear-wheel-drive sDrive model to the X3 lineup. Otherwise the BMW X3 continues with its all-turbocharged engine lineup, including 4- and 6-cylinder gasoline engines, as well as a 4-cylinder turbodiesel.

For those who haven't been to BMW showrooms in a few years, it might be shocking to note that the era of the naturally aspirated inline-6 engine has passed—and so have those wonderful sounds of that engine design. Yet there's nothing to complain about, as the new base turbo four engine is stronger and more fuel-efficient than the previous smaller six.

The base engine in the X3—in X3 xDrive 28i and sDrive 28i models—is the same 2.0-liter "N20" TwinPower four that's offered in those other cars—making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. BMW says that the X3 28i accelerates to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, but even that feels a bit conservative.

Turbo fours of this size are no longer a market rarity, and among them BMW's is one of the perkiest and most V-6-like. Foot to the floor, it moves, with no hesitation. With direct injection, Double-Vanos variable camshaft timing and Valvetronic variable valve timing, and twin-scroll turbocharging, the BMW four spools up very quick, with peak torque reached from a diesel-like 1,250 rpm all the way up to 4,800 rpm.

With the 35i models, you get the 300-hp, 300 lb-ft TwinPower inline-6, which motivates the X3 to reach 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph. Yes, those numbers bring "3-Series" to mind, and with good reason—they rival the quickness of a vintage M3. Yet it's all a bit confusing, since the X3 rides tall like a crossover, but launches with every bit of the authority of a great 3-Series, without the typical squat and nosedive that accompany a taller vehicle like this.

But those aren't your only options. This year there's a new diesel in the lineup—a new xDrive28d model, packing BMW's punchy 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged diesel inline-4. Rated at 180 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque (with maximum twist available from just 1,750 rpm), the diesel X3 can hit 60 mph in less than eight seconds, and manages heady fuel economy figures from the EPA.

Also available this year is a rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i model, for those in warmer-weather climates, that should be even a bit more spirited for the lack of all-wheel-drive weight.

All X3 versions except for that base sDrive28i come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, which splits power delivery 40/60 percent. It sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels in normal driving but can flex to send 100 percent to the rear; we've found it is especially good for maintaining traction and poise when the road surface is slippery.

Throughout the lineup you'll find an 8-speed automatic transmission, and its quick, ratcheting-yet-isolated shifts give it a character that's muted and smooth yet precise and responsive. The X3 now comes with auto start/stop, which will smartly shut off the engine when you're at a stoplight (and restart it when you lift off the brake). It's actually one of the more jarring versions of such systems.

The base steering system in the X3 builds up cornering feel even during lower-speed turns and lane changes but doesn't unwind with much feel or linearity. We tend to like the optional Variable Sports Steering a bit better; it's essentially just a good variable-ratio rack, providing a relaxed feel on center, at high speeds, but allowing you to more easily maneuver at lower speeds, around tight corners. And we think that you actually get more road feel.

Suspension and steering controls are user-configurable in the X3, but it's better executed than in some other BMW vehicles. The basic suspension is still classic BMW, with MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear. The electronic shocks grafted on can be adapted to the driver's tastes with a Driving Dynamics Control switch located near the gearshift lever. Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes let you adjust not only the dampers, but the throttle, transmission and steering feel according to the selected mode. It's a BMW—so it's not a shock that it feels best in Sport mode, where the electronics set up not just a tauter ride but swifter steering responses.

The X3 is capable of mild off-roading, but even that doesn't feel completely in its wheelhouse. On-road performance is at center for this model. As we've noted in repeated drives of various X3 variants, it's all a little disconcerting how agile and athletic the X3 can feel—because the seating height is so tall, yet it lacks the squat, nosedive, and excess motions that are typical in this vehicle class.

The X3 offers better steering and handling than most crossovers, with responsive, economical engines as well.

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Comfort & Quality
9.0

A spacious, airy cabin feel, versatile interior layout, and plenty of soft-touch materials make the X3 a great upscale family pick.

The 2016 BMW X3 is, like most so-called compact crossovers like it in the U.S., shorter than a typical mid-size sedan; yet it's far roomier and more versatile than that, in the way most families need extra space, for weekend trips and shopping errands.

At 183.4 inches, with a width of 74.1 inches and a wheelbase of 110.6 inches, the X3 is compact enough such that it's easy to park; yet the added height gives it a lot of usefulness. Up against the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, and Cadillac SRX, among others, the X3 stands as a great design—good for utility, as well as refinement and ease of configuration.

Overall, the X3's interior makes good use of its space, with firm, properly angled front seats surrounded by copious head and leg room. In front, we recommend the sport seats in front for their extendable thigh bolsters and more aggressive side bolstering; they may feel firmer at first but they're better in long-distance support. Ride quality is firm as well; and you do hear the mechanical sounds of the 4-cylinder engine a bit at idle, but road and wind noise are mostly sealed out.

Back-seat space, cargo space, and overall versatility are all top-notch here within the class. There's seating for five, and the X3 has a large 19 cubic feet of rear storage that swells to 56.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. In back, there's space carved out for feet, under the front seat, and head room soars. Rear seats now all have a ski pass-through and 40/20/40 segments for better flexibility and seat back folding.

Even if this isn't the most lavish interior, the combination of soft-touch materials and tight-as-a-drum assembly add up to a muted ambiance that helps soak up harsh sounds both from inside and vehicle and from outside.

Throughout the cabin, BMW has paid close attention to the details. The cargo area itself is lovingly detailed, with rich carpet, some of the most refined seat back latches we've ever seen, and metal cargo rails with zero tolerance for poor fit.

A spacious, airy cabin feel, versatile interior layout, and plenty of soft-touch materials make the X3 a great upscale family pick.

Safety
8.0

All the scores are here for great occupant safety; and the options list offers some active systems that could help you stay out of trouble.

The 2016 BMW X3 keeps up to German luxury expectations in all ways, and that includes safety. With solid occupant protection, as well as plenty of innovative active-safety options, it covers the typical ground for many crossover SUVs.

Standard safety features on the X3 include all the usual airbags, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes, and stability systems. Some X3 models also get a Sport mode for differing levels of stability control, and the system includes a higher threshold of intervention also aids traction and confidence in snow.

The Driver Assistance Package also includes a rearview camera with surround-view perspective, as well as Park Distance Control. And the X3 offers one of the best head-up systems on the market; this one might actually help reduce distraction.

The X3 has earned excellent ratings by government safety officials, with five-star ratings overall and in frontal and frontal and side impact categories. While it hasn't been rated in the IIHS' small overlap frontal test, it's earned a top "Good" rating in all the other crash tests—as well as a top "Superior" rating in the front crash prevention area, when optioned with the Driving Assistance Plus package that includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

All the scores are here for great occupant safety; and the options list offers some active systems that could help you stay out of trouble.

NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating

2016 BMW X3 Models

Overall Rating

5/5

Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Barrier Rating: Not Rated
NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating: (4/5)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Ratings

2016 BMW X3 Models

Side Impact Test Good
Roof Strength Test Good
Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint Good
IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results Not Tested
IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results Good


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Features
8.0

There are plenty of ways to upgrade the 2016 BMW X3, yet keep in mind that you can push the price of even 4-cylinder models well past $50,000.

The 2016 BMW X3 is rich on features, but as is the case with most other BMW models, you'll need to hand over a lot of extra money if you want the best technology, infotainment, and performance features—and eye-catching good looks.

BMW dramatically upgraded the X3's active-safety and connectivity features last year, giving its iDrive controller new touch-pad functionality, which lets you input characters for destination or phone book entry by tracing out letters and numbers. BMW's iDrive system is standard, too, and it's been upgraded in recent years to include many navigation improvements, plus easier menus, a new split-screen layout, improved voice recognition, and 3-D city maps.

Additionally, last year, the long list of available features was expanded to include a parking assistant, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pedestrian safety system, frontal collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus the full-color BMW head-up display.

The X3's standard-equipment list is good on its own, and if you can hold back on some of those other high-test options, you get a lot, including a power tailgate; dynamic cruise control; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; Bluetooth calling and audio connectivity; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, HD and satellite radio, and a USB port.

For 2016, a new Enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity kit bring mobile-office capability, Bluetooth sync for a second phone, and voice control for contacts and music. And X3 xDrive35i models get the Harman Kardon surround sound system.

Many of the desirable extras are in major packages. The Technology Package brings many of the top-tech items, including navigation, the head-up display, real-time traffic info, Remote Services, and BMW Apps. Then there's a Cold Weather Package that brings a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats, and headlight washers, while the Dynamic Handling Package includes the Dynamic Damper Control and variable sport steering.

A Driver Assistance Plus package pairs lane-departure warning and a speed-limit info feature, while xenon headlamps and adaptive light control are paired in a Lighting Package. And for those who want to keep their eyes on the road, there's an available head-up display on offer that projects all the information essential to driving in a lower section of the windshield.

There's plenty of potential to option up the appearance. New colors are available in the BMW X3 inside and out, but it's the new xLine and M Sport packages that are some of the most noteworthy additions to the lineup. The xLine offering adds metallic inserts to the bumpers, satin aluminum side accents to the air intakes, and simulated skid plates at the front and rear, as well as extra leather upholstery variations, unique interior trim, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

There's no X3 M, but the M Sport does a long way toward looking the part, with a unique aerodynamic package, high-gloss Shadow Line trim, a choice of six paint hues, and two exclusive 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheel options; the interior of the X3 M Sport gets an Anthracite roof liner, sport seats, and other M-bred touches.

There are plenty of ways to upgrade the 2016 BMW X3, yet keep in mind that you can push the price of even 4-cylinder models well past $50,000.

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Fuel Economy
7.0

The diesel xDrive28d is the fuel-economy leader of the lineup, although all models here are competitive in their class.

The 2016 BMW X3 is one of the most fuel-efficient models in its class; and while its ratings from the EPA are already quite good, this is a model that returns impressive mileage in real-world driving, more importantly.

EPA ratings for the xDrive28i now land at an impressive 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. Rear-drive sDrive28i models earn the same numbers. The 300-horsepower xDrive35i earns 19/27/22 mpg highway ratings, while it's the new diesel model, the xDrive28d, that's the efficiency leader in the lineup at 27/34/30 mpg.

The TwinPower turbo inline-4 that's now widely offered on the X3 lineup, in the X3 xDrive28i and sDrive28i, is an excellent powertrain for those concerned about fuel economy. It manages the feat of returning those frugal figures while offering punchy performance.

All models in the lineup also get an automatic star/stop system, which wisely stops the engine at stoplights, with your foot on the brake, then restarts the engine when you start to lift off the brake pedal. BMW says that this system could bring a 3-percent reduction in fuel consumption in some kinds of stop-and-go driving (and gridlock), but we've found this system a little rough in its restarts, especially in V-6 versions.

The diesel xDrive28d is the fuel-economy leader of the lineup, although all models here are competitive in their class.


Fuel Economy Information

Ratings Based on 4 cyl, 2 L, SemiAuto-8

24

Combined

4.2 gals/100 miles

21

City


28

Highway


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