New Car Review
2017 BMW X3: New Car Review
The 2017 BMW X3 reminds us all how good a premium compact crossover can be to drive. BMW is highly adept at taking an apparently unpromising family vehicle and giving it some real road-worthy talent. Nothing else offers quite the same driving experience. Yet it still manages to provide comfort, excellent technology, safety and quality, all at the same time.
The X3 couldn't be called a bargain, but the best vehicles rarely are. That's why it has continued to be a big seller for BMW despite growing relatively old. An updated version is due for the 2018 model year. Until then, this current X3 remains a class leader.
What's New for 2017?
Wireless smartphone charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot are now on the options list. There's a new design of optional 19-in alloy wheels. The navigation system has been updated. The M Sport package has a new leather-wrapped steering wheel. And "Comfort Access" keyless entry/ignition becomes standard in the xDrive35i. Instead of having you click a key fob, enter and press the start button, this system detects the key's presence and the user only has to pull the door handle. The xDrive35i also has a 12-months subscription to satellite radio as standard.
What We Like
Refined and powerful engines; excellent 8-speed transmission; satisfying ride/handling balance; high-quality cabin; adult-sized back seat
What We Don't
Desirable options push the price up quickly
Every X3 has an 8-speed automatic transmission. The sDrive28i employs rear-wheel drive, while the others come standard with all-wheel drive (which BMW calls xDrive). All engines have a hybrid-like stop/start feature to save fuel when the vehicle would otherwise be idling.
The sDrive28i and xDrive28i have a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for both drivetrains at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving.
The xDrive28d has a 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that makes 180 hp and 280 lb-ft. The EPA has not published its estimates for the 2017 xDrive28d at the time of writing this review, but figures shouldn't be too different from 2016's 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined.
The xDrive35i enjoys a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder developing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. It returns 19 mpg city/67 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2017 BMW X3 is available in sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive28d and xDrive35i versions, with different drivetrains and levels of equipment.
The sDrive28i ($39,945) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, LED fog lights, roof rails, a power lift gate, keyless entry with push-button start, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a universal garage-door opener, leatherette upholstery, 8-way power front seats with driver memory settings, a tilt-telescopic sport leather steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient cabin lighting, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 12-speaker audio system with HD Radio and an auxiliary input, and a basic iDrive infotainment system.
Both the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i ($41,945) and the diesel-powered xDrive28d ($43,445) are similarly equipped.
The xDrive35i ($48,645) adds adaptive xenon headlamps, LED brake lights, "Comfort Access" keyless entry/ignition, satellite radio, the Harman Kardon Surround Sound audio system (optional in other versions) and a panoramic sunroof (also optional elsewhere).
Perhaps the most notable option is the navigation system, which changes the iDrive system, replacing the standard screen with an 8.8-in widescreen display. There are many other options, including LED headlights, sport seats, adaptive dampers, 19-in wheels (available via the M Sport package), parking sensors at both ends and a rearview camera.
The rear seats are at the same level as those up front, yet headroom is generous, so even tall passengers will have plenty of space. There's a respectable 27.6 cu ft. of cargo space behind the second row and 63.3 cu ft. with the rear seats folded down.
The X3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Numerous available safety technologies are bundled into the Driver Assistance Plus package, including active blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, a surround-view parking camera system and an automatic collision-preparation system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the X3 its top score of five stars overall, with perfect marks for front- and side-impact protection. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the X3 its highest rating of Good in every category.
Behind the Wheel
BMW has the commanding driving position nailed. The high-set front seats provide an expansive view over the hood. And since the X3 has plenty of glass all around, outward vision is great, no matter where you're looking. Consider the M Sport package with its sport front seats, as the beefed-up side bolsters and thigh support extenders are worth the stretch.
The gauges employ the classic BMW white-on-black numerals that change to orange-on-black at night. Interior materials are uniformly premium, and the attractively restrained dashboard design is also straight out of the traditional BMW playbook.
The standard iDrive system has a square display, lacks navigation and doesn't offer digital music storage. It's nice that some form of iDrive comes as standard, but it's hard to enthuse over the functionality of this version. With the pricey navigation system, though, there's a crisp, colorful 8.8-in widescreen display and hard drive storage for MP3s. If the extra cost is bearable, it's definitely the way to go.
The 4-cylinder engine in the sDrive28i and xDrive28i is a star. Acceleration is confident and, unlike most small turbocharged motors, this one doesn't run out of puff at high revs. It keeps pulling all the way to the redline. Even so, the diesel-powered xDrive28d offers incredible fuel economy and a stout 280 lb-ft of torque.
Connoisseurs of speed, meanwhile, will be well served by the xDrive35i's turbocharged inline 6-cylinder, which turns the X3 into a genuinely rapid ride. In all cases, the 8-speed transmission delivers seamless shifts that maximize both responsiveness and efficiency.
The X3 is undoubtedly tall, but it remains exceptionally composed in corners for a crossover SUV. Which makes its smooth, quiet ride all the more remarkable. With a choice of three outstanding engines, the X3 is a clear driver's alternative among premium compact crossovers.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Acura MDX -- Good value and decent power and space.
2017 Audi Q5 -- Feels nearly as athletic as the X3. Try the optional supercharged V6.
2017 Lexus NX -- Nice interior full of high tech. Pleasant driving manners.
2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 -- Based on the C-Class. Not as driver-focused as the X3, but well-equipped and has a superb cabin.
2017 Volvo XC60 -- Underrated from a fun point of view, the XC60's sensible, well-rounded nature is a winner. This model is also due for replacement soon.
It speaks volumes that this X3 remains a top choice even as it's about to be updated. The chassis can certainly handle the wonderful power of the xDrive35i, but the xDrive28i hardly means having to settle. Might as well go for the all-wheel-drive version and enjoy the extra surefootedness, since fuel consumption is no worse than with the sDrive28i.