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Key Specs
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2018 BMW X3. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Ride quality (xDrive30i)
  • Refined engine (xDrive30i)
  • Front-seat comfort
  • Apple CarPlay integration
  • Lots of semi-autonomous technology
  • Many ways to customize

The Bad

  • Backseat position
  • Numb steering
  • Modest cargo room
  • Automatic braking not standard
  • No Android Auto
  • Not much nicer than X1

Notable Features of the 2018 BMW X3

  • Redesigned for 2018
  • Five-seat SUV
  • Standard AWD
  • Standard turbo four-cylinder (xDrive30i)
  • Optional turbo six-cylinder (M40i)
  • Available lane-centering steering

2018 BMW X3 Road Test

Kelsey Mays
The Verdict:

The redesigned BMW X3 is a refined luxury SUV, but the biggest case against it might be another model in BMW’s showroom.

Versus The Competition:

The X3 boasts decent quality and drivability in a bustling class of compact luxury SUVs, but the more affordable X1 could be the X3’s undoing.

Redesigned for 2018, the BMW X3 has standard all-wheel drive and comes in four-cylinder (xDrive30i) and six-cylinder (M40i) configurations. We drove a well-optioned X3 xDrive30i.

Cleaner Styling

The new X3 is decluttered versus the 2017 model, emulating the smaller X1 — a handsome place to start. Three bumper openings replace the prior four, with lighting elements in the outboard units instead of last year's separate foglight dimples. Styling is subjective, of course, but I suspect this will age well — unlike the first- and second-generation X3s, which struck me as too busy-looking.

Exterior dimensions haven't changed, but the wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, LED low-beam headlights and dual tailpipes are standard. So is dark lower cladding that brings a durable, go-anywhere look; that's a check the BMW X3's 8 inches of ground clearance should be able to cash. The M40i swaps that cladding for body-colored ground effects, though an optional M Sport Package on the xDrive30i emulates much of the look for less cash. You can also get adaptive headlights, LED high beams and wheels up to 21 inches.

How It Drives

A poky eight-speed automatic transmission holds back an otherwise strong driving experience in the X3 xDrive30i, whose 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder makes 248 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. It's a capable engine with broad power that comes early and stays late. That's much needed, as the tran...

Redesigned for 2018, the BMW X3 has standard all-wheel drive and comes in four-cylinder (xDrive30i) and six-cylinder (M40i) configurations. We drove a well-optioned X3 xDrive30i.

Cleaner Styling

The new X3 is decluttered versus the 2017 model, emulating the smaller X1 — a handsome place to start. Three bumper openings replace the prior four, with lighting elements in the outboard units instead of last year's separate foglight dimples. Styling is subjective, of course, but I suspect this will age well — unlike the first- and second-generation X3s, which struck me as too busy-looking.

Exterior dimensions haven't changed, but the wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, LED low-beam headlights and dual tailpipes are standard. So is dark lower cladding that brings a durable, go-anywhere look; that's a check the BMW X3's 8 inches of ground clearance should be able to cash. The M40i swaps that cladding for body-colored ground effects, though an optional M Sport Package on the xDrive30i emulates much of the look for less cash. You can also get adaptive headlights, LED high beams and wheels up to 21 inches.

How It Drives

A poky eight-speed automatic transmission holds back an otherwise strong driving experience in the X3 xDrive30i, whose 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder makes 248 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. It's a capable engine with broad power that comes early and stays late. That's much needed, as the transmission resists downshifts in its normal driving mode until you push the gas hard. (A Sport mode helps by holding lower gears longer, but it does so inconsistently.) But even absent a downshift, the xDrive30i has enough low-rpm muscle to maintain highway speed with multiple occupants aboard.

The SUV's rear-drive roots reveal competent balance if you push it hard, but numb steering and modest body roll don't encourage spirited driving. Sport mode shores up some of the body lean and relaxes power-steering assist to improve feedback through the turn, but the initial numbness remains. On the flip side, at least ride quality is strong. With its optional adaptive shock absorbers, our xDrive30i had a degree of sophistication that's rare for this class — better than the unsorted Volvo XC60 and busy Lexus RX, and quieter on broken pavement than the Audi Q5.

If you want something more hardcore, the X3 M40i employs a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 (355 horsepower, 369 pounds-feet of torque). BMW says it hits 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds, versus 6 seconds flat for the xDrive30i. The M40i also gets higher-performance suspension tuning, plus a litany of hardware that's optional on the xDrive30i: a performance steering ratio, upgraded brakes and AWD that sends more power to the outside wheels during corners. (Numb reflexes and all, our xDrive30i test car had those options.) Adaptive shock absorbers are also optional on the M40i.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the xDrive30i is 22/29/25 mpg (city/highway/combined), which is competitive with the class. Over some 360 miles of mostly highway driving, I hit the highway rating on the dot. The M40i sacrifices 2 mpg across the board. Like most German luxury models, all versions of the BMW X3 prefer premium gas. Competitors like the RX and Cadillac XT5 are less efficient but run fine on the cheap stuff. It's a toss-up.

The Inside

The new X3's cabin follows BMW's norm, with a mashup of stacked controls below a tablet-like screen that floats above the center air vents. Storage provisions are good, and handsome materials adorn all eye-level areas, with an optional stitched vinyl wrap on upper sections of the dashboard and doors. Still, grainier finishes and unpadded surfaces sit below elbow level — on par with most competitors, though the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and XC60 feel a cut above.

Power-adjustable front seats and vinyl upholstery, which BMW calls SensaTec, are standard. Leather is optional, as are heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. The seats are comfortable overall, with good headroom in both rows despite our test car's optional panoramic moonroof (a feature that typically cuts overhead space). Chunky grab handles on the front doors invade outboard knee space, and adults in back may find their knees uncomfortably elevated because the bench sits so low to the floor. Overall legroom in back is merely so-so.

The 40/20/40-split backseat reclines a few degrees but doesn't slide. A power liftgate is standard, and BMW pegs cargo volume at 28.7 cubic feet behind the backseat and 62.7 cubic feet with the seats folded. We've found cargo specs unreliable, but BMW says it measured the X3 in apples-to-apples fashion with its other SUVs. At minimum, that suggests cargo volume closer to that of the X1 (27.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats; 58.7 cubic feet with the seats folded) than the X5 (35.8 and 76.7 cubic feet).

HD radio, Bluetooth and a 6.5-inch display with a backup camera — but not a touchscreen — is standard. Some more premium package options include a 10.3-inch display that works via touchscreen or BMW's iDrive system controls. You can also get wireless Apple CarPlay, BMW's newfangled gesture control, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, LTE in-car Wi-Fi and a bevy of device compatibility (smartphone and smartwatch apps, plus Amazon Echo integration). Despite all this, Android Auto is unavailable.

The X3 has yet to be crash-tested, but forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking remains optional, not standard. That's an important safety provision that's widely standard in the class; it's even standard on a $16,530 Toyota Yaris. BMW needs to get with the program. Other options run the semi-autonomous gamut, from lane-centering steering to adaptive cruise control. Both systems can work all the way down to a stop, though the steering feature requires periodic driver inputs; it isn't hands-free like Cadillac's Super Cruise.

Versus the Alternatives

Shopping the X3 M40i? Have at it. We haven't driven the high-performance X3, which starts in the mid-$50,000s and runs to about $70,000 with all options; it gives enthusiasts an alternative to the Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and others of that ilk.

But I suspect most X3 shoppers want the xDrive30i, which accounts for some 85 percent of the 2018 model-year X3 inventory on Cars.com as of this writing. It starts around $43,500 and tops out in the low $60,000s with a full slate of factory options. That's in line with competing, base-engine luxury SUVs. Just look around the showroom first.

The X1 runs from the mid-$30,000s with similar standard features (albeit optional AWD) to the low $50,000s with a slew of options. Luxury cars have a way of playing up the numbers, but the X3 is not automatically better. Its smaller sibling gives up some front-seat comfort but repays it in back, with a higher seating position plus an optional reclining and sliding backseat. Cargo space and acceleration are comparable, as is cabin quality. The X1 rides notably firmer with no handling payoff to show for it — its weakest point, to be sure, but something I doubt will rankle many SUV drivers in practice.

Seldom does a class beg you to upgrade more than subcompact SUVs do. They seem to want you to opt for their larger, compact siblings — even among luxury brands. The X1 is the exception. It's a remarkable SUV in an unremarkable class, and it gives X3 shoppers a compelling alternative at substantial savings.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.


2018 X3 Video

The redesigned 2018 BMW X3's most compelling competition might come from BMW itself in the X1 subcompact SUV, which isn't so sub-sized.

Latest 2018 X3 Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.9)
Performance
(4.8)
Interior Design
(4.9)
Comfort
(4.9)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

A fine example of strong, german, engineering.

by Dubya from Metamora, Il on August 28, 2018

Having owned the vehicle for very short time; it is a bit early to speak of a long term experience. I am hopeful that it will be very reliable and am counting on it. Read full review

(3.0)

Drivetrain Malfunction < 4,000 mi , stranded!

by 5th BMW - DISMAL DISAPPOINTMENT on August 24, 2018

X3 xDrive30i 2.0L, 14 Twin Scroll Turbo . New, under 4,000 mi. While parked ,"Drivetrain Malfunction" displayed. Turn off, restarted, car entered total Lockdown Mode: No gears, completely inoperable. ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2018 BMW X3 currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
marginal

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Headlights

Overall Rating
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good
marginal

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by BMW
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / unlimited distance

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    Certified Pre-Owned Elite with less than 15,000 miles; Certified Pre-Owned with less than 60,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    1 year/unlimited miles from expiration of 4-year/50,000-mile new car warranty

  • Powertrain warranty

    N/A

  • Dealer Certification Required

    196-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

Change Year or Vehicle

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The X3 received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Latch or Latch system

A

Infant seat

C

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

A

Rear-facing convertible

B

Booster

(second row)

A
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker