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BMW X3 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
If SUVs were a horror movie, they'd have to be the 1958 cult-classic The Blob: a drive-in special that told the story of a shapeless mass that grows and grows, eventually consuming everything in its path. A bit like James Packer, then. But also a bit like BMW's range of X-stamped SUVs. Take the X3, for example, which

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If SUVs were a horror movie, they'd have to be the 1958 cult-classic The Blob: a drive-in special that told the story of a shapeless mass that grows and grows, eventually consuming everything in its path. A bit like James Packer, then.

But also a bit like BMW's range of X-stamped SUVs. Take the X3, for example, which has slowly but relentlessly grown over the past 15 years, so much so that this all-new, third-generation model is now bigger in every key dimension than the original BMW X5.

Which means the X5 has also grown, which means the X6 has grown, which means the... well, you get the idea. If current trends continue, we won't be so much driving the next generation of X cars as we will be moving into them.

But unlike that cinematic tale, the X3's new and bigger dimensions have a happy ending, especially for riders lounging about in the really very spacious backseat. And there is more good stuff going on for this major update, too.

It's got a new and more muscular design penned by crayon-wielding Aussie ace Calvin Luk, and it's loaded with clever technology (including BMW's latest autonomous technology) pilfered from the new 5 series.

The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model. The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model.

But while the X3 has been both growing and growing better, so has the competition, and the premium mid-size SUV space is one the most hard-fought segments there is.

So how does the new X3 measure up.

BMW X3 2018: xDRIVE 30i
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$59,988

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model. And while, to our untrained eyes, the changes don't seem quite as extreme as Calvin insists they are, there's no doubting the X3 cuts a handsome figure on the road.

Viewed front-on, that traditional kidney grille has been raised to give it a more proud look out front, and it flows into a bonnet lined with new and defined creases carved front-to-back toward the windscreen. Muscular arches, roof rails and a razor-sharp body crease add attitude to the side profile, while at the back, a more tapered rear end is framed by a hint of rubber from the rear tyres.

  • The cheapest way into the X3 range earns you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside. The cheapest way into the X3 range earns you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside.
  • At the back, you'll find a more tapered rear end. At the back, you'll find a more tapered rear end.

Inside, the materials and layout are taken straight from the BMW playbook, but there's been a technology overhaul, albeit one that's more obvious on the more expensive models, with wireless phone charging, an updated touch screen and, on the 30i and 30d, a new digital driver's binnacle.

So evolution over revolution inside, but the cabin exudes a predictably premium feel no matter the trim.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

At 4708mm long, 1891mm wide and 1676mm high, this third-generation X3 is bigger than the original X5 (which was 4666mm long, and 1872mm wide), and all those those extra millimetres start making sense once you climb into the cabin.

Up front, every X3 feels spacious, with lots of headroom and, with electric front seats standard on every trim level, plenty of options to get comfortable. There are two cupholders that seperate the front seats (joining the two in the pull-down divider in the backseat), and there's room for a 1L bottle in each of the four doors. Up-front riders also share two USB ports, as well as a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.

  • Step up to either the 30i or 30d, and you'll add full leather seats. Step up to either the 30i or 30d, and you'll add full leather seats.
  • Backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though. Backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though.

Climb into the backseat and you'll find plenty more space on offer. There was more than enough clear-air between my knees and the seat in front when sitting behind my own (5ft10inch) driving position, and impressive headroom, even with the optional sunroof fitted.

Elsewhere in the back, three-zone climate is standard across the X3 range, so backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though. There's also two ISOFIX attachment points in the back, and a third top-tether point in the middle seat, so you can squeeze three child seats across the back.

The boot serves up 550 litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat in place, but should you drop them via the boot-mounted levers, that number grows to 1600 litres. There are some cool touches in the boot, too, like a hidden storage area under a partition in the boot, the lid for which is held open by a gas strut that makes loading easier. That extra space is also big enough to store the boot cover.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The BMW X3 range arrives in three flavours, the diesel-powered xDrive20d ($68,900), the petrol-pumping BMW xDrive30i ($75,900), and the biggest - and best - diesel option, the xDrive30d ($83,900). They'll be joined by the smallest petrol model, the xDrive20i, and the go-fast and enticing-sounding M40i version, both of which will touch down next year.

The xDrive30d is so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all. The xDrive30d is so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all.

For now, though, the cheapest way into the X3 range wears the xDrive20d badging, and your investment will earn you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside, while in the cabin you'll find part-leather-trimmed seats, a leather-lined steering wheel, a colour head-up display, navigation and a wireless charge pad for compatible phones. You'll also get three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo.

Step up to either the 30i or 30d (both are identically equipped), and you'll add 20-inch alloys, full leather seats, a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen running the latest iDrive system, and another 12-inch digital display that replaces the traditional gauges in the driver's binnacle.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option, with the clever wireless version of the system yours for $623, and you might want to spring for the 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo (another $2000), too. Both of which should really be standard on the more expensive models.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The xDrive20d kicks off proceedings with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine good for 140kW and 400Nm. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles its power to all four wheels. The combination will serve up a 8.0sec sprint to 100km/h (though it doesn't feel that fast).

Step up to the petrol-powered xDrive30i, and you'll find a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit nestled under the bonnet, producing 185kW and 350Nm, which is paired with an eight-speed "sport" automatic. It too sends its power to all four wheels, and will trim the sprint to 100km/h down to 6.3sec.

The xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm. The xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm.

But our pick of the current-engine bunch is the xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm. It pairs with the same eight-speed "sport" automatic as the 30i, but produces a sharper sprint to 100km/h of 5.8sec.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The smallest diesel is predictably the most efficient choice, sipping 5.7 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, with CO2 emissions pegged at 149g/km.

Fuel tank size is 60, 65 and 68 litres respectively.

The petrol variant - the xDrive30i - sees fuel use climb to a claimed/combined 7.6L/100km, with emissions a claimed 174g/km. Finally, the biggest diesel should return 6.0L/100km (claimed/combined) and 159g/km of C02.

Fuel tank size is 60, 65 and 68 litres respectively.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

It's actually pretty hard to go too far wrong in the premium mid-size SUV market at the moment, with the other Germans especially kicking all sorts of goals. And happily for BMW, this new X3 is packing the right skillset to launch right into the thick of that field.

All X3s come with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles power to all four wheels. All X3s come with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles power to all four wheels.

We spent the bulk of our time in the biggest diesel, the xDrive30d, and it's so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all. The smaller diesel lacks the outright punch to overtake quickly and cleanly, and is probably better suited to city life, and while the sole petrol option improves matters, its the rich stream of torque on offer from the big six-cylinder diesel makes it our pick of the bunch.

The eight-speed transmission is a treat, too; silky smooth in its changes, and quick enough to feel near-enough telepathic when you plant your right foot.

Plenty of work has gone into improving the ride, handling and NVH, or in other words, how quiet and cosseting the interior is, and even on loud road surfaces the cabin is impressively quiet, and the standard suspension strikes a handy balance of supple and sporty, so much so that, even on the twisting stretches of tarmac, there's seemingly no need to lean on the optional adaptive dampers (leaving a handy $1900 in your pocket).

19-inch alloys come as standard on the 20d, with 20-inch alloys being available on the 30i and 30d. 19-inch alloys come as standard on the 20d, with 20-inch alloys being available on the 30i and 30d.

But the big news in the cabin is the adoption of BMW's Driving Assistant Plus (BMW's autonomous technology) as standard on the 30i and 30d, meaning you can drive hands-free for up to 40 seconds. It's not infallible, of course, and will only work consistently when there's clear road markings, but it's a very handy safety net.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The safety story starts with six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain), as well as cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and a city-speed auto emergency braking system that detects pedestrians that BMW calls its Approach Control Warning. You’ll also find parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and a parking assistant function that will tell you if you’ll fit in a parking space, all of which arrives as standard on the xDrive20d.

BMW’s autonomous package allows you - in the right conditions - to take your hands off the wheel for spells of 40 seconds.

Stepping up to the 30i or 30d adds Driving Assistant Plus, which includes Active Cruise Control with AEB, cross-traffic warning and steering and lane assistants that form part of BMW’s autonomous package (the same that appears on the 5 series), and that will allow you - in the right conditions - to take your hands off the wheel for spells of 40 seconds.

The X3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2011, but the new-generation model hasn't been tested yet.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The X3 range is covered by BMW's three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and falls under the brand's condition-based servicing program. You can pre-pay your service costs when you buy the car, from $1440 to $2650, depending on the package you choose.

Verdict

The X3 is a hugely important model for BMW, and one that was starting to be left behind by rival models from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But this third-gen model levels the playing field once more, and launches the X3 straight back into the fray with the segment's best.

For our money, the xDrive30d is the pick of the bunch, serving up effortless performance in a comfortable, quiet and practical package.

Would you choose the new BMW X3 over a Mercedes-Benz GLC or Audi Q5? Tell us in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$69,990
Based on 155 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$59,800
Highest Price
$94,683

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M40i 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $93,623 – 94,683 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i Pricing and Specs
M40i IND COLLECTION 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $89,430 – 102,740 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $59,950 – 68,860 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $59,950 – 68,860 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Design8
Practicality9
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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