Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Maybe*
Price range: $41,995 - $55,496 before options
-- Redesigned for the 2018 model year; now in its third generation.
-- One of the most fun to drive models in its segment.
-- Gets expensive the minute you start adding options.
-- Interior design and execution is excellent; exterior design is a little off.
What is it?
The X3 is BMW’s tweener crossover — it’s larger than the compact X1, and it’s smaller than the X5; this X3 is also one of BMW’s most popular models.
The X3 competes in a crowded and competitive segment of compact luxury crossovers. Notable rivals include the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Acura RDX, Lexus RX, Infiniti QX50, Cadillac XT5, and Lincoln Nautilus and MKC.
BMW redesigned the X3 for the 2018 model year; this marks the third generation of the crossover.
There are currently three versions of X3 to choose from: two four-cylinder models with either front or all-wheel drive or a six-cylinder iteration with standard all-wheel drive.
The four-cylinder versions are the sDrive30i and the xDrive30i (the ‘s’ means front-wheel drive and the ‘x’ means all-wheel drive). Yep, those are awfully convoluted names, but such is the case with the rest of BMW’s lineup.
Those four-cylinder models have a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 248 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The front-wheel-drive sDrive30i starts at $41,995, while the all-wheel-drive xDrive30i adds $1,650 for a total base price of $43,645.
We tested a nearly loaded xDrive30i model that topped out at $57,470.
The top-end M40i has a 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder engine that makes 355 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It starts at $55,496.
TLDR: Fun to drive, excellent interior
It’s fun. Sure, buyers of compact luxury crossovers have other priorities in a vehicle: safety, practicality, comfort. But the X3 lets you have your cake and eat it too. You get all those things and a crossover that’s actually fun to drive every day, be it around town or on the highway. The steering, the handling and the engine power all work in harmony -- though the optional $1,400 Dynamic Handling Package surely help this.
Interior construction. All crossovers in this segment come with well-crafted interiors, given their price tags and how competitive the various brands are. But the insides of BMW’s X3 is well above average. The design, materials and construction leave nothing to be desired, and they smartly balance form and function.
TLDR: Options get expensive, outside is a little odd, small rear seat
The price. No one buys a BMW for sheer value, but we were surprised that our test model cost an eye-watering $57,000. That’s a lot, even for this segment. What started out as a reasonable $43,445 quickly ballooned thanks to costly add-ons that make you wonder if anything comes free of charge. This includes $1,700 leather seats, a $2,850 Convenience Package and a $3,300 Premium Package that adds things like heated front and rear seats, a navigation system and a heads-up display.
The exterior looks. This X3 isn’t BMW’s finest work, design-wise. Currently, there are a number of competitors that are really pushing the envelope in terms of unique, tasteful styles (Jaguar F-Pace, Volvo XC60, Infiniti QX50). This leaves the X3 and its many shapes and angles looking like the odd man out.
-- Rear seat. Tall people will fit in the rear seats, but we wouldn’t call the seats roomy. It’s cozier back there than we’d like, and many of BMW’s competitors offer a more spacious back seat.
5 stars of execution:
-- The 2018 BMW X3 is rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest rating the agency hands out. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to test the third-generation X3 as of this publication.
-- The X3 also comes standard with a pre-collision preparation system that tightens seat belts, closes windows and sunroof if a crash is considered immanent, and it brings the vehicle to a stop after the collision to prevent another one.
-- Active safety features can be added as part of the Driving Assistance Package.
-- As mentioned, the X3 we tested is a pretty poor value if you’re not careful when adding options. Items that should be standard (and are standard on vehicles costing half of the X3) are options on this BMW; adding them on pushed the final price of our tester to $57,470, including destination.
-- All told, this price problem soured us on what’s otherwise an excellent vehicle, and it’s why we’d recommend shoppers also look at rival luxury crossovers or shopping around multiple BMW dealers to find one with only the features you want.
Driving experience? YES
-- BMWs have long excelled at handling and comfort, and it’s nice to see them carry on the tradition into this third generation model, a crossover no less.
-- This X3 offers a great blend of fun to drive handling, everyday comfort and plenty of luxurious pampering.
-- The all-wheel-drive xDrive30i model we tested is rated at 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined.
-- That puts it on the higher end of the efficiency curve among its peers, particularly the impressive 29 mpg rating on the highway.
-- Overall, the X3 is absolutely worth a look if you’re in the market for a luxury compact crossover. It does everything well and some things better than most in its class (especially driving dynamics).
-- While its pricing can be onerous and there are better looking competitors, if you build yours smartly and only add the things you need, you’ll drive away with an excellent vehicle.
Total Rating: 4 stars
What’s it gonna cost me?
The base front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder sDrive30i starts at $41,995, including destination. That comes with faux leather seats, three-zone climate control, oak wood trim, power front seats, a 12-speaker sound system and a power tailgate.
The all-wheel-drive version of that X3 -- the xDrive30i -- starts at $43,645.
Regardless of whether you choose front or all-wheel drive on the base engine, we’d recommend adding the Driving Assistance Package ($500 on the sDrive30i and $900 on the xDrive30i). It adds active blind spot detection, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
And despite its price, we’d also add the $2,850 Convenience Package, which includes the panoramic roof (which we’re suckers for since it brightens the whole interior), keyless entry and SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year subscription.
As mentioned, our test model also had the $1,400 Dynamic Handling Package, which certainly made things more fun but isn’t a necessity to enjoy driving the X3.
The high-end, turbocharged six-cylinder M40i starts at $55,496, though we didn’t test this model.
As we said, there are plenty of worthwhile competitors in this segment.
Our favorites include the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Acura RDX and Lexus RX. Each is well-rounded, unique and plenty luxurious and capable, and each is worth test driving if you’re looking at the X3.
Jaguar’s F-Pace is a looker and a great size too, but its reliability remains subpar. Skip Cadillac’s XT5 entirely, since it’s too easily outclassed by its peers in every possible way. Mercedes-Benz’ GLC is fine but it doesn't do everything quite as well as the aforementioned standouts.
We have yet to review the Infiniti QX50.
The pricing on the X3 left us frustrated. It’s an excellent vehicle: luxurious, practical and handles better than most vehicles in its class. We could even forgive the somewhat odd exterior styling. But we had a hard time getting past the sticker shock on our test model.
If you’re comfortable paying for this X3, then we have no reason to tell you otherwise; there’s plenty about the X3 to keep you happy. But if pricing is important, we would also recommend a long look at its competitors. With each of those, the price tags feel more reasonable than this X3.