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BMW X3: All-New for 2018

By Frank A. Aukofer, March 24th, 2018

The most important -- and difficult thing -- in the automotive business is an institutional ability to predict the future. BMW has actually managed some of that soothsaying, of which the 2018 X3 xDrive 30i is a prime example.

Manufacturer photo: The third generation of the X3 premium compact crossover treads a familiar BMW X family path in combining rugged off-road looks with generous presence
Manufacturer photo: The third generation of the X3 premium compact crossover treads a familiar BMW X family path in combining rugged off-road looks with generous presence

The German automaker has expanded its lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles to plug every size and power niche in the premium category -- to the point where there are now seven distinct models: X1, new X2, X3, X4, X5, X6, and the upcoming X7, plus higher-performance versions.

Whether BMW was reacting to a trend or proactively contemplating where the market was headed, it has caught the wave of buyer infatuation with crossover SUVs, which are proliferating in every price class. It remains to be seen whether this is a passing fad, but no matter: BMW also has a garage full of sedans, coupes, convertibles, and sports cars in case there's a course correction. We'll skip self-driving cars for now.

Meanwhile, the company, which manufactures many of its crossovers at its plant in Spartanburg, S.C., entices high-end customers with machines like the all-new X3 xDrive 30i and its higher-performance -- and more expensive -- X3 M40i.

The X preceding a number is what BMW calls a "sports activity vehicle," known in the business as a crossover SUV. A lower-case x, as in xDrive, designates any BMW with all-wheel drive. And if there's an M somewhere in the title, it's a higher-performance or better-decorated model.

Manufacturer photo: The third generation of the X3 premium compact crossover treads a familiar BMW X family path in combining rugged off-road looks with generous presence

The model numbers actually don't mean much anymore. You might assume that the tested X3 xDrive 30i comes with a 3.0-liter engine. Nope. Because modern engines with turbocharging are getting smaller, this one actually delivers 248 horsepower and 285 lb.-ft. of torque from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

Step up to the higher-performance X3 M40i and the engine actually is a 3.0-liter V-6 with twin turbochargers that makes 355 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. Enough said.

strong>Back to the subject: the U.S.-built X3 30i. This is a nicely executed compact crossover with the power and features expected in this category. And, as with other automakers, BMW has an extensive options list and charges extra for equipment that is standard elsewhere.

strong>For example: The $3,300 Premium package includes a heated steering wheel, navigation system, and head-up display. Tack on another $350 for heated front and rear seats. The $2,850 Convenience package gets you a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, lumbar support, and SXM satellite radio.

Continuing: The $1,400 Dynamic Handling package includes M Sport brakes, dynamic adaptive shock absorbers, and variable sport steering, while the $900 Driving Assistance package adds blind spot and lane departure warning. The Parking Assist package covers a surround-view camera, active parking assist, and distance control.

Manufacturer photo: The third generation of the X3 premium compact crossover treads a familiar BMW X family path in combining rugged off-road looks with generous presence

There are also individual options, including $1,700 for Vernasca leather upholstery, $875 for a premium Harman Kardon audio system, $300 for Apple Car Play, $500 for wireless device charging, and $550 for metallic paint. All of that brought the test X3's base price of $42,450 up to $57,620.

Many desirable items were part of the standard equipment, including the eight-speed automatic transmission, driver-selectable driving modes, hill descent control, automatic stop-start, garage door opener, dark oak wood interior trim, leather-covered steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED low-beam headlights and fog lights, and a power tailgate.

Much of that, of course, is frosting that doesn't affect the basic driving goodness of the X3, which hews to BMW's traditional dedication to performance, handling, and braking. The X3, however, also delivers a luxury ambiance enhanced by a quiet cabin: You can hear the engine under hard acceleration but highway cruising at a steady speed is almost tranquil.

Overall, this is an inviting modern conveyance that delivers a competent, pleasurable, and comfortable driving experience with a dose of excitement. With sales of 40,691 in 2017, it is BMW's third-best selling model, behind the 3 Series sedan and X5.

X3 competitors include the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Specifications

Base price $42,450 (as tested: $57,620)
Curb weight 4,156 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type TwinTurbo 4-cylinder
Epa mileage rating 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 17.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 248 at 5200 rpm
Overall length 185.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 285 at 1450-4800 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact AWD CUV
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