What is the BMW X3?
The BMW X3 is a mid-size SUV that competes with the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and Land Rover Discovery Sport, among others. BMW was the first premium brand to launch an SUV in this sector; the original X3 was launched in 2003, several years ahead of the Q5 – and beating Mercedes by more than a decade (in the UK, at least).
That first X3 was a stiff-riding sports car of an SUV, complete with throaty six-cylinder petrol engines. Since then, BMW has worked on improving comfort and real-world engine choices, to broaden its appeal. The latest car, sitting between the X1 and X5, is the most well-rounded yet.
- Top-speed: 132-155mph
- 0-62mph: 8.0-4.8 seconds
- Fuel economy: 31-53mpg
- Emissions: 140-207g/km CO2
- Boot space: 550-1,600 litres
Which versions of the BMW X3 are available?
The BMW X3 is offered in a single five-door SUV bodystyle. If you want something swoopier and sexier, the X4 takes an X3 and adds a more coupe-like, X6-inspired rear end. Sales volumes suggest most people prefer the X3.
Its engine line-up is straightforward: four-cylinder and six-cylinder turbo petrol, or a four-cylinder and two six-cylinder turbodiesels. BMW’s usual SE and M Sport trim lines are joined by an xLine variant, which sits between them, with more rugged styling cues. The most powerful six-cylinder engines are offered as M Performance variants: M40i and M40d. A plug-in hybrid version is due imminently, too.
What are the BMW X3 M40i and M40d?
Both the X3 M40i and M40d performance derivatives certainly look the part. Large 20-inch double-spoke M alloy wheels conceal M Sport brakes, while Cerium Grey is used for the door mirror caps, front air inlets and grille. Inside, special Sensatec dash trim and an Anthracite roofliner give a more sporting feel.
They’re both quick off the mark: the 326hp M40d does 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, with the revvier 354hp M40i petrol taking just 4.8 seconds. M Sport suspension is further enhanced by variable steering for an even more agile feel through the bends.
BMW X3 styling and engineering
The original X3 was sharp but boxy; its successor was soft and forgettable. This latest one is the most successful yet, with more than its fair share of curves and contours. In M Sport guise, it looks terrific (better still in M Performance guise mentioned above).
It is derived from BMW’s widely-used architecture also seen in models such as the new 3 Series and larger X5. This is sophisticated technology that gives it a broad range of abilities – and BMW’s latest xDrive all-wheel drive is standard on all versions to guarantee all-weather progress, even if actual off-road abilities are limited. Inside, it’s a roomy and practical machine, and this generation boasts a high standard of premium-grade fit and finish.
How does the BMW X3 drive?
The latest BMW X3 is the Goldilocks of the three generations launched so far: not too sporty, not too sloppy, but just right. It’s surprisingly agile through corners, with clean and alert responses to the steering, and even the base 2.0-litre engines have a reasonable turn of speed. Ride quality is pliant, particularly on lower-grade models with smaller wheels, and the refinement of the X3 is also commendable. It inherits the ability of bigger BMWs to glide along roads without too much bump, thump and bustle. And the M Performance models offer enough driving verve to take on the entertaining Jaguar F-Pace.
How much does the BMW X3 cost?
BMW X3 prices start at just under £40,000. That’s not as affordable as some may hope, but comparable with the Q5. The GLC starts from just over £37,000 and the F-Pace, surprisingly, costs from just under £37,000. The most affordable X3 is the xDrive20i petrol, with an xDrive20d diesel priced £1,000 higher. The xLine trim builds upon base SE with bigger wheels and satin aluminium exterior trim, for an entirely reasonable £900 more. M Sport is £1,600 on top of that and brings a full sports makeover, plentiful M logos and, inside, a semi-digital cockpit and larger 10.25-inch BMW Professional touchscreen navigation. Like the M40i and M40d? You’re looking at prices starting north of £53,000.
Find out what X3 drivers think of their BMWs with our user-generated owners’ reviews.
BMW X3 Model History
Current generation model history
June 2017 - third-generation X3 available to order in three versions for November delivery - SE, xLine and M Sport derivatives. Engines are 20d and 30d diesels.
December 2017 – xDrive20i petrol engine and M40i performance model arrive on the market.
Second-generation BMW X3 (2011-2017)
The second BMW X3 generation, codenamed F25, was launched in 2010. By now, its place alongside the X5 was more clearly-defined – indeed, the X5 had grown so much, this generation of X3 was almost the same size as the original X5.
It was now built by BMW at its huge factory in South Carolina, USA. This reflects the greater volumes the model was now being sold in. Underneath, it was derived from the more modern F30 3 Series architecture, which brought greater sophistication and a wide array of engine choices. You could even get an X3 with fuel-saving rear-wheel drive (the sDrive18d) instead of four-wheel drive.
The 308hp xDrive35d was particularly fun; it did 0-62mph in just over 5.0 seconds. Most second-generation X3s, however, were xDrive20d variants, which combined 0-62mph in around 8.0 seconds with claimed fuel economy of 50mpg.
First-generation BMW X3 (2003-2011)
The original E83 BMW X3, launched in autumn 2003, was derived from a contemporary E46 3 Series platform. It was developed by BMW in partnership with contract vehicle manufacturer Magna-Steyr, which also built the X3 on behalf of BMW at its factory in Graz, Austria.
At launch, the X3 seemed a little too close in size to the X5 for comfort. It wasn’t until the larger second-generation X5 was launched a few years later that it made sense. Speaking of comfort, or rather lack of it, the first X3 was noted for its sporty drive and firm-riding suspension, making it great fun through bends but less appealing in town.
An all-six-cylinder petrol engine range gradually expanded to include a much more efficient 2.0-litre turbodiesel, while a facelift in 2007 bought better-quality interior trim and, yes, smoother-riding suspension. Later cars are marked out by more body-colour exterior plastics than the more utilitarian-looking original.