The last time I reviewed the compact luxury X3 crossover from BMW I proclaimed it the best in its class. Recently I drove the all-new third-generation 2018 BMW X3 and despite the competition rising to the challenge of the Bavarians, BMW has seen to it that this model remains the class leader.
The X3 is built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, alongside siblings X4, X5, and X6 luxury crossovers. I call these vehicles crossover utility vehicles but BMW prefers to use Sport Activity Vehicle for identity. Truth be told, there really is no difference, just perception. They are built on unibody chassis so their operation is more carlike and they offer all of the amenities and creature comforts as the newest BMW sedans and coupes while also delivering some off pavement attributes to include all-wheel drive and ground clearance.
Our X3 tester arrived in xDrive30i format, which is somewhat of a “base” model in the X3 lineup. Going up the trim levels would lead you to the M40i, the first M Performance model for the X3. The xDrive30i is powered by a peppy 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline four-cylinder engine producing 248hp and 258 lb. ft. of torque. This engine is more powerful than the outgoing normally-aspirated 3.0-liter inline six of the previous generation X3. M40i buyers are treated to the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six and its 355hp and 369 lb. ft. torque. Both engines are mated to 8-speed Steptronic sport automatic transmission with shift paddles.
All new X3 models arrive with BMWs xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive as standard that sees a more efficient and lighter rear differential and modified transfer case for 2018. These upgrades allow for the perfect 50:50 front to rear weight distribution in the new X3. There is also a new Driving Dynamics Control toggle in the console that allows drivers to select from ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport, and Adaptive driving modes. I spent the entire week in Adaptive mode allowing the X3 to automatically adjust driving technologies and the dynamic damper control to match road and driving conditions.
So how do all of these systems come together for the driver? In a word, magnificently. The new X3 never failed to offer adequate power whatever the driving situation and handling and comfort were above reproach. We spent a few days driving some back roads of east Texas and the BMW never let us down, not even when we did have to leave pavement for a little while. There were many times when I had to pull the reins a bit as I did not realize just how much I was enjoying driving this vehicle. This is truly a driver’s crossover (or sport activity vehicle) that earns the BMW moniker of “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
Aside from the engineering, we also really enjoyed the craftsmanship and quality of the new X3. Comfortable leather was everywhere in the passenger space along with some beautiful wood trim. We did not want for anything else as our 2018 X3 tester arrived with nearly every BMW amenity including convenience package (panoramic sunroof, lumbar support, SiriusXM radio, keyless entry), driving assistance package (active blind spot protection, lane departure warning, daytime pedestrian protection, frontal collision warning and city collision mitigation, rear cross traffic alert, and speed limit info), dynamic handling package (dynamic damper control, M Sport brakes, sport steering, performance control), parking assistance package (parking assistance plus, active park distance control, rear view camera, surround view with 3D view), premium package (heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, navigation system, head-up display, advanced RTTI, and remote services). We also enjoyed enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity, ambiance lighting, power front sport seats, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, WiFi hotspot, and premium Harman/Kardon surround audio system.
Pricing for the new 2018 BMW X3 begins at $42,450 with our loaded xDrive30i tester arriving with a final window sticker of $57,470. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway but we saw slightly better than that during our mixed driving.
The last BMW X3 was the best in its class and now that has been unseated by this third-generation model. Here is the perfect example of the compact luxury crossover segment that is as enjoyable to drive as it is to look at. BMW has done it again in its quest to build the ultimate driving machines.