The BMW X3 is a staple in the luxury mid-sized SUV world, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down.
To date in 2023 it’s been a top-three seller in its class (top two if you remove the cheaper, electric Tesla Model Y), and it’s been comfortably the best-selling car for BMW in Australia.
Plenty has changed since the current X3 launched. Now six years old, it was updated last year with a fresh look and interior technology, along with a higher price tag. It’s also about to face off with new competition in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLC300.
Our spy photographers have snapped the next-generation X3 testing in the snow but it’s not expected to debut until next year at the earliest, so there’s plenty of life left in the car you see here yet.
Does the X3 still have what it takes to stand out from the crowd?
Pricing jumped across the X3 range for 2023. The xDrive30i on test here is up by $4600 compared to the identical car in 2022.
2023 BMW X3 pricing:
- BMW X3 sDrive20i: $81,700
- BMW X3 xDrive20d: $84,700
- BMW X3 xDrive30i M Sport: $96,500
- BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport: $102,900
- BMW X3 xDrive30e M Sport: $110,400
- BMW X3 M40i: $125,400
- BMW X3 M Competition: $175,300
Prices exclude on-road costs
The current BMW X3 has one of the biggest, most practical cabins in the mid-sized SUV class.
With big windows, a high roofline, and plenty of space between the front seats, it could be confused for a bigger car at first glance. That’s no accident, given the X3 is dimensionally very similar to the first-generation X5.
The driving position offers a panoramic view of the road ahead, but the sports seats drop low enough and offer enough bolstering to still hold you in place.
Tall or short drivers won’t have any trouble getting comfortable, and the M Sport steering wheel is a quality item.
It might be a bit too fat for people with small hands, though. BMW loves a chubby steering wheel, and the X3 is no exception.
All-round visibility is excellent thanks to those oversized windows, and the cameras, sensors, and 3D surround-view built into the latest iDrive system make the X3 a cinch to place in tight garages or parking spots.
Sure, a rising belt line and coupe roofline look sharp, but the more conventional wagon body on this SUV is far more practical.
The technology in the updated X3 is excellent. iDrive 7.0 has been usurped in the latest BMW electric cars, but the system is up there with the best in the business – although at this price, it really should be right on the bleeding edge.
It responds to touch, voice, and inputs from the classic BMW controller on the transmission, and the big on-screen tiles are easy to discern on the move. BMW was the first to offer wireless Apple CarPlay, and its system remains one of the most reliable.
BMW has some work to do on its digital dashboard, though, which can’t match the latest Audi Virtual Cockpit for customisability or clarity. Our tester also had some misaligned trim pieces around the climate controls, which is not good enough in a luxury SUV.
There’s plenty of storage up front, from the wireless phone charger beneath the dashboard to the deep space beneath the central armrest.
The rear seats in the X3 are excellent. Headroom is standout, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted to our tester, and there’s enough legroom for tall teens to get comfortable.
You’ll get three people across in comfort thanks to the broad bench, and the door opening is broad enough to make loading child seats easy.
There are air vents back there, standalone climate controls, dual USB-C ports, and a fold-down central armrest with cupholders.
You get ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seats, along with three top-tether points. The rear bench folds 40/20/40, and gets pretty close to completely flat.
The boot opening itself is wide, and features netted pockets tucked into its sides. Claimed space is 550 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1600 litres with them folded.
Power in the xDrive30i comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque, mated with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 6.3 seconds, and claimed fuel economy is 7.9 litres per 100km. We saw 8.3 litres per 100km over a week of mixed driving.
The fuel tank holds 65 litres, and 95 RON premium unleaded fuel is required.
The X3 might slot into the mid-sized SUV segment on paper, but it drives like a bigger car.
It feels rock solid, and the 2.0-litre engine punches well above its weight. We’ve raved about the diesel engine in the 30d, but the turbocharged petrol in the 30i has plenty to offer as well.
BMW has tuned in a fruity flare of revs when you turn it on, but for the most part it flies under the radar with smooth, effortless performance. It’s silent at idle, with no vibration in the cabin, and the eight-speed transmission just slurs from gear-to-gear in town to keep the engine below about 2500rpm.
Put your foot down and it revs out smoothly, with plenty of punch in the mid-range and a nice noise behind it. It lacks the last degree of effortless shove you get in the 30d, but at no point does the X3 feel like a big car with a small heart.
Most of the X3 models sold in Australia are the M Sport, like our tester. That means you get big wheels, sporty looks, and plenty of M badging.
Unlike the proper X3 M, however, you also get a suspension tune that’s comfortable in the city. It still errs on the side of sportiness, but still does a good job keeping nasty city streets on the outside. It’s a bit busier than some rivals; the trade-off is excellent body control and a rock solid feeling on the highway.
With light steering, excellent visibility, and some of the best cameras in the business, there’s no excuse for scraped bumpers or wheels.
Up the speed and the X3 settles down nicely. It’s very efficient at a cruise, with the live fuel economy readout sitting at around 6.0 litres per 100km with the engine ticking over at 100km/h in eighth gear, and there’s very little wind or road noise.
It settles quickly over highway crests and dips, and there’s still enough punch in reserve for overtakes at country highway speeds.
The adaptive cruise control system is one of the smoothest and smartest in the business, and the lane-keep assist strikes the right balance between getting involved when you drift, and leaving you to your own devices when you don’t.
With its tall window line, elevated driving position, and reasonably comfort-oriented ride, the X3 doesn’t possess the hot hatch-like agility of a Porsche Macan, nor the laser focus of its X3 M Competition big brother.
X3 sDrive20i + xDrive20d highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Run-flat tyres
- Aluminium roof rails
- Adaptive LED headlights
- LED tail lights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Power-folding side mirrors
- Anti-dazzle (driver’s side only)
- Auto-dipping (passenger’s side only)
- Power tailgate
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio
- 6-speaker sound system
- Wireless phone charger
- 3yr ConnectedDrive Services subscription
- Tri-zone climate control
- Ambient lighting
- Electric parking brake
- Keyless entry and push-button start
- Sport leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Black ‘Sensatec’ leatherette upholstery
- Power-adjustable front sport seats with driver memory
X3 xDrive30i M Sport + xDrive30d M Sport add:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- M Aerodynamics package
- BMW M high-gloss black window highlights
- BMW M high-gloss black roof rails
- M Sport brakes
- 12-speaker sound system
- M leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Anthracite headliner
- M interior trim
- M door sill trims
- ‘Vernasca’ leather upholstery
- Driver’s seat bolster adjustment
Visibility Package: $5400 (20i, 20d, 30i, 30d)
- Metallic paint
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- BMW Laserlight headlights
Comfort Package: $1200 (20i, 20d, 30i, 30d)
- Heated front seats
- Driver lumbar support
- Heated steering wheel
The pre-facelift BMW X3 managed a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP in 2017.
It received scores of 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 84 per cent for child occupant protection, 70 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 58 per cent for safety assist.
This five-star ANCAP rating applies to all variants except the xDrive30e plug-in hybrid.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Lane departure warning
- Lane change warning
- Cruise control
- Rear-view camera
- Reverse parking sensors
- Reversing assistant
Stepping up to the xDrive30i or above gets you safety features including junction assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, and surround-view camera.
The BMW X3 is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty like the broader BMW range.
BMW Australia offers Service Inclusive pre-paid packages that cover the first five years or 80,000km – whichever comes first.
The standard Service Inclusive Basic package costs $2400 for the core X3 range.
It’s more expensive than ever, but the X3 still has plenty to offer in 2023.
The interior is starting to show its age, something that’ll only become more pronounced when the new Mercedes-Benz GLC touches down, but it remains the most practical luxury mid-sized SUV out there, and there’s nothing out-of-date about the way it drives.
Although the punchy diesel engine sitting above it in the range is tempting, and the rear-wheel drive sDrive20i is significantly cheaper, the 30i still represents a sweet spot for most buyers.
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