So far we've had a chance to sample both diesel powertrains available from launch - the xDrive20d and 30d - and also the M40i.
BMW X3 xDrive20d: performance
The xDrive20d's 2.0-litre 190hp and 400Nm of torque make it plenty punchy enough for almost anything required of it during road driving, and it takes off quickly too – 0-62mph is achieved in 8.0 seconds but thanks to its all-wheel drive system it feels quicker than that off the mark.
There’s a decent spread of pull to accomplish overtakes with minimal fuss, and on the cars we’ve driven so far equipped with acoustic windows (a £110 option), it’s also incredible hushed and smooth on the move. Factoring the 53.3mpg and 140g/km CO2 emissions makes this the choice motor in the X3 line-up.
For most buyers, you really don't need anything more than this version of the X3 - the xDrive20d is such an accomplished all-rounder as it's smooth and refined, plenty powerful enough and returns decent fuel economy figures for the majority of the time. You're never left wanting for extra shove, even when you have passengers on board, and the eight-speed automatic is an excellent match with the engine, making swift gearchanges just when you need it to.
BMW X3 xDrive30d: performance
The xDrive30d (265hp and 620Nm, 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds) successfully translates BMW’s ultimate driving machine ethos to the SUV segment. Its steering is relatively heavy, but precise, fast and crisply detailed, and the combination of relatively firm suspension and an all-wheel-drive system that feels predominantly rear-wheel biased provides both driver engagement and security on twisty roads.
This big-capacity diesel suits the X3 perfectly, with a smoothness far superior to smaller four-cylinder versions, and all the performance you’re likely to need, served from very low revs. The smooth, responsive eight-speed Sport Automatic gearbox enhances these strengths. Our biggest issue with this motor is the strength of the xDrive20d’s attributes. Why pay more when the cheaper engine is just as good in almost every meaningful way?
Driven: BMW X3 M40i
The M40i takes performance a giant leap further, with a combination of musclebound acceleration and sticky roadholding that allows for incongruously rapid progress.
It's impressive, particularly the 3.0-litre engine’s blend of refinement with thumping 360hp/500Nm performance (making for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds), but it does lose something of the xDrive30d’s fluidity in translation: the uprated steering feels less natural, the suspension more agitated. It’s a shame there isn’t another more relaxed six-cylinder petrol X3 to choose from – the yet-to-be-confirmed-for-Britain four-cylinder xDrive30i is the next step down..
Petrol X3 xDrive20i
The xDrive20i, which boasts 184hp and 290Nm for a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds, has impressed in other BMW Group products, such as the MINI Cooper S Hatch, but we’ve yet to try it in the X3.
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with BMW that it’s among the best in its class to drive, with the handling especially accomplished. Despite its taller stance relative to the 5 Series it’s based on, the X3 doesn’t lean overly into bends and provides prodigious feedback to the driver as to what’s going on between the tyres and the road. All UK models feature xDrive all-wheel drive, and this provides titanic amounts of traction both in bends and when accelerating from a standstill.
So far we’ve only tried it on the optional adaptive suspension, which allows for Comfort and Sport drive modes, and found the contrast very impressive. There’s also an Adaptive function for the drive modes that allows the car to decide for itself based on your driving and information from the sat-nav, and again this has been incredibly well-engineered.
Off-road in the BMW X3
We were impressed with how it dealt with off-road situations. It's certainly as capable as it needs to be for the overwhelming majority of British car buyers. There's a bunch of off-roading kit installed such as Hill-Descent Control along with relatively deep approach and departure angles, meaning it'll tackle steep slopes without catching the front or rear bumpers.