Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Lots of engine choice
  • Petrol, diesel and hybrid
  • All equipped with all-wheel drive

What engine options are there?

There's a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid options in the X3, plus two hot M engineered versions and the standalone iX3 electric version and X3 M high-performance model.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
xDrive20i
184hp, 290Nm
8.3secs
145mph
xDrive30i
245hp, 400Nm 6.8secs
155mph
xDriveM40i
360hp, 500Nm 4.8secs
155mph

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We've yet to drive the xDrive20i and 30i, but both powertrains impress in the BMW 320i and 330i – with swift, unobtrusive performance and excellent efficiency. The top-of-the-range 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 steering feels less natural, the suspension more agitated than its diesel cousin detailed below. 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.

Diesel engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
xDrive20d
190hp, 400Nm
8.0secs
146mph
xDrive30d
286hp, 620Nm 5.8secs
155mph
xDrive40d
340hp, 700Nm 4.9secs
155mph

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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.

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. 

The xDrive30d (286hp 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?

Top of the diesel range is the M40d, with 340hp and 700Nm of torque, this car is good for a 4.9 second 0-62mph run, conveniently one tenth slower than the M40i petrol. We reckon this is a proper cake-and-eat-it car, with loads of performance and lower running costs than the equivalent petrol.

Electric and hybrid engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
xDrive30e
252hp (292 boost), 420Nm
6.1secs
130mph

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Using the same plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the 330e saloon, the petrol engine in the xDrive30e develops 184hp and the electric motor produces 109hp. Total power output is 252hp with 420Nm or torque, but there's an 'XtraBoost' button that delivers 292hp for even faster progress.

Do so and the 0-62mph time drops in 6.1 seconds, while the top speed is pegged at 130mph. In practise the hybrid X3 feels muscular at lower speeds thanks to that electrical assistance, but we found this tails off a bit when accelerating hard to join a motorway, for example.

More relevant to plug-in drivers is the 34 miles of electric only range - and the X3 feels reluctant to use the petrol motor unless it's really necessary, so you'll find it easy and satisfying to waft around in EV mode. That said, the combustion engine does make a surprisingly fruity noise, so you may find yourself tempted to flex your right foot more than in rival hybrid SUVs.

Handling

  • Huge grip from xDrive all-wheel drive
  • Fast steering with numb feeling wheel
  • Admirable resistance to bodyroll

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. The X3 doesn’t lean overly into bends and 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.