2014 BMW X3 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 2, 2017

The 2014 BMW X3 is one of the sportiest-driving yet most fuel-efficient compact crossovers; and especially if you're not budget-limited you'll almost certainly be happy with its useful technology options and finely detailed cabin.

With rather impressive gas mileage and on-road handling, the 2014 BMW X3 hits the right niche for the German automaker. It pleases the image-conscious like the related 3-Series does, but offers up better passenger space. Even though this luxury niche has grown crowded, the X3 remains one of the better choices.

The X3 doesn't look outdoorsy or rugged. It's lean and pert like a sport wagon with a tall roof and just enough in common with the X5 SUV. The interior is calming and elegant, without much clutter or excessive detailing. The 2014 BMW X3 continues to offer a lineup of engines all with turbo power. BMW's 240-hp turbo four is snappy and puts out V-6-like power. It moves the SUV without hesitation. Step up to the 35i, and you get the 300-hp, 300 lb-ft TwinPower six that sizzles to a 60-mph acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, and to a top speed of 150 mph. It's just the slightest bit confusing to your mind, since the X3 rides tall like a crossover, but launches with every bit of the authority of a great 3er--that's right, there's just not a lot of squat or nosedive in this vehicle.

While the X3 doesn't look trail-focused, mild off-roading isn't off the BMW X3's roster of capabilities. All X3 models come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, which splits power delivery 40/60 percent and is especially good for maintaining traction and poise when the road surface is slippery. It sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels in normal driving but can flex to send 100 percent to the rear. Packaging is where the 2014 X3 sure makes a lot of sense. At about 183 inches long and 74 inches wide, with a wheelbase of 110.6 inches, it has a footprint that's at the large end of compact, among U.S. cars, while its added height gives it roominess and usefulness as an all-purpose family conveyance. It's about the same size as the Audi Q5, and a bit longer than the Mercedes GLK or shorter than the Cadillac SRX.

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With seating for five, the X3 has a large 19-cubic-foot rear storage area that swells to 56.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. The rear seats now all have a ski pass-through and 40:20:40 segments for better flexibility and seatback folding. In back, there's space carved out for feet, under the front seat, and head room soars. We recommend the sport seats in front for their extendable thigh bolsters and more aggressive side bolstering; they may feel firmer at first but they're better in long-distance support. Safety features include all the usual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability systems. In Sport mode, drivers of a navigation-and-iDrive-equipped X3 can customize that Sport mode for differing levels of stability control.

All X3 models have a power tailgate; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; dynamic cruise control; Bluetooth; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, a USB port, HD and satellite radio. BMW's iDrive system is standard, too, and for 2014 it gets a significant upgrade, to version 4.2--which has many navigation improvements, plus easier menus, a new split-screen layout, improved voice recognition, and 3D city maps. The Technology Package brings many of the top-tech items, including navigation, the head-up display, real-time traffic info, Remote Services, and BMW Apps. Otherwise, options like Lane Departure Warning, Dynamic Damper Control, heated rear seats, and adaptive lighting aren't widely offered, even among luxury-brand crossovers this size.

For 2014, the M Sport Package is offered with a wider range of interior-trim choices, and the Cold Weather Package is offered with Premium Package or Nevada Leather seats. USB and full Bluetooth smartphone integration are newly included with the Technology Package, and all 35i models include trailer pre-wiring.

8

2014 BMW X3

Styling

The 2014 X3 builds up from sport sedans rather than down from SUVs, with a pert profile and no sign of faux ruggedness.

The BMW X3 continues, in its current generation, to go stray away from the rugged, outdoorsy look--instead following one that's more like a tall sport wagon.

With its last complete redesign in 2011, BMW gave this model more length, width, and physical presence, and capped it with cues that resemble the bigger X5. The pert sport-wagon profile wears a swooping crease at the beltline, a tapered nose, and chiseled lines around its hood for a lower, leaner look than more traditional SUVs muster.

The X3's high style depends on carefully executed details and surfaces. The twin-kidney grille looks just as purposeful here as in the sedans, while the tail is capped with small, LED-lit taillamps shaped like those on a 5-Series or 3-Series sedan.
Anyone who's driven a BMW recently will find the dash familiar. It arcs around the controls and cants them toward the driver. It's finished almost entirely in soft-touch surfaces, too. From the middle of the door panels up to the glass, the X3's cabin feels soft to the touch and looks well-finished, not glossy or hard.

The way it all comes together is not just calming, but de-cluttered an at ease with its mission. Audio and climate controls are simplified, with the off-centered iDrive controller and large, wide LCD screen further improved this year with version 4.2.

8

2014 BMW X3

Performance

The X3 xDrive28i is plenty quick with its TwinPower four; and it handles almost like a sport sedan.

The 2014 X3 offers a lineup of engines, each one of them turbocharged.

The strong 2.0-liter turbo-4 that replaced BMW's venerated inline-6 has more power and better gas mileage than its predecessor. Output of 240 hp and 260 lb-ft now rates 39 lb-ft more than in its first year on the road. With the turbo-4, BMW says the X3 can hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, a time that comes off as conservative once you've driven it. The new-generation 4-cylinder is a marvel, with variable cam timing and valve timing, as well as direct fuel injection, all of which enables a very low torque peak of 1,250 rpm.

In the X3 xDrive35i, BMW's turbocharged 300-hp inline-6 takes over and reels off 0-60 mph times of 5.5 seconds. Its top speed is set at 150 mph. Those numbers bring BMW's own 3-Series to mind, and for good reason--they're strong enough to knock off some recent vintage M3s. It's confusing given the X3's tall body, that it handles without much nose dive or suspension squat at all.

Factor in the quick, smooth shifts of the eight-speed automatic transmission here, and the character of the powertrain is precise and responsive. With a Driving Dynamics Control system, you can select between several 'attitudes,' like Eco Pro, to best fit your priorities.

While the X3 doesn't look super-rugged, mild off-roading isn't off the BMW X3's roster of capabilities. All X3 models come with an all-wheel-drive system that splits power between the front and rear wheels at a 40/60 ratio. The system is great for holding traction and poise when the road surface turns slippery. That 60 percent of torque sent to the rear wheels in good-weather driving can adapt to send 100 percent of available torque to the rear end.

BMW fits the X3 with user-adjustable steering and suspension systems. Other BMWs have similar systems and implement it better. The stock strut and multi-link suspension can add adaptive shocks and a Driving Dynamics Control system, which alters the electronic programming for throttle, shifts, shock stiffness, and steering feel. It's best in Sport mode, where it's tuned for a tauter ride and swift responses.

However, we're not huge fans of standard steering. It has progressive build-up in corners, but doesn't unwind in a linear way, which leads to lots of post-corner corrections. BMW offers a variable-ratio system that improves on that feel and adds assist at parking-lot speeds, while it doesn't give up on higher-speed on-center feel.

9

2014 BMW X3

Comfort & Quality

The X3 gets all the details right, with excellent fit and soft-touch materials throughout.

Packaging is where the 2014 X3 makes a lot of sense. At about 183 inches long and 74 inches wide, with a wheelbase of 110.6 inches, it has a footprint that's at the large end of compact, among U.S. cars, while its added height gives it roominess and usefulness as an all-purpose family conveyance.

The X3 makes excellent use of that space. Its front seats are surrounded by plenty of leg and head room. The seats have a good range of adjustment, a proper height, and firm cushions. Take the optional sport seats if you can, for their thicker side bolsters and extending thigh cushions. They may feel firmer at first but will pay off with better long-distance support.

Second-row passengers have even more space--it's where the added length is most noticeable, and where the X3 takes the lead over vehicles like the Q5 and GLK Class. The back seats also benefit from toe room carved out from beneath the front seats.

With five-seater space, the X3 walls off a large 19-cubic-foot storage area in back. It expands to 56.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. The rear seats now all have a ski pass-through and 40:20:40 segments for better flexibility and seatback folding.

BMW has paid close mind to the X3's details. The cargo area wears rich carpet, beautifully engineered seatback releases, and sturdy metal cargo rails. Moving forward, all the materials on the tops of the doors are soft-touch, with really nice-looking grains, and the net effect is that the cabin has a hushed ambiance that soaks up noise from conversations inside the car and noise from the outside.

Ride quality is firm, and you do hear the mechanical sounds of the four-cylinder engine a bit at idle, but road and wind noise are mostly sealed out.

8

2014 BMW X3

Safety

Top Safety Pick status and excellent handling are a good starting point, but there are some great active-safety options worth adding.

While you won't be able to fault the 2014 BMW X3 for being short on features, it's like a number of other BMW vehicles in that if you want some of the top technology, infotainment, or performance features, it adds dearly to the bottom line.

All X3 models have a power tailgate; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; dynamic cruise control; Bluetooth; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, a USB port, HD and satellite radio. BMW's iDrive system is standard, too, and for 2014 it gets a significant upgrade, to version 4.2--which has many navigation improvements, plus easier menus, a new split-screen layout, improved voice recognition, and 3D city maps.

Many of the desirable extras are in major packages. For instance, a Cold Weather Package brings a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats, and headlight washers, while the Dynamic Handling Package includes the Dynamic Damper Control and variable sport steering. A Driver Assistance Plus package pairs Lane Departure Warning and a speed-limit info feature, while xenon headlamps and adaptive light control are paired in a Lighting Package. And for those who want to keep their eyes on the road, there's an available head-up display on offer that projects all the information essential to driving in a discreet section of the windshield.

The Technology Package brings many of the top-tech items, including navigation, the head-up display, real-time traffic info, Remote Services, and BMW Apps.

For 2014, the M Sport Package is offered with a wider range of interior-trim choices, and the Cold Weather Package is offered with Premium Package or Nevada Leather seats. USB and full Bluetooth smartphone integration are newly included with the Technology Package, and all 35i models include trailer pre-wiring.

8

2014 BMW X3

Features

The 2014 X3 isn't cheap, or even very affordable; even on four-cylinder models, ticking all the option boxes can send the price over the $50k mark.

While you won't be able to fault the 2014 BMW X3 for being short on features, it's like a number of other BMW vehicles in that if you want some of the top technology, infotainment, or performance features, it adds dearly to the bottom line.

All X3 models have a power tailgate; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; dynamic cruise control; Bluetooth; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, a USB port, HD and satellite radio. BMW's iDrive system is standard, too, and for 2014 it gets a significant upgrade, to version 4.2--which has many navigation improvements, plus easier menus, a new split-screen layout, improved voice recognition, and 3D city maps.

Many of the desirable extras are in major packages. For instance, a Cold Weather Package brings a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats, and headlight washers, while the Dynamic Handling Package includes the Dynamic Damper Control and variable sport steering. A Driver Assistance Plus package pairs Lane Departure Warning and a speed-limit info feature, while xenon headlamps and adaptive light control are paired in a Lighting Package. And for those who want to keep their eyes on the road, there's an available head-up display on offer that projects all the information essential to driving in a discreet section of the windshield.

The Technology Package brings many of the top-tech items, including navigation, the head-up display, real-time traffic info, Remote Services, and BMW Apps.

For 2014, the M Sport Package is offered with a wider range of interior-trim choices, and the Cold Weather Package is offered with Premium Package or Nevada Leather seats. USB and full Bluetooth smartphone integration are newly included with the Technology Package, and all 35i models include trailer pre-wiring.

6

2014 BMW X3

Fuel Economy

The X3 xDrive28i is the way to go if you value gas mileage.

The new TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder that was introduced last year replaced the normally-aspirated six in the X3 xDrive28i; but it not only offered increased performance but significantly better fuel economy.

EPA for the xDrive28i now land at an impressive 21 mpg city, 28 highway, while the 300-hp xDrive35i earns 19/26-mpg ratings. Both versions reap benefits from an eight-speed automatic transmission.

U.S. versions now also get the Auto Start-Stop system, which wisely stops the engine at stoplights, with your foot on the brake, then restarts the engine when you start to lift off the brake pedal. We've found the system to be a little rough when the engine shuts off; but according to BMW in some gridlock and stop-and-go driving situations the system could result in a three-percent reduction in fuel consumption.

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8.2
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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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