A BMW – any BMW – comes with expectations of quality and sporty driving dynamics. That’s equally true of the 760Li luxury sedan at $391,645 as it is of the X3 mid-size SUV which is about one-sixth of that price.
And that’s the brilliance of the German super brand at work. The X3 provides the expected practicality of an SUV with the top-shelf driving dynamics BMW customers demand…all wrapped into a smartly-sized package which won’t be challenged in tight city environments.
No wonder BMW sold more than 2,000 X3's in 2014 – making it the German giant’s number three best-selling individual model.
BMW X3 xDrive 20i Overview
The X3 is BMW’s mid-size SUV and www.carshowroom.com.au has just spent a week in the entry-level xDrive 20i which is priced from $60,900. Kick-off for the diesel lineup is the four-cylinder xDrive20d which is stickered at $64,400.
BMW updated the X3 early 2014 with some minor styling and specification upgrades.
Packaging is one of the many strong points of the X3. While the smaller X1 may challenge families with its compact dimensions and some consider the X5 –and certainly the X6 – to be a bit too large, the X3 sits nicely in the middle and will appeal to families and female buyers.
Nicely styled and beautifully equipped in the BMW, the X3 xDrive 20i is very good value-for-money. Not that it’s lacking for competition mind you – but despite those well-credentialed rivals in the prestige European mid-size SUV market, rest assured the BMW X3 can more than hold its own against any of them.
BMW X3 xDrive20i Engine
Under the bonnet, the BMW X3 xDrive 20i scores BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 135kW of power available at 5,000rpmand peak torque of 270Nm from 1,250-4,500rpm. On paper, the X3 xDrive 20i isn’t the most powerful vehicle when compared to rivals but when you factor-in its relatively light weight of 1,720kgs…well in our week it was never lacking in response.
In fact, zero to 100km/h scores 8.2 seconds and combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.2l/100kms.
Drive is via BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission with (new for 2014) steering wheel paddle-shifters for sequential manual changes.
It’s certainly an alluring drivetrain which impressed us with high levels of refinement in both city and rural driving. And, as always with BMW when you tackle the twisty stuff, the BMW X3 xDrive20i delivers driving dynamics enthusiast drivers will enjoy.
BMW X3 xDrive 20i The Interior
BMW updated the X3 earlier this year and the interior gained some high-gloss black panels, a new centre console with cup holders and a sliding cover and four new interior trims including three new wood trim options. There’s also a stainless steel protection plate in the luggage area and new door sills.
On the infotainment front, BMW ConnectedDrive has arrived for the X3.
Overall, the X3 exudes the hallmark BMW excellence inside. We like the lines of the dashboard with the usual BMW audio system centre console and the usual high-class instrumentation housed in a neat binnacle.
The stylish leather-wrapped steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach and combines with useful seat adjustment to deliver the expected BMW driving position. To the left, the nicely shaped gear lever affords the usual BMW operation with a push-button to select ‘park’.
Audio is a six-speaker, 100W system with an MP3-compatible CD drive.
As a mid-sizer there’s reasonable leg-room in the rear and luggage space is handy at 550-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1,600-litres when folded. Unlike some in this league, the BMW X3 xDrive 20i passed the ‘golf bag’ test.
BMW X3 xDrive20i Exterior & Styling
As part of the 2014 model year updates, the BMW X3 scored some styling changes in the form of a bolder version of the hallmark BMW ‘kidney’ grille (which now extends wider all the way to the new Bi-Xenon headlights), new-design 18-inch alloy wheels, new bumpers front and rear and side indicator lights in the external rear-vision mirror housings.
As well, four new paint colours were added to the range.
‘Grown-up’ BMW X1 or ‘Mini’ X5 is a consideration for the BMW X3. Regardless of your point of view, there’s no denying the smart sizing – 4,648mm in overall length, 1,675mm high and 1,881mm wide combine to make the X3 just right for first-time SUV buyers or females who might be intimidated by the larger models.
Combine those mid-size dimensions and add-in the excellence of the BMW styling department and the result is one good-looking SUV.
We reckon the new-look 2014 front-end is a big improvement with the wider grille giving a more sophisticated and cohesive look. Those new headlights and a shapely bumper also give the front-end a purposeful visual which was a bit under-done in the first generation.
Same for the side view where BMW has nailed the glass-to-metal ratio (again!) which along with prominent side feature lines and those new-look alloy wheels give the X3 some muscle over its smaller X1 sibling.
And at the rear the X3 shares a family look with X1 and X5 with nicely designed tail-lights and a slick tailgate.
BMW X3 xDrive20i On The Road
Also included in this year’s update for the BMW X3 were steering wheel paddles for sequential manual shifts of the eight-speed auto. In the BMW way, they’re beautifully crafted and shaped and perfectly located.
So, over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, swapping cogs manually to extract the most from the turbocharged 2.0-litre, the X3 xDrive 20i was downright sporty in its response. No doubt about the suspension tune and of course aided by its relatively light 1720kgs weight, our X3 xDrive 20i delivered a degree of pointiness on turn-in you just don’t associate with many SUVs.
OK, mid-corner there was more body roll than say an M6, but again this is a family-friendly mid-size SUV. And with that turbo 2.0-litre nicely on the power band, acceleration out of corners was right on-song.
Ride was impressive – not as sportily firm as the Audi Q5 but definitely a bit sharper that the Range Rover Evoque – and mid-corner bumps didn’t unsettle things too much even at high speeds.
Around town it was the refinement levels which impressed with the BMW X3 xDrive 20i. That turbo 2.0-litre never sounded intrusive even when accelerating hard for freeway merging and the eight-speed auto was slick.
BMW X3 xDrive20i Issues
We know this isn’t an ‘M’-badged BMW with all the sporty accoutrements that brings – nevertheless we reckon the front seats are a tad lacking in lateral support (especially given its capability in the twisty stuff). Sports seats in Nevada leather, part of the M Sport package will set you back $1,000.
BMW X3 xDrive20i Verdict
Well, we have another Car Showroom Favourite. As refined as the BMW X3 xDrive 20i is, when you crack the whip in the twisty stuff, the outstanding chassis dynamics and steering remind you this is a BMW.
And that’s the trick with the X3. Yes there’s the required SUV convenience but the X3 xDrive 20i doesn’t short-change those who appreciate sporty dynamics…so you have the best of both worlds.
Just as impressive is the packaging. We love the BMW X5 and X6 too but there’s no denying their size, whereas the smaller X3 is just the right dimensions, especially for urban-resident families.
BMW X3 xDrive 20i The Competition
No matter where you look the Range Rover Evoque looms large over this mini segment. The Dynamic Si4 Evoque ($73,715) best matches the BMW X3 xDrive 20i. You get 177kW/340Nm of turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine driving all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, top-shelf driving dynamics and cutting-edge styling inside and out. What you don’t get is the BMW’s eight-speed auto or a lot of rear-vision (thanks to the Evoque’s swooping roof-line). Without doubt a Car Showroom Favourite.
The other Car Showroom Favourite is the Audi Q5. And at $63,600, the Q5 2.0 TFSI Quattro is quite a bargain (as always check detailed specifications and options). With 165kW/350Nm from Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, the Q5 2.0 TFSI outpunches the BMW X3 xDrive 20i. Hallmark Audi interior style and brilliant driving dynamics are the highlights.