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BMW X3 xDrive20d 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5
CarsGuide tested the latter over more than 800 kays of hot summer city and country driving. Did the X3 xDrive20d cut it over a torrid Christmas/New Year period?

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Not many SUVs have a toilet in the back, but our BMW X3 did during a two week test over the Christmas break.

Picking up a new loo for our home was just the start of 800-odd kilometres with the xDrive20d M-Sport which ferried presents and people all over town before Santa arrived, and then into the new year, all in scorching heat.

So, how does it compare to rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLCAudi Q5 or Volvo XC60? Is it at all practical? What’s the point of diesel? And how did I burn my finger while sitting in the driver’s seat?

BMW X3 2018: xDrive 20d
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$59,800

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

At the end of 2017 BMW brought out this all-new X3, and at first glance it looked just like the old one, but it’s not. The third-generation car has in fact been restyled, and sits on a new platform.

Put them side by side and this new X3 looks much tougher, with that prominent kidney grille, chunky front bumper, and big wheelarches with gills cut into them.

  • You might be interested to know that Australian, Calvin Luk designed the X3’s exterior. (image credit: Richard Berry) You might be interested to know that Australian, Calvin Luk designed the X3’s exterior. (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • Calvin Luk was also responsible for the smaller X1. (image credit: Richard Berry) Calvin Luk was also responsible for the smaller X1. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The M-Sport body kit accentuates that sturdy and athletic look with a blacked-out grille, plus massive air intakes in the front bumper and side sills which make the car look lower to the ground.

You might be interested to know that Australian, Calvin Luk designed the X3’s exterior. He was also responsible for the smaller X1 which has a bit of a humpy hatchback look to it, while the X3 delivers a more imposing SUV presence, closer to its larger X5 sibling.

To me, the X3 is a better-looking SUV than the Q5GLC and XC60, which are nice but don’t appear as complete or fully formed as the bigger SUVs in their respective range line-ups.

The X3's interior isn't as beautiful as the GLC's but it's a step up from the Q5's.

This X3 is larger than the previous one, measuring 4708mm long, 1676mm tall, and 1891mm wide.

If you’ve been in a BMW during the past decade the X3’s cabin will be a familiar place, with that large media/climate control/air vent stack in the centre of a slab-like dash. It barely seems to have changed.

That said, it’s still an extremely pleasant place to sit, and modern updates like the screen, digital instrument cluster and head-up display will remind you you’re not in 2009 anymore. The X3's interior isn't as beautiful as the GLC's but it's a step up from the Q5's in my mind.

The M-Sport package adds 19-inch ‘light’alloys. (image credit: Richard Berry) The M-Sport package adds 19-inch ‘light’alloys. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The M-Sport pack adds aluminium trim to the doors, centre console and dash, which looks great but is super reflective in the Aussie sun. Talking of which, on a 44.5 degree Christmas Eve that metallic start-stop button got hot enough to fry my finger.

Our car was also fitted with the $2500 ‘Vernasca Cognac’ leather upholstery. Take a look at the images, it’s a tan colour and while nearly everybody went “hmmm”, I thought it was “mmmm”.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

This was an area which Christmas was seriously going to test as we turned into a low-flying sleigh loaded with presents and headed all over Sydney and up the coast to Newcastle.

The X3 has plenty of head, leg and shoulder room up front and in the back seats. I’m 191cm tall and could sit behind my driving position with about 30cm to spare between my knees and the front seat back.

  • The X3 has plenty of head, leg and shoulder room up front. (image credit: Richard Berry) The X3 has plenty of head, leg and shoulder room up front. (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • I’m 191cm tall and could sit behind my driving position with about 30cm to spare. (image credit: Richard Berry) I’m 191cm tall and could sit behind my driving position with about 30cm to spare. (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • The 550-litre boot is bigger than the 505-litres of cargo space in the Volvo XC60. (image credit: Richard Berry) The 550-litre boot is bigger than the 505-litres of cargo space in the Volvo XC60. (image credit: Richard Berry)

It’s good that BMW hasn’t compromised the X3’s practicality by giving it a swoopy coupe roofline – that’s the X4’s territory - and that means the tall, wide opening doorway makes it easier to step in and out.

Meanwhile, the lower window line meant my son could see out from his car seat.

The X3’s 550-litre boot is bigger than the 505-litre cargo space of the XC but matches the luggage capacity of the Q5 and GLC.

And yes, as you can see by the pictures, the new loo and cistern fitted upright in the cargo area, plus we were able to fit all our luggage and the stupid amount of presents in for the journey home.

Beach trips also saw us try out the plastic under-floor storage compartments for our wet togs, and the shells and rocks we had to bring home with us.

  • After 800-odd kays over the Christmas break, the family got to know more about each other (sometimes too much). (image credit: Richard Berry) After 800-odd kays over the Christmas break, the family got to know more about each other (sometimes too much). (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • The X3 ferried presents and people all over town before Santa arrived, and then into the new year, all in scorching heat. (image credit: Richard Berry) The X3 ferried presents and people all over town before Santa arrived, and then into the new year, all in scorching heat. (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • The new loo and cistern fitted upright in the cargo area. (image credit: Richard Berry) The new loo and cistern fitted upright in the cargo area. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Storage throughout the cabin is excellent and better than the Q5's with giant pockets with bottle holders in all doors, two cupholders up front and a deep centre console storage bin which also has one USB port.

You'll also find a wireless phone charging pad for Android devices and iPhone 8, and there's a 12 volt power outlet in the second row under the rear air vents.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The xDrive20d is the entry-grade diesel X3 at $69,900, making it $4000 more than its petrol twin the sDrive20i. Our car was fitted with the $4550 ‘M-Sport’ package and the $3250 ‘Innovations’ package.

If you decide against adding these packages (they’re good, but not vital, so don’t feel pressured) the regular xDrive20d standard features list is more than adequate. There’s leather and cloth upholstery, a media system with a six-speaker stereo, a 6.5-inch display with sat nav (the ‘Business’ version) and reversing camera, head-up display, and adaptive cruise control.

The M-Sport package adds 19-inch ‘light’alloys, adaptive dampers, an M body kit, and wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.

There’s also rear parking sensors and an auto parking system, three-zone climate control, auto tailgate, digital radio, LED headlights and 19-inch alloy wheels.

The M-Sport package adds 19-inch ‘light’alloys, glossy roof racks, adaptive dampers, an M body kit, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, ‘Shadow Line’ (gloss black exterior trim elements), aluminium cabin highlights, and wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.

The Innovations package adds a proximity key, ‘Parking Assistant Plus’, and a digital instrument display. (image credit: Richard Berry) The Innovations package adds a proximity key, ‘Parking Assistant Plus’, and a digital instrument display. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The Innovations package adds a proximity key, ‘Parking Assistant Plus’ which can handle perpendicular spaces, adaptive LED headlights and a digital instrument display.

Our test car also featured an electric panorama glass sunroof (that’ll be $3000, thank you).

No X3 comes standard with tinted glass – it’s an $800 option.

Can I just add something to that list, too? Children’s sun shade: $15 from a petrol station. That’s because there was no dark tinting on the rear windows. No X3 comes standard with tinted glass – it’s an $800 option. Lucky for you BMW, the X3 had rear climate control which kept the toddler chilled.

Rivals to the xDrive20d M-Sport include the Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design ($73,990), Mercedes-Benz’s GLC 220d ($70,900) and Audi’s Q5 2.0TDI Quattro Sport ($70,700).

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The xDrive20d is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing a decent 140kW of power and plenty of torque (400Nm).

Two things stood out to me straight from the start: how smooth and quiet this engine is, and the lack of turbo lag.

I’d just finished reviewing the xDrive20d’s Volvo rival, the XC60 D5, and the diesel in that sounds and feels like a tractor’s in comparison.

An eight-speed automatic segues through gears almost imperceptibly in Comfort mode. (image credit: Richard Berry) An eight-speed automatic segues through gears almost imperceptibly in Comfort mode. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The absence of turbo lag was also a nice discovery with maximum torque at your disposal from just 1750rpm.

It feels docile compared to the more powerful 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six, but there’s more than enough grunt to move quickly when you need to.

An eight-speed automatic transmission segues through gears almost imperceptibly in Comfort mode, while Sport will shift harder. I'm a big fan of this eight-speed.

All X3s are all-wheel drive.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

BMW says the X3 should use 5.7L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. I put close to 800km on the clock with a good mix of motorways, city traffic and suburban rat runs, with the trip computer reporting 8.1L/100km.

I’m happy with that number, as I’ve been known to double the suggested fuel consumption figure without trying, so just under 2.5L/100km less than the ideal number, in real-world testing, isn’t bad.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

After two weeks and 800-odd kays over the Christmas break the family got to know more about each other (sometimes too much) and a lot about the way the X3 xDrive20d drives.

For starters I like the way BMW has transferred the dynamic feel of its sedans to its SUVs. The X3 is only 7.5cm longer than a BMW 3-Series but it’s 23.5cm taller, and 325kg heavier, and anybody who’s tried to run with a heavy backpack on knows how that affects your agility. Yet to drive, the X3 feels sharp and balanced.

That head-up display is the best I’ve used, full stop.

I’ve never been a fan of BMW’s chunky M-Sport steering wheel. Sure, I don’t have the world’s largest hands, but I still reckon it’s too big. Beyond that, while the steering itself feels numb, it’s at least accurate.

This X3 runs on 245/55 Pirelli Cinturato P7 run-flat tyres. The good news is they’ll withstand a minor puncture to let you drive to a place to change the wheel. The bad news is run flat tyres are known for their ‘coarser’ ride.

The other good news is that while I could feel a bit of that coarseness the overall ride was comfortable (the first thing my wife commented on as we headed to the in-laws).

Like all X3s the xDrive20d comes with ‘Comfort’, ‘Eco Pro’ and ‘Sport’ drive modes, and the M-Sport package adds adaptive dampers for better handling with a firmer, flatter ride in corners.

That head-up display is the best I’ve used, full stop. It’s clear, unobstructed, and provides detailed information such as maps for better sat nav directions.

The xDrive20d doesn’t have the whopping shove of its 30d big brother, but the responsive 2.0-litre has almost no turbo lag. (image credit: Richard Berry) The xDrive20d doesn’t have the whopping shove of its 30d big brother, but the responsive 2.0-litre has almost no turbo lag. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The hundreds of motorway kays we covered saw me give the adaptive cruise control a bit of a workout. While the response to keeping its distance from the car in front is good, the lane keeping side of the system is aggressive and feels like somebody grabbing the wheel to pull you back into your lane… Sheesh, chill out robot driver.

The third-gen X3 is longer than the last one but it was still small enough to squeeze into most city car spots we found. The auto parking feature is freakishly good, but I hardly used it, preferring to do it myself, and that led to me getting angry with the reversing camera which switches to an overhead view as soon as you get close to the car behind.

I know you’re just trying to help BMW but when the screen isn’t large it’s hard to see the gap.

There’s little else to complain about. Great forward visibility, good brake pedal feel and excellent stopping power. 

All X3s have a braked towing capacity of 2000kg.

As mentioned earlier, the xDrive20d doesn’t have the whopping shove of its 30d big brother, but the responsive 2.0-litre has almost no turbo lag and still has more than enough mumbo for motorway overtaking or just moving away from the lights with a bit of urgency.

All X3s have a braked towing capacity of 2000kg. Diesels are generally better for towing because they typically produce more torque than a petrol engine the same size at low revs, and they use less fuel.

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

This new gen X3 was tested in 2017 and scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. Standard on the xDrive20d is AEB which works at city speeds and can not only spot and brake for other cars, but can detect pedestrians, too. Blind spot and lane departure warning are also standard advanced safety equipment on the xDrive20d.

The expected safety features are also on hand to help should you need it including ESC and traction control, and of course ABS. There's also a suite of airbags with the driver and front passenger covered by head and side airbags.

For child seats you'll find three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points across the rear row.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

The X3 is covered by BMW’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warrantyServicing is condition based – which means your X3 will let you know when it needs a check-up.

servicing plan is available and involves an up-front payment. The ‘Basic’ five-year/80,000km plan cost $1495 in total and covers, engine oil, filters, spark plugs, brake fluid and a vehicle check. A more comprehensive service plan called the 'Plus' costs about $4500.

Verdict

An SUV which would talk somebody out of an Audi Q5 or Benz GLC would have to be an impressive thing. The X3 xDrive20d is just that  – an elegant and tough looking exterior, combined with a premium, practical cabin, and ride and handling that’ll make you forget you’re in an SUV.

Even after reading this would you still pick a Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 or Benz GLC over an X3? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$72,990
Based on 147 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$59,800
Highest Price
$92,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M40i 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $84,260 – 96,800 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i Pricing and Specs
M40i IND COLLECTION 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $89,870 – 103,290 2018 BMW X3 2018 M40i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $60,170 – 69,190 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i Pricing and Specs
sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $60,170 – 69,190 2018 BMW X3 2018 sDRIVE 20i IND COLLECTION Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership6
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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