• New X3 xDrive28i achieves 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway
  • Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • Updated SUV arrives in showrooms later this spring

BMW's recently redesigned X3 is now the fuel economy champion of the luxury crossover segment. The federal government's Environmental Protection Agency recently rated the SUV's upcoming 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder version - dubbed the X3 xDrive28i - at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, giving it top honors among non-hybrid luxury crossovers.
With the new fuel economy ratings, the X3 xDrive28i easily tops its predecessor, which was powered by a naturally aspirated 240-horsepower 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine. That model, available since the X3's 2011 redesign, was rated at 19 miles per gallon in city driving and just 25 mpg on the highway, meaning car shoppers interested in maximizing their mileage should wait for the new 4-cylinder. Those that do won't have to sacrifice performance, as the new engine produces the same horsepower and even more torque than the 6-cylinder that it replaces. For buyers looking for even more muscle, BMW will still offer the turbocharged 6-cylinder X3 xDrive35i with 300-horsepower, which achieves respectable fuel economy figures of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg in highway driving.

The EPA's numbers place the X3 xDrive28i squarely ahead of rivals like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK. The RDX achieves just 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway, while the GLK is rated at just 16 mpg in the city and 21 miles per gallon in highway driving. And while the fuel economy ratings for the Q5 (which also features a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine) come close to the X3's at 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, Audi's compact SUV offers just 211 horsepower - significantly less than the 240 horses found under the hood of the newest X3.

Despite its impressive fuel economy rating, the 4-cylinder X3 probably won't be king of the upscale crossover hill for long. Mercedes recently showed a diesel-powered version of its GLK at this year's New York Auto Show, and a diesel Q5 is also rumored to be due later in the year. As it stands, a diesel-powered variant of Mercedes' larger M-Class falls only slightly behind the X3's fuel economy figures with an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg in highway driving.

According to BMW, the 2013 X3 xDrive28i will arrive in showrooms later this spring with a starting price of around $40,000. It will be joined by several other BMW models also adopting the automaker's new 4-cylinder engine, including the redesigned 328i sport sedan, the midsize 528i and even the sporty Z4, which could top 30 mpg on the highway.

What it means to you: The new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the BMW X3 makes it the current fuel economy champ in luxury crossovers, but it might now hold that title for long.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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