The 2018 BMW X3 ventures into M territory, but doesn’t lose sight of its SUV duties.
With the new 2018 X3, BMW may have its best vehicle–the one that best matches lofty expectations with nifty execution.
Other BMWs like the M2 make specific compromises to please niche audiences. With the X3, we can’t find many compromises BMW has had to make.
Rated against rivals such as the Benz GLC and Audi Q5, the new X3 earns a rating of 7.0 out of 10, based on good performance and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With the new X3, BMW doesn't shake the earth with radical design changes or size gains. The philosophy telegraphs itself: don't break it, just burnish it. The X3 has taller glass and bigger intakes, but the shape’s a clear and gradual progression of the X3, nothing radical. Inside, BMW has moved the ball too, with a cockpit that’s grown warmer and more infotainment-friendly. The X3's iDrive control puck rides shotgun to its space-age shifter joystick, and the dash wears interesting brackets of metallic or wood trim.
Performance issues from a 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 in base models. All-wheel drive is standard, as is an 8-speed automatic. Base models don't want for power, a week behind the wheel of an xDrive30i was proof enough. The base BMW turbo-4 found in many of its models is one of the best and power arrives early and readily, and make stop-and-go traffic less of a chore. Coupled to a telepathic automatic transmission, xDrive30i versions don't disappoint.
We’ve spent miles in an X3 M40i, shod with BMW’s fabulous 355-hp turbo-6, M-grade handling hardware, and the same all-wheel-drive system and 8-speed automatic. Acceleration, ride, and handling have made a quantum step toward the 3-Series golden mean; as an M40i, the X3 delivers flat cornering, copious grip, and grin-generating flappy-exhaust sounds. The strut-and-multilink suspension copes well with its hybrid on-/off-road mission, but the steering and brakes could relax a little, we think.
In size, the X3 gains a couple of inches in wheelbase, but doesn't net out with much more interior space, whether it's leg room for front or rear passengers. An extra cubic foot of cargo space has been carved out of the extra length between the wheels. The sport seats cup front passengers well, and BMW carves out great space for four adults and their baggage.
The latest X3 hasn’t been thoroughly crash-tested, although it did earn a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Forward-collision warnings remain an option on this expensive SUV (prices start at $43,000). A surround-view camera system and adaptive cruise control are on the order list, as are high-end audio and a widescreen navigation system with iDrive infotainment control. BMW’s warranty is just average, and it packages features like Apple CarPlay in expensive ways that stir grumbles into what’s otherwise a deeply satisfying crossover SUV.