- Potent and reasonably efficient engines
- High-quality cabin
- Generous passenger and cargo room
- Crisp handling
- Comfortable rear seat
- Priced higher than most rivals
A four-cylinder in a BMW SUV just sounds ludicrous, right? Such an engine might be good enough for Hondas and Kias, but a performance-luxury brand needs something with more guts. That certainly would be the conventional wisdom, anyway. But times, they are a-changing. The 2013 BMW X3 is the latest member of the Bavarian brand to lose its naturally aspirated inline-6 base engine in favor of a high-tech, turbocharged four-cylinder that produces equal power and more torque, yet returns significantly improved fuel economy. However ludicrous it may sound, this BMW crossover SUV just got better.
In addition to the turbocharged inline-4 found in the xDrive28i model, every X3 gets additional fuel-saving features. The now-standard automatic stop/start technology is something previously only found on hybrids, which kills the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop in order to save fuel. The engine refires when you remove your foot from the brake. The vibration at start-up can get annoying at times, but get used to it and you might start to notice all the gas being wasted by other cars at traffic lights.
Another new feature is the Eco Pro mode, which has been added to the now-standard Driving Dynamics Control adjustable drive settings. Eco Pro optimizes the engine, transmission, heating, air-conditioning and electrical functions for the best possible fuel efficiency, while also adding visual signals in the iDrive screen to encourage more economical driving habits. But really, if you're so worried about burning excess fuel in a supposedly performance-oriented crossover SUV, perhaps a different type of vehicle would be in order.
As it is, the 2013 BMW X3 is one of the most appealing small luxury crossovers. It is arguably the sportiest example, providing the sort of handling composure and buttoned-down ride you'd expect from a BMW sport sedan. While the new turbo-4 delivers average (though still swift) acceleration for the class, the xDrive35i turbo-6 goes above and beyond, offering a degree of get-up-and-go that nothing else in the class can match. Of course, that model also comes with a similarly above-and-beyond price tag.
Indeed, the X3's price is on the lofty side regardless of model, and puts it up against larger, midsize luxury crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX and Lexus RX 350. The X3 is indeed smaller, but its generous amount of passenger and cargo room betters that of "compact" competitors like the Audi Q50 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350.
This in-betweener size, paired with an engaging driving experience, well-crafted cabin, ample available features content and yes, that efficient new engine makes the 2013 BMW X3 a very appealing choice. There's nothing sacrilegious or ludicrous about it.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2013
For 2013, a new turbocharged four-cylinder replaces the old naturally aspirated straight-6 in the BMW X3 xDrive28i model. Every X3 gets a standard power liftgate, automatic engine stop/start technology and the previously optional Driving Dynamics Control, which also gains a fourth mode (known as Eco Pro) for its adjustable drive settings. A lane-departure warning system is added to the options list.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2013 BMW X3 crossover SUV is available in two trim levels that correspond to engine choice: xDrive28i and xDrive35i. The xDrive refers to its standard all-wheel-drive system.
The xDrive28i comes standard with 18-inch wheels, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, foglamps, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with memory functions, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio system, HD radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Besides its more powerful engine, the xDrive35i adds adaptive and auto-leveling bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof and wood trim. These items are options on the 28i.
The Premium package includes keyless ignition/entry, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, rear manual side sunshades and cargo-area nets and tie-down points. The Cold Weather package includes heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats. The Cold Weather II package adds heated rear seats and headlight washers. The Technology package gets front and rear parking sensors, rear- and top-view parking cameras, a navigation system, real-time traffic information and the BMW Assist emergency communications system. The Premium Sound package adds a 16-speaker surround-sound audio system and satellite radio. The Driver Assistance package adds automatic high beams, a lane-departure warning system and, on the 35i, a head-up display. The xDrive28i is eligible for the Convenience package, which adds keyless ignition/entry, manual rear side sunshades and adaptive bi-xenon headlights.
The Sport Activity package is largely cosmetic, featuring sport seats, a sport steering wheel, transmission shift paddles (35i only), special exterior trim, and on the 35i, 19-inch wheels. The Dynamic Handling package adds enhanced speed-adjustable power steering and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. The M Sport package essentially combines the two, adding on adjustable suspension dampers (available separately on 35i), M division 19-inch wheels, an M division sport steering wheel and its own special exterior trim.
Some of the above items are available as stand-alone options, including keyless ignition/entry, front and rear parking sensors, the 40/20/40 rear seats, side window shades, the head-up display, heated front seats, the rearview camera, the navigation system, satellite radio and BMW Assist.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The X3's interior will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a BMW product. Classic analog gauges, sensible ergonomics and a restrained overall aesthetic combine to create a pleasant driving environment. Occupants will feel cocooned within the high-quality materials covering the seats, consoles and dash. BMW's iDrive electronics interface gives you the opportunity to control things you never could before, though it can come off as rather complicated. Most rival systems are easier to use.
While still considered a small crossover, the current-generation X3 has swelled to proportions similar to the previous-generation X5. As such, room for front passengers is more than ample, while rear legroom is downright generous and pairs with a truly comfortable seat. Indeed, this is one of the most family-friendly vehicles in the class. Total cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is 63.3 cubic feet, which makes it one of the larger small crossovers.
Every 2013 BMW X3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, automatic brake drying (useful in rainy weather), front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints, stability control and hill descent control. Optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, rear- and top-view parking cameras and a lane-departure warning system. Also available is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
In Edmunds brake testing, an xDrive35i stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is an average distance for the segment. An xDrive28i with the M Sport package stopped in 127 feet.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard, along with an automatic stop-start system. The latter shuts off the engine when stopped and then starts it when you take your foot off the brake in order to save fuel. In Edmunds performance testing, this engine brought the X3 from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is essentially average for the segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
The X3 xDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same transmission and driveline as the 28i. In Edmunds performance testing, the 35i hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which makes it by far the quickest vehicle in this segment. Its fuel economy stands at 19/26/21, which is actually better than less-powerful rivals.
Don't scoff at the notion of a four-cylinder in a luxury crossover SUV, because the new turbocharged xDrive28i model manages to be one of the quickest and most efficient models in the segment. You'd be hard-pressed to tell it only has four cylinders, and the X3 could easily get by with this excellent new engine alone. One minor gripe concerns the auto stop-start feature, however, as it can occasionally be a little abrupt upon restart. That feature can be disabled, thankfully.
Understandably, it'll be hard to say no to the xDrive35i and its turbocharged six-cylinder. Not only does it provide quicker acceleration than any other small luxury crossover, it returns decent fuel economy to boot.
Regardless of engine, the 2013 BMW X3 handles with the adeptness you expect from this German brand. The chassis feels light and the speed-sensitive steering gives the X3 a nimble quality that makes you really feel reasonably connected to the car. The ride is definitely on the firm side, but we think most people will still find it agreeable.
The 2013 BMW X3 is a fine, but pricey, choice for drivers seeking sport-sedan dynamics in a crossover SUV.