The BMW X3 has always been a good choice among a sea of middleweight SUV’s, but never the best choice. Initially offered with the aging inline 6-cylinder, it eventually transitioned to the 2.0-Liter that is currently the base engine. BMW long ago abandoned their engine displacement based naming system, so despite being a 3.0i, this X3 has the 2.0-Liter engine. To further confuse things, the 4.0i version has a 3.0-Liter inline 6 with twin turbochargers. Are you confused yet? Good — because it’s just as confusing of a choice to select an engine.
The 2-Liter does a good enough job of pulling the truck around, but it’s not terribly fast. By contrast, the 6-cylinder version is rip-roaring fast. The smaller engine is clearly going to get the best mileage, so make your decision based on that. The attached 8-speed automatic gearbox does a great job of applying the power from the low-pressure turbo engine, always managing to be able to find the right ratio. It does take a second to grab a gear sometimes, and there’s a lag that seems to accompany this new engine. The previous generation of the 2.0 seemed to have more low-end grunt, but once the turbo spools up this new one has a little more top end.
Performance aside, the interior is a wonderful place to spend some time. The sport seats in our test version have adequate bolstering, great lumbar support and an adjustable thigh bolster. The leather is supple, and the rest of the interior is adorned with nice materials all around. Glossy wood trim and aluminum accents are tasteful, and as with BMW’s style, there’s a classinessto the interior design that many other brands lack.
Overall, the technology is generally good, but we have some gripes. First of all, you have to pay (a lot) extra for the Apple CarPlay option, but it curiously omits Android Auto. I guess BMW assumes their clientele only use Apple phones. There’s also a wireless charging port, which is great — but it’s a $500 option which seems absurdly expensive for a charge port. Also curiously, the 12V charging port seems to lack power to deal with the devices we usually use. It’s the first car that made some of our devices shut down from lack of juice.
Highlights, however, of the technology are led by the amazing parking camera system. There’s a 360-cam setup with amazing technology that lets you apply camera views to see the entire car and it’s surroundings from any angle, and see where obstructions are. It not only overlays the parking grid, but gives you floating 3D warnings when the parking sensors detect obstructions. It really feels like there’s a BMW executive that hates parallel parking and told the engineers to make the world’s best system, and they delivered.
Also high on the tech list are the blind spot monitors, which are among the best we’ve tested. The adaptive headlights and heads-up display are also excellent safety features, but this car lacked lane assist and radar cruise. There’s a driver assist option that you could add, but at nearly $60k, we would have hoped to have those features. Audio is handled by the $800 Harmon Kardon system upgrade, and this is one you should make sure to order. It’s incredibly clear, clean and has astounding volume. If you like loud, tight music — you’ll love this system.
From the outside, this X3 looks fairly pedestrian, owing to its very upright design. That translates to lots of interior room, but at the expense of a sleek roofline. It’s a worthwhile tradeoff, because it translates into extra backseat and cargo space. Some of it’s competitors may look swoopier, but don’t try to sit in their backseat if you’re tall. No such worries here, and backseat passengers get to soak up the sun through the huge panoramic moonroof.
Overall, this X3 is good, but not great. Some of the missing tech combined with the only adequate power output make this a little borderline on the fun factor. With the 6-cylinder, I think the driving experience would be transformed and our opinion might change, but with the 4-banger this really isn’t the ultimate driving machine.
Special thanks to BMW Group of America for providing
the 2018 BMW X3 3.0i for review.