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2018 BMW X3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2018

The X3 was one of the first compact luxury SUVs, but now everyone from Jaguar to Alfa Romeo is making them -- most even utilize the same sporty recipe. Yet despite this increase in selection, the completely redesigned 2018 BMW X3 is still a prime choice in the segment it helped pioneer.

At first glance, the 2018 X3 doesn't seem much different. The taillights are a little more organic in design and the kidney grilles have gotten a lot bigger, but the general proportions and interior dimensions have pretty much stayed the same. There are still turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines available, but both get an influx in power and new model names: xDrive30i and M40i. The latter is also a more complete performance package now, with steering, suspension and brake componentry tuned by BMW's M Division. No longer available is the diesel engine or rear-wheel drive.

So what's new and improved, then? It's ultimately all about the interior, which gets a slight quality improvement, a useful amount of extra small-item storage and a big injection of BMW's latest comfort, convenience, safety and infotainment gizmos. Really, BMW has taken an already successful formula and just brought it up to date with the rest of its lineup (not to mention those of competitors).

Now, that also means the latest X3 isn't as involving to drive as it used to be. The steering in particular is numb and a general letdown -- even in the otherwise capable and invigorating M40i. Comfort has been improved, but those looking to the X3 as a performance SUV may ultimately be happier with one of those newer competitors. The pioneer has gone a bit mainstream.

What's New for 2018?

The BMW X3 was completely redesigned for 2018.

What We Like

Strong and efficient engines; generous passenger and cargo space for the segment; doesn't shortchange you on equipment; involving M40i mode

What We Don't

Disappointing steering for a sport-oriented model; M40i's ride can get tiresome on poor pavement

How Much?

$42,700-$54,500

Fuel Economy

The 2018 X3 xDrive30i comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Both X3 models come with an 8-speed automatic and "xDrive" all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is estimated to be 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving.

The 2018 X3 M40i has a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder that produces 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Despite its considerable power increase, fuel economy isn't much worse, at 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined. The estimated average annual fuel cost would be $150 more per year.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 BMW X3 is available in xDrive30i and M40i models, each of which come with different engines (see above).

Standard equipment on the xDrive30i includes 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, a power lift gate, power-folding heated mirrors, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rearview and driver's-side mirrors, a rearview camera, selectable driving modes, tri-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power front seats with power-adjustable bolsters and driver memory functions, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 40/20/40-split folding and reclining back seat, SensaTec premium vinyl upholstery, the iDrive electronics interface (a central display and center console button-knob controller), two USB ports and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, a media player interface and HD Radio.

The optional Convenience Tier adds adaptive bi-LED headlights, proximity entry and push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, 4-way adjustable lumbar support and satellite radio. The Premium Tier includes everything from the Convenience Tier plus a head-up display, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, integrated navigation and smartphone-based remote services. The Executive Tier includes everything from the other tiers plus an all-digital instrument display, Gesture Control (allows you to operate a small number of infotainment functions by waving your fingers around in the air) and the Parking Assistance package (a surround-view parking camera, enhanced front and rear parking sensors and an automated parking system).

The M40i adds a more powerful engine, a sport exhaust, 19-in wheels, upgraded brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and steering, special M Sport styling, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors, a SensaTec-trimmed dashboard and everything from the Convenience Tier except satellite radio.

Both models are available with a number of packages and standalone options. The Driving Assistance package adds blind spot monitoring and lane-departure warning. The Driving Assistance Plus package can then be added on top of that, and it includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The Parking Assistance package is also available separately.

The M40i's Premium package is basically the same as the 30i's Premium Tier, but it requires you to pay extra for heated and rear seats. Its Executive package is also similar to its 30i Tier counterpart and requires the selection of the Premium package.

Many of the above options can be added as standalone options (one of the many reasons special-ordering your BMW is a good idea). Additional standalone options include a space-saver spare tire, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades, wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay and a Harman Kardon sound system. Each is also available with an adaptive suspension, although their tuning differs by model.

Safety

Every X3 comes standard with antilock brakes that automatically dry the pads in wet weather, hill-descent control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and BMW Assist eCall emergency services, which includes automatic crash notification and an emergency services request button. Blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning systems are optional, along with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection.

The 2018 X3 has not yet been crash-tested by a third party.

Behind the Wheel

Like other BMWs, the new X3 has lost some of its old verve. The driving experience is less engaging, especially in regards to the numb steering, and selecting the Sport driving mode just doesn't do enough. Having said that, opting for the M40i certainly makes a difference given its thrilling engine, warbling exhaust and sharper handling. You do lose the rather supple ride of the standard xDrive30i, however, and gain a considerable amount of firmness (even in Comfort mode) that may get tiresome if you live in an area with poor pavement.

In terms of engines, you can't go wrong. The base 4-cylinder punches well above its weight class, delivering acceleration that's topped by few in the segment. The M40i, meanwhile, is a real treat, capable of propelling the X3 from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 4.6 seconds. That's extremely quick, plus you only lose 2 mpg in the process. It also sounds pretty cool.

Inside, the X3 offers a spacious back seat with a reclining seatback and cushion mounted a comfortable distance from the floor (unlike in its X4 sibling). The cargo area also maintains a relatively boxy, functional space. Its 62.7 cu ft. of maximum cargo volume is one of the segment's biggest, as is its total of 28.7 cu ft. with the back seat raised.

Interior quality and construction are top-notch, even if the design isn't as overtly stylish or luxurious as those of competitors. BMW has stayed true to itself, which should be commended. Controls fall readily at hand, including the latest iteration of BMW's iDrive interface. It works very well, though making Apple CarPlay a standalone option is disappointing, and the available Gesture Control is a gimmick you'll only use when showing off your new car to friends.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class -- The GLC is arguably more stylish and overtly luxurious than the BMW, while challenging its credentials as a performance machine. Definitely one to cross-shop.

2018 Audi Q5 -- The Q5 stands out with impressive in-car technology and a generally well-rounded package. It's perhaps not as sexy as other choices, but it also has few faults.

2018 Volvo XC60 -- The fashionable new entry in the segment goes about things a bit differently in most regards, from its engine choices to its tall, vertically oriented touchscreen interface.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio -- If you're looking at the X3 for its ability to engage and thrill behind the wheel, the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio will probably tickle your fancy more. It's a bit rough around the engines, but the fun might be worth it.

Used Porsche Macan -- Though you can get a new Macan for about the same price as a new X3, it won't be as well-equipped. As such, a used or certified pre-owned version could be sought after for a truly superior driving experience that lives up to the Porsche name.

Autotrader's Advice

Most shoppers should look to the xDrive30i -- there's definitely no shame in going for this base model. Keeping an eye open for cars equipped with one (or both) of the Driver Assistance packages is recommended, as is going for those with Apple CarPlay and the space-saver spare tire.

Find a BMW X3 for sale

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2018 BMW X3: New Car Review - Autotrader