Road Test: 2018 BMW X3 30i

The 2018 BMW X3 rolling out of the Spartanburg, SC plant has received a total revamp inside and out. The new X3 is writing the next chapter in the X3 story with a more striking design, powerful yet efficient drive systems, and standout-driving qualities with unrestricted everyday usability.

X3 elevates the already boldly dynamic design language of its predecessor. The third generation of the X3 treads a familiar BMW path in combining rugged off-road looks with generous presence.

The exterior dimensions are largely unchanged, however, the wheelbase has been extended by 2.2-inches and its long hood, extremely short front overhang with finely balanced proportions, emphasize the perfect 50:50 weight distribution between the front and rear axle.

For the first time on a BMW X model, the front fascia features a muscular “three-dimensional” kidney grille and fog lights featuring a hexagonal design, underlining the confident character of X3.

Moving to the rear, the downward-sloping roof spoiler and twin exhaust tailpipes add to the muscular appearance.

The LED headlights on our tester feature automatic high beams and shine brightly. LED taillights have a lot of dimensionality through creative designing.

For those who want to tow or use a trailer hitch for accessories, the X3 is the first BMW SAV in the US to feature a factory-installed trailer hitch. The 2” receiver will enable is as solid as one would expect from the factory.

The M Sport Package on our vehicle focuses its attention on the dynamic prowess of the X3, with the M Aerodynamic kit (front apron with larger air intakes, side skirt trim, and a diffusor-style rear apron). Also included are Shadowline exterior trim and 19-inch M Double-Spoke Wheels with All-season Run Flat Tires.

The interior includes a new M Sport leather steering wheel, M door sill finishers and a SensaTec upholstered dashboard. It follows BMW tradition with a driver-focused and ergonomically optimized cockpit layout and carries over many aspects of the car’s exterior design.

The interior as a whole displays exceptional material quality, fit, and finish, with carefully thought ergonomics.

We welcome the sport seats with power adjustable side bolsters, it’s incredible how inflatable side bolsters helps the driver feel more confident behind the wheel.

A 3-zone automatic climate control is new, adding separate temperature controls for the rear compartment to those for the driver and front passenger. The nearly 10 inch larger panoramic glass moonroof is also amazing.

To enhance rear compartment comfort, the angle of the 40:20:40 split rear seat backrests can be adjusted individually and through various stages. This backrests can also be released remotely from the load compartment, which expands the standard load capacity of 28.7 cubic feet to 62.7 cubic feet.

Contour lighting above the trim strip in the instrument panel directs a soft stream of light downwards from below the accent strip, lights the interior in a distinctive and relaxing ambience. At night, the iDrive display appears to be floating above the instrument panel. Six color tones can be selected with variable brightness.

The dynamic handling qualities of the X3 are directly linked to its ideal 50:50 weight distribution, its meticulously honed chassis and xDrive, BMW’s Intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Not only does the system offer superior grip on slippery surfaces, it has a beneficial effect on driving dynamics too. This system is networked with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) allowing the power split between all four wheels to be constantly varied, providing the handling characteristics for which BMW is renowned.

In an effort to improve handling dynamics, the rear bias of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been increased. Intelligent AWD management constantly adjusts the torque bias as the driving situation demands ensuring optimum driving dynamics.

Dynamic Damper Control on our 30i model includes electronically controlled dampers that adapt the damper responses to the road surface and driving situation. At the same time, the we can use the Driving Dynamics Control toggle switch to vary the basic suspension characteristics between more comfortable and sportier ends of the scale.

M Sport brakes feature blue-painted aluminum four-piston fixed calipers at the front. The variable sport steering is excellent.

BMW says X3 boasts the same off-road skills as its predecessor. We didn’t evaluate it, but we’ll take their word for it.

Ground clearance is at 8 inches, with an approach angle of 23.1°, departure angle of 21.4°, and breakover angle of 17.4°. The fording depth of 19.6 inches means this BMW X3 can tackle water crossings with ease as well.

Under the hood is BMW’s ubiquitous TwinPower Turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder inline gasoline engine with Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing and Valvetronic fully variable intake lift, a map-controlled oil pump, electric arc wire-sprayed cylinder barrels, Twin-scroll exhaust turbocharger and electrically adjustable waste gate valve.

The 8-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles is silky and quick shifting.

Power output is at 248 HP (8 HP more than the outgoing BMW X3 xDrive28i). Maximum torque of 258 lb-ft is on tap between just 1,450 and 4,800 rpm.

A variety of active and passive aerodynamic drag reduction methods have been added to not only help lower fuel consumption, but also reduce noise levels.

X3 also excels when it comes to the infotainment system. The ubiquitous iDrive Controller and iDrive 6.0 system work with a new 10.25” touchscreen display. X3 uses cloud-based Intelligent Voice Control, which offers the most advanced level of natural voice control currently available. Gone are the days of awkward voice commands; this system understands normal conversation as if talking to someone in the passenger seat.

Digital services from the BMW Connected app for iOS and Android brings a lot of convenience features. It evens works with Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and Amazon Echo. That app allows you to check the fuel level, lock the X3, or activate the ventilation function, all by voice.

The standard pre-crash accident detection system, called Active Protection, enhances passive safety by detecting potential accident situations as they arise. If a collision risk is detected, the driver’s and front passenger’s belt tensioners are activated, and the windows and Panoramic moonroof are closed. Following a collision, Active Protection brings the vehicle to a standstill.

ParkNow service is also new and allows parking spaces on the road and in parking garages to be easily located, booked and paid for without the need for cash. This can greatly shorten the time taken to find a free space. In-car integration of ParkNow is initially available in select cities nationwide. Visit for details.

We’re a little disappointed that Apple CarPlay isn’t standard, but if it is ordered, it’s totally wireless and works well based on our experience. It connects seamlessly each and every time. The audio system sounds amazing too.

Our tester came equipped with the Driving Assistance Package which includes Active Blind Spot Protection, Lane Departure Warning, Daytime Pedestrian Protection, Frontal Collision Warning with City Collison Mitigation, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Speed Limit Info. All the systems we were able to evaluation without risk worked well, and with adaptive cruise as an option, we’d highly recommend it if you do any highway driving.

The Head-Up Display on our vehicle is 75 percent larger than the old X3 and crystal clear. We like the option to change it to a red color at night.

A truly unique feature is the Remote 3D View function, which can be used to beam a 360 degree, three-dimensional view of the car’s immediate vicinity directly to a smartphone through the BMW Connected App. Very cool.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 8
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 8
Noise 7
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 9
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 7
Infotainment 7
Crash-Avoidance 6
Total Score 82

Make: BMW
Model: X3
Trim Level: 30i
Engine: 2.0L Turbo 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Options: M Sport Design, Premium Pkg, Driving Assistance, Dynamic Handling, Harman Kardon sound and LED headlights

Base Price: $43,000
As-Tested Price: $54,745

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