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Driven: BMW X3 20d xDrive. Image by BMW.

Driven: BMW X3 20d xDrive
We get to grips with the all-new BMW X3


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BMW X3 20d xDrive

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The new BMW X3 is the most appealing version to date, with better styling and a tech-laden interior to match. Here we drive the most popular model, the 2.0-litre diesel.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW X3 20d M Sport
Price: 41,380 (as tested); range starts at 37,980
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-seat SUV
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

Now into its third generation, the BMW X3 faces stiff competition in the premium mid-size SUV segment from rivals like the Jaguar F-Pace, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC60. BMW has improved the X3 considerably, using similar underpinnings to the latest 5 and 7 Series models.

Its styling features many of BMW's latest traits, with larger kidney grilles up front, headlights that wrap slightly around the nose and the now-signature air breathers set into the wings behind the front wheels. All of these contribute to the X3 currently being the most aerodynamic car in the segment. In side profile, the mid-size SUV still has that cab-back design that has long been a feature of vehicles from BMW.

One of the greater benefits of the X3 sharing its mechanical parts with the 5 Series is that it gets that lovely new interior. The centre console is a little slimmer, which adds to the leg space for front occupants. Sitting on top of the dash is a 6.5-inch screen on SE models, but the optional 10.25-inch unit in our test car is even more impressive. Unlike previous BMW screens, this is now a touchscreen, but the iDrive rotary controller is retained, giving you the choice of which system to use. We prefer the latter: The higher positioning of the screen does make it a bit of a reach, whereas the iDrive controller is more intuitive to use, and the system's redesigned menus make it quicker to navigate.

Boot space remains unchanged at 550 litres, though the tailgate opening gets a squarer design to aid loading of bulkier items. In the rear passengers get good legroom, while BMW claims the X3 now offers best-in-class headroom. The optional panoramic glass sunroof now extends further back by 25 centimetres, providing more light for those in the rear.

How does it drive?

All X3 models will now come with xDrive all-wheel drive transmissions as standard. While the previous model did offer versions with sDrive that sent power only to the rear wheels, advances in efficiency and market demands have seen BMW revert to just providing xDrive.

The 2.0-litre TwinPower (turbocharged) four-cylinder diesel will form the bulk of X3 sales, and having driven it, it's easy to see why. It produces 190hp and gives the BMW enough pace, but it is the 400Nm of torque that comes in at 1,750rpm that makes the most difference.

It can become more vocal when you keep the engine at higher revs, though this is as much to do with the amount of sound insulation in the car. All X3s come with acoustically optimised windscreens and the option of the same sound-insulating glass for the front side windows.

At speed there is a nice weighted feeling to the assisted steering, and the 40/60 front-to-rear bias still gives a slight rear-wheel drive sensation when accelerating out of some corners. At lower speeds the steering doesn't feel quite as positive, and off-centre you can almost feel it pulling back. This setup may be the engineer's way of adding more feel to the steering, but it could do with some refinement. The steering does still have more feeling than that in the Q5, for example, and overall on-road manners leave little to separate the X3 from the GLC or XC60.

As part of the styling BMW did enlarge the wheelarches to accommodate sizes of up to 21-inches, but entry-level SE X3s come with 18-inch wheels from the factory. While these can look a bit lost on the car the extra sidewall depth should help comfort levels. The ride is firm but not what you would consider hard, and in comparison to the previous X3s, it is markedly improved.


Compared to its main rivals, the X3 is a bit more involving to drive, though it lacks the overall refinement found in the Audi Q5. The BMW is capable of going as far off-road as most everyday drivers will ever experience, and the all-wheel drive transmission gives you enough confidence to push on when you find a good driving road. It is evolutionary rather than revolutionary which in this part of the market seems to suit most buyers. The bigger 3.0-litre straight-six might be appealing, but if you're only going to be sticking to the typical urban commutes this smaller 2.0-litre engine is just fine.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 8 Nov 2017    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- X3 images

2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.

2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport drive. Image by BMW.    


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