By Kelsey Mays on February 6, 2014
Competes with: Audi Q5, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
Looks like: BMW's typical mid-cycle update applied to the X3
Drivetrain: 180-hp, turbo 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder; 240-hp, turbo 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder or 300-hp, turbo 3.0-liter gasoline six-cylinder; eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive (2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder only) or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Spring 2014
No, it wasn't in a press conference at today's 2014 Chicago Auto Show, but BMW decided to unveil an update on its X3 SUV, which was last redesigned for 2011. Some visual changes join significant interior updates, particularly among the dashboard's center controls. But the biggest news may be the diesel X3 xDrive28d, which is the first time we've seen a diesel X3 in the U.S. There's also a new rear-wheel-drive version of the four-cylinder gasoline X3, called the sDrive28i.
When the X3 goes on sale this spring, the rear-drive sDrive28i will start at $39,325 including destination. That's $1,400 less than the 2014 X3 xDrive28i, which had standard all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive X3 xDrive28i starts at $40,725 - the same price as the 2014 version — while the xDrive28d and six-cylinder xDrive35i add $2,100 and $5,100, respectively.
The most significant styling change comes to the X3's headlights. They adopt a similar framework to the larger X5, while the lower bumpers add some visual flair versus the 2011-2014 X3's ... how shall we say, boring front end. BMW says the front and rear bumpers are completely new, as are the headlights, grille and side mirrors. LED headlights are optional.
BMW says overall length has grown just 1 centimeter. A new xLine Package adds metallic bumper inserts, aluminum side cladding, bars across the air intakes and more underbody work in the front and rear. An M Sport Package, meanwhile, adds some aerodynamic enhancements and 19- or 20-inch alloy wheels.
In back, BMW's new Smart Opener allows you to wave your foot under the bumper to open the power tailgate, similar to a feature in the Ford Escape.
The redesigned center controls feature BMW's black-panel display with a dark finish and illuminated icons. BMW's latest iDrive controller governs the action on a 6.5- inch dashboard display.
The five-seat interior has 27.6 cubic feet of cargo room, with 63.3 cubic feet available with the seats folded down. That beats the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and the Audi Q5, though only with the rear seats folded, but the Lexus RX still rules the roost with 40 and 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up and down, respectively.
The diesel xDrive28d employs a turbocharged diesel four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. The sDrive28i and xDrive28i have a turbo 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder with 240 hp and 260 pounds-feet of torque, while the xDrive35i's turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder makes 300 hp and 300 pounds-feet of torque. The X3's eight-speed automatic transmission includes paddle shifters in M Sport versions. A drivetrain controller includes an Eco Pro mode, which purports to improve real-world gas mileage.
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey