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2015 BMW X3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2015

If you're worried that tightening fuel economy regulations may take the fun out of fine vehicles, the 2015 BMW X3 presents a more pleasant scenario. Yes, the X3 starts with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, but we're thoroughly impressed by its get-up-and-go, and you can also get an ultraefficient 4-cylinder turbodiesel with more torque. Of course, there's still the 6-cylinder xDrive35i if serious speed is a priority. Throw in the X3's exceptional handling and supple ride, and you have a recipe for a highly satisfying drive. If the 2015 X3 is the future of the SUV, we're looking forward to it.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 X3 gets fresh front-end styling, standard LED fog lights, an optional 4-cylinder diesel engine, a rear-wheel-drive base model, extendable sun visors and some new high-tech safety features.

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 quickly inflate the price

How Much?

$39,450-$46,450

Fuel Economy

The X3 sDrive28i and xDrive28i are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The xDrive28d gets a 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that makes 180 hp and 280 lb-ft, while the xDrive35i steps up to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder good for 300 hp and 300 lb-ft.

Every X3 has an 8-speed automatic transmission. The sDrive28i employs a rear-wheel-drive layout, while the others come standard with all-wheel drive.

Oddly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the sDrive28i and xDrive28i at an identical 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive vehicles typically come in a tick or two behind. The xDrive28d shoots up to a stellar 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy, while the xDrive35i drops to 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 BMW X3 is available in four trim levels: sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive28d and xDrive35i.

The sDrive28i ($39,450) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, roof rails, a power lift gate, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a power tailgate, auto-dimming mirrors, a universal garage-door opener, auto start/stop, leatherette upholstery, 8-way power front seats, driver memory settings, a tilt-telescopic sport leather steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 12-speaker audio system and the iDrive infotainment system with the basic small, square display.

The all-wheel-drive xDrive28i ($41,450) is similarly equipped, as is the diesel-powered xDrive28d ($42,950).

The xDrive35i ($46,450) adds adaptive xenon headlamps, LED brake lights and a panoramic sunroof.

Perhaps the most notable X3 option is the navigation system, which radically changes the iDrive system, replacing the standard screen with a beautiful 8.8-in widescreen display. There are many other options, of course, including LED headlights, sport seats, adaptive dampers, 19-in wheels (available on both models via the M Sport package) and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The X3's rear seat is elevated like those in front, yet there's plenty of headroom, so even lanky passengers will have plenty of space. As for cargo space, there's a respectable 27.6 cu ft. of it behind the second row and 63.3 cu ft. with the rear seatbacks folded down.

Safety

The X3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain). Numerous available safety technologies are bundled into the Driver Assistance Plus package, including an active blind spot monitoring system, a surround-view parking camera and an automatic collision-preparation system.

The government hasn't crash-tested the X3, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the X3 its highest rating of Good in every category.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation of the X3, we immediately noticed that BMW has the commanding driving position nailed. The front seats are nice and tall, affording an expansive view over the hood, and since the X3 has plenty of glass all around, outward visibility is great, no matter where you're looking. We'd consider springing for the M Sport package with its sport front seats, though, as the beefed-up side bolsters and thigh-support extenders are worth the stretch.

The X3's gauges will be comforting to BMW aficionados, employing the classic white-on-black numerals that change to orange-on-black at night. Interior materials are almost uniformly premium, and the attractively restrained dashboard design is another element that's straight out of the traditional BMW playbook.

On the technology front, 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 standard, we suppose, but we're not enthused about the functionality of this version. If you opt for the pricey navigation system, though, you get a crisp, colorful 8.8-in widescreen that's hard-drive-based with plenty of space for your MP3s. If you can swing the extra cost, it's definitely the way to go.

Under the hood, the sDrive28i and xDrive28i's shared 4-cylinder engine is a superstar. Acceleration is confident, and unlike most small turbocharged motors, this one doesn't fall on its face at high rpm -- it keeps pulling all the way to redline. Nonetheless, we'd be tempted to get the diesel-powered xDrive28d on the strength of its incredible fuel economy and stout 280 lb-ft of torque. Connoisseurs of speed, meanwhile, will be well served by the xDrive35i's turbocharged inline 6-cylinder, which transforms the X3 into a genuinely rapid vehicle. In any case, the 8-speed transmission delivers seamless shifts that maximize both responsiveness and efficiency.

On the road, the X3 is a tall vehicle, no doubt about it, but it remains exceptionally composed in corners for a crossover SUV. That makes its smooth, quiet ride all the more remarkable; BMW really nailed the suspension tuning in this truck. Throw in a choice of three outstanding engines, and you have the clear driver's choice among entry-level luxury crossovers.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Audi Q5 -- The Q5 feels nearly as athletic as the X3, and we prefer its styling. It's a must-drive with the optional supercharged V6 or turbocharged diesel V6 (TDI).

2015 Cadillac SRX -- Aside from its edgy styling, the SRX's calling card is its standard 3.6-liter V6, which pumps out a healthy 308 hp.

2015 Volvo XC60 -- The XC60's available turbocharged inline 6-cylinder is a winner, and we like this crossover's sensible, well-rounded nature.

Used Porsche Macan -- The Macan handles more like a sport sedan than a crossover, and its styling is decidedly upscale. See if a certified pre-owned model fits your budget.

AutoTrader's Advice

The xDrive28d is a great deal with its turbodiesel torque and efficiency. As long as you don't mind the occasional greasy pump handle, it's the pick of the litter.

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Used 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28i
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2015 BMW X3: New Car Review - Autotrader