Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Newer touchscreen iDrive
  • Very strong build quality
  • Nice materials used throughout

The overall design hasn’t changed much compared with the previous X3, but that’s no real issue because it’s a carefully thought-out cabin design with lots of space and a vast suite of driver-facing controls. Switchgear is typically BMW, meaning it lacks some of the sparkle you find in some Mercedes products, but it’s still high quality and stylish in appearance.

Updated iDrive multimedia system

The interior now features tech like the optional 10.25-inch iDrive infotainment system. This features multiple control methods, including its touchscreen, a rotary touchpad by the gearlever, voice control and even gesture control for a few of its functions.

The idea behind this is to offer the driver choice as to which way they interact with the car, but we found the rotary touchpad was by far the most intuitive method. With only a few minutes’ practice you’ll be using it without thinking about how it works, and that’s very impressive.

Its graphics and processor are clearly at the higher end of the market too, with absolutely no latency when zooming in and out on the navigation mapping – something that’s quite unusual at time of publication.

Strong standard specification

A new multifunction leather steering wheel comes as standard with softer hide while three-zone climate control and ambient lighting are standard across the range, adding extra value. Options including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and full-colour head-up display. We've currently only had the chance to drive top-spec cars, so it'll be interesting to see how quality filters down to the rest of the range. 

Comfort

  • Suspension on the firm side
  • Plug-in model is the quietest
  • Great seats are comfortable and supportive

The X3's growth means more space inside. We found knee-room to spare for a 6ft 1in-tall rear-seat passenger sitting behind a similarly sized driver. Headroom is also generous. As an option, the rear seats can recline for additional comfort, but there’s no seven-seat version - you'll want the X5 for a full-size SUV with room for two extra passengers or a bigger boot.

Initial impressions are that it's a solidly built machine with comfortable, highly adjustable seats. Road noise is an unavoidable hindrance, however, thanks to the huge wheels on the cars we’ve tested. We’d strongly advise you specify the optional £110 acoustic windows. These work with the standard acoustic windscreen to drown out almost all wind noise at motorway speeds, and also suppresses much of the diesel engines’ rattle.

BMW X3 xDrive20d side 2017

Another option we’ve been impressed with is the adaptive suspension. Unfortunately we’ve yet to sample a standard set-up, but the Comfort and Sport settings for the dampers offer a fine contrast between a softer ride for everyday driving and a firmer set-up for sportier situations. The former is still a little on the bumpy side over rough tarmac, however – this is still a BMW and that means we can’t expect the sort of pillow-soft ride you’ll find on a Volvo XC60 on its optional air springs.

X3 M comfort

Now, it's important to consider some context when talking about the X3 M, because this is a car that promises (and largely delivers) the same thrills as an M3 saloon on a circuit. That means there's bound to be some cost at the other end of the scale when it comes to ride comfort.

In short, it's very firm on UK roads even with the adaptive dampers wound off to their squashiest setting. The Audi SQ5 offers a better blend of performance and long range cushioning, although it's nowhere near the BMW in terms of ability or involvement.

You need to weigh up how much spirited driving you'll get the chance to do in your X3 M before you decide whether it's worth the penalty in ride comfort, because fast versions of the standard car (M40d and M40i) are better all-rounders, to be blunt.