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2016 BMW X3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

In the premium compact-crossover world, the 2016 BMW X3 is king. Nothing else offers quite the same driving experience. And it still manages to provide comfort, excellent technology, safety and quality all at the same time. It couldn't be called a bargain, but the best rarely can.

What's New for 2016?

Enhanced USB and Bluetooth capability is now standard on all models, offering voice control for contacts and music, mobile office functions (text, email, calendar, tasks, voice memos) and the ability to sync up a second phone. A Harman Kardon surround-sound system is now standard in the xDrive35i. Also, there used to be a handy hook in the cargo area; that's now gone.

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 up the price quickly

How Much?

$39,945-$47,795

Fuel Economy

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 hybridlike 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 estimates little consumption for both drivetrains at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.

The xDrive28d has a 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that makes 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It achieves an impressive 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 of torque. It returns 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 BMW X3 is available in sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive28d and xDrive35i trim levels.

The sDrive28i ($39,945) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, roof rails, a power lift gate, keyless entry with push-button ignition, 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 ($44,445) are similarly equipped.

The xDrive35i ($47,795) adds adaptive xenon headlamps, LED brake lights, 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 a beautiful 8.8-in widescreen display. There are many other options, including LED headlights, sport seats, adaptive dampers and 19-in wheels (available via the M Sport package), parking sensors at both ends and a rearview camera.

The rear seat is elevated like those in 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.

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, lane-departure warning, a surround-view parking camera system and an automatic collision-preparation system.

The X3 has yet to be crash-tested by the government, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 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 visibility 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 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 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 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

2016 Acura MDX -- The MDX has good value, decent power and space.

2016 Audi Q5 -- The Q5 feels nearly as athletic as the X3. Try the optional supercharged V6.

2016 Lexus NX -- This Lexus has high-tech interior and good driving manners.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 -- Based on the C-Class and all new for the model year, the GLC is not as driver-focused as the X3, but it's well equipped and has a superb cabin.

2016 Volvo XC60 -- The XC60 is underrated as a driver's machine. The optional turbocharged inline 6-cylinder is a winner -- so is the XC60'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

It would be easy to say to go for the diesel -- it's a strong engine with great torque and excellent fuel economy. But the difference in price next to the gasoline version would take many miles to recoup, especially during those times when diesel becomes more expensive than gas at the pump. The xDrive28i, then, should be an excellent choice because it offers the reassurance of all-wheel drive but doesn't suffer a penalty in fuel consumption.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 BMW X3: New Car Review - Autotrader