Engine: 3-liter TwinPower turbo inline 5-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed sport automatic
Torque: 368 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 21/city, 26/highway, 23/combined
Base price: $57,800
As tested: $64,990
Overview: The BMW X3 is the second-smallest crossover SUV in BMW’s lineup, which offers three choices of turbocharged powerplants — each matched to its own unique suspension settings. Our test-driver was the M40i and this review focuses on that model only. A small update brought refreshed exterior styling and eschewed the previous plug-in hybrid model in favor of a 48-volt mild-hybrid tech added to the midlevel M40i.
Walkaround: Compared to other BMWs, the X3’s styling appears reserved. It boasts BMW’s signature twin grille flanked by LED headlights, but adds some aggressively muscular styling to its profile. M versions look the part with a lower ride height, special body kits with more color-matched trim like high-gloss roof rails, and 20-inch wheels. BMW also offers an unusually wide range of paint colors for the X3 — everything from our test-driver’s Carbon Black Metallic to a tennis-ball-yellow option.
Interior: The interior of the X3 boasts typical European organization and understated luxury that actually feels uncomplicated in spite of all its technology. A 10.3-inch touchscreen is standard; however, our test-driver showcased the optional 12.3-inch version and a feature called Live Cockpit Pro that handles navigation that can be operated by the iDrive controller or voice commands. A surround-view camera system and automatic parking assist are optional. The M40i comes with all the usual power options you would expect and redundant controls on the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel. Technology includes BMW’s iDrive system, as well as multizone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — and let’s not forget the panoramic sunroof or digital instrumentation. Various interior colors, from the typical blacks and beiges to reds, browns and tans, are available. Our test-driver’s mocha varnasca leather tastefully complemented the exterior. The X3 comes standard with power-adjustable front seats that offer good comfort and driver’s seat memory. The second row has 40/20/40 fold-down seats and easily accommodates 6-foot passengers with a roomy 38.5 inches of headroom and 36.4 inches of legroom. The 28.7 cubic-foot cargo area expands to almost 63 with that second row folded down.
Behind the wheel: All X3s leave the factory with a turbocharger. The M40i’s turbo inline-6 delivers plenty of performance, handling the 0-60 drill in a quick 4.4 seconds. Of course, not everyone needs that kind of performance, but those who appreciate performance will love the M40i’s terrific handling balance. Adaptive dampers counter the stiff suspension and provide a composed ride slowed by impressive model-specific brakes. We road-tripped the X3 M40i to Spokane and back across I-90 with most of the trip east of Snoqualmie Pass at 80-plus mph — including a couple of triple-digit jaunts between Moses Lake and Sprague. The faster we drove, the better the X3 seemed to respond — with quiet comfort.
Bottom line: The supremely balanced BMW X3 is a compact luxury SUV that’s practical, polished and a little spendy — but worth it.