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BMW X3 Estate engines, drive and performance

2004 - 2010 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by David Ross Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

The X3’s engine line-up was initially very limited but now there’s plenty of choice for all buyers. The 2.0-petrol, launched in 2005, is the smallest. It’s the most affordable, but with only 147bhp, it can struggle. Up next is the 2.5-litre which offers exceptionally refined performance and is a great motorway cruiser – it was one of the original engines available on X3, with 190bhp and was later joined by a 215bhp version.

This six-cylinder unit is quick off the line, too, getting to 60mph in 8.2 seconds while the top 3.0-litre engines are available with 230bhp or 280bhp. The diesels make the most sense in the X3 however and one of the best choices for economy is the 2.0d with 150bhp which is capable of 44mpg. In April 2009 an xDrive18d model was introduced which uses the same engine but with less power (143bhp), helping boost economy to 46mpg.

Performance is still respectable with a 0-62mph time of 10.3 seconds – around one and a half seconds slower than the 2.0-litre diesel. Elsewhere the more powerful 215bhp 3.0d still manages 38mpg. The 286bhp 3.0sd flagship (later badged xDrive35sd), launched in mid 2006, is an outstanding engine – it uses two turbos for low-down power as well as high-end performance and can race from 0 to 62mph in just 6.6 seconds which is exceptional for a car of this size.

Fuel economy is reasonable too at 32mpg. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range but both petrol and diesel 3.0-litre models come with a semi-automatic transmission only.

The X3 is good to drive with an agility that belies its size. It feels much more like one of BMW’s standard saloons. The steering is sharp, the gearchange is smooth and the throttle responsive. Bodyroll is kept in check and it corners well, which means it can be fun too while on the motorway, it cruises effortlessly. The xDrive four-wheel drive senses a wheel is slipping and applies power to the others to keep the car moving which means good capability off road and excellent traction on.

Hill descent control does the off-road thinking for you, so you can tackle hills at the right speed, however a downside of the sportiness is a firm ride.