- Strong performance and fuel economy from any of its available engines
- High-quality cabin feels luxurious
- Generous passenger and cargo room for the segment
- Responsive handling bettered only by pricier sport-tuned rivals
- Top-notch crash-test scores
- Costs more than similarly equipped competitors
- The rearview camera is optional
- Adaptive cruise control doesn't perform as well as those of rivals
- Some controls can be difficult to learn
The 2017 BMW X3 is a compact luxury SUV that's defying expectations. Typically when a car enters its seventh year on the market without a full redesign, it starts to lose its appeal as it becomes overshadowed by newer and more up-to-date rivals. And usually, you don't need to be a car expert to notice the difference between a fresh offering and one that's approaching its sell-by date. In the case of the X3, though, it's tough to tell.
This oldie but a definite goodie brings to the table a lengthy list of virtues that satisfy both practical and emotional needs. It's one of the most spacious compact luxury SUVs for people and their stuff, yet it's also one of the most fun to drive. The performance of its three available engines are among the class best, yet their fuel economy is relatively thrifty. Then there's the cabin, which is of high quality and remains mostly up to date on the technology front despite its age (the similarly old Audi Q5 cannot say the same thing).
If there's a reason to second-guess the X3, it would be the price. Feature for feature, you'll be getting less for more money with the X3. However, when you factor in its practicality, sophisticated driving dynamics and overall quality, its value equation doesn't seem so lopsided. As such, we think the 2017 BMW X3 remains a class leader even in the face of newer and very impressive competitors, including the Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and Porsche Macan. More family-friendly choices like the Acura RDX and Volvo XC60 are also worth a look.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
For 2017, the iDrive interface included with the optional navigation system is updated to the latest version. The xDrive35i now comes standard with "Comfort Access" keyless ignition and entry, power lumbar adjustment and satellite radio. The options list is also bolstered with wireless charging and a WiFi hotspot.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 BMW X3 is a five-passenger compact luxury SUV available in four trim levels: sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive28d and xDrive35i. The number/letter combo in the name corresponds to the engine type, while the sDrive and xDrive bit refers to whether it has rear- or all-wheel drive, respectively.
Apart from their powertrains, the sDrive28i, xDrive28i and xDrive28d are equipped equally. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, roof rails, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, LED foglamps, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with driver memory functions, "SensaTec" premium vinyl upholstery, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface, and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
Besides its more powerful engine, the xDrive35i gets standard adaptive xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, front seat power lumbar adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, satellite radio and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. These extras are available on the lower trim levels.
The optional Technology package gets you a head-up display, a navigation system (includes a larger central iDrive screen and an upgraded controller that accepts handwritten inputs), an enhanced driver information display in the gauge cluster, smartphone app integration and BMW Remote Services.
The Dynamic Handling package adds a driver-adjustable suspension, variable-ratio steering and an enhanced version of the all-wheel-drive system (sDrive28i excluded).
A Driver Assistance package is also offered that bundles front and rear parking sensors with a rearview camera, while the Driver Assistance Plus package throws in a surround-view camera system, an active blind-spot monitor, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking and a lane departure warning system. Adaptive cruise control is available with the Driver Assistance Plus package at additional cost. The Lighting package adds adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams to the xDrive35i, while the lesser trims get xenon headlights included, or LED headlights for an extra fee.
The M Sport package features 19-inch wheels, torque-vectoring AWD, an enhanced body kit, sport front seats, special interior trim and a sport steering wheel. Also, all trims except the xDrive28d get an eight-speed sport transmission with shift paddles, while the xDrive28d gets the shift paddles minus the transmission upgrade.
Some of the above items (e.g., the panoramic sunroof and the navigation system) are available as stand-alone options, and the xDrive35i's Harman Kardon audio system is optional on other X3 models. You may also encounter X3 models with an optional Mobile Assistance package that combines certain features from the Premium, Cold Weather and Technology packages.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The X3's interior is classic BMW, from its traditional analog gauges to its sensible ergonomics and restrained sense of style. Most surfaces are covered in high-quality and rich-looking materials, while the center stack cants slightly toward the driver for a more intimate feel. The various knobs and buttons become familiar in short order. It's a traditional layout overall, but we wouldn't call it dated.
The iDrive electronics interface is an X3 strong suit, particularly with the larger, higher-resolution screen that comes with the navigation system. An integrated touchpad lets you scrawl text and number inputs with your fingertip, a feature that's more useful than you might think. The menu structure is straightforward and processing times are quick, which helps minimize the amount of time you spend looking away from the road.
Room for front passengers is ample by every measure, while rear legroom is downright generous and pairs with a truly comfortable seat. Reviews often focus on the X3's performance, but it's also one of the most family-friendly vehicles in this segment. The cargo area behind the rear seats measures 27.6 cubic feet, and total capacity with the rear seatbacks folded down is 63.3 cubic feet. Both are among the biggest in the segment.
Every 2017 BMW X3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, automatic brake drying (useful in rainy weather), front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front seat head restraints. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification and on-demand roadside assistance.
The optional BMW Remote Services system upgrades BMW Assist with remote door unlocking, GPS vehicle location and additional features that can be operated via the My BMW Remote smartphone app. Other optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, an active blind-spot monitor, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, rear- and surround-view parking cameras and a lane departure warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an xDrive35i stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, while an xDrive28i with 19-inch wheels stopped in 127 feet. Both of these are longer than average, which is disappointing for a performance-oriented SUV like the X3.
In government crash testing, the X3 received five out of five stars in overall crash protection, with five stars for frontal crash protection and side impact protection. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Every 2017 BMW X3 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an automatic stop-start system. The latter saves fuel by shutting off the engine when you come to a stop and then starting it when you take your foot off the brake. Note that in BMW-speak, sDrive equals rear-wheel drive and xDrive equals all-wheel drive.
The 2017 BMW X3 sDrive28i and xDrive28i are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the xDrive28i went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is a bit quicker than average for the segment. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway) for both the sDrive28i and xDrive28i.
The X3 xDrive28d is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. BMW estimates it will go from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is slow for the segment but typical for a diesel. EPA-estimated fuel economy was not available at the time of this writing, but we expect it will be similar to last year's excellent estimates of 30 mpg combined (27 city/34 highway).
The X3 xDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the xDrive35i hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which is quicker than most competitors in the segment. Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway), which is a remarkably frugal showing for such a powerful vehicle.
Don't be fooled by the modest 240-hp rating of the 28i models; acceleration is quite brisk and the four-cylinder doesn't run out of breath at higher engine speeds. The xDrive28d is about a second slower to 60 mph, but the extra torque makes it feel quicker than the numbers suggest. Still, if you don't mind paying extra for the xDrive35i, you'll be rewarded with thrilling acceleration and fuel economy that isn't far off the 28i models' pace.
The X3 delivers on the promise of BMW performance in other respects, too. Take it around a turn with enthusiasm and it feels light and nimble. As compact luxury crossovers go, it's one of the sportiest, particularly with the optional adjustable suspension. Although the ride quality is definitely on the firm side, most people will find the 2017 BMW X3 quite livable, whether commuting on urban streets or taking long highway trips.
Not everything is perfect behind the wheel, though. The auto stop-start function that comes with all X3 models does improve fuel economy, but it can be an annoyance in heavy traffic. Fortunately, you can manually disable this feature. We would also think twice about opting for the adaptive cruise control, which isn't as good as rival systems -- specifically the "Distronic Plus" system offered by the Mercedes GLC.
It may not be the newest vehicle in its segment, but if you're shopping for a compact luxury SUV, the 2017 BMW X3 remains a go-to choice. It's capable of meeting both your practical needs and luxury aspirations, while stacking up well to new and more recently redesigned competitors.