2016 BMW X3 Review

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2017
The Car Connection
2017
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor

The stylish 2016 BMW X3 skips the ruggedness thing entirely and instead succeeds in being one of the sportiest and tech-loaded yet fuel-efficient compact crossovers.

The 2016 BMW X3 manages to keep just the right stride in the crossover market, offering a strong combination of style, practicality, and safety, with loads of technology options, a responsive driving experience, and fuel efficiency that's surprisingly good. For families and all their daily needs, it's a great pick.

At face value, it satisfies the image-conscious in some of the same ways as the related 3-Series sedan, while granting drivers more passenger space. Just don't expect the X3 to look rugged or outdoorsy—it doesn't. Instead, it looks lean, pert, and graceful, like a tall sport wagon—but with just enough visually in common with the larger X5. Inside, the X5 is elegant but soft, calming, and decluttered—actually blending a driver-centric cockpit feel with the brand's warmer interior look.

Last year, the X3 received a mid-cycle refresh, bringing a set of significant changes, as well as some new variants in the model lineup, while for the most part preserving all the fundamentals. New twin-circular headlights (with optional LED lamps) were the most noticeable part of it, plus a more flamboyant version of the BMW kidney grille, exterior mirrors with integrated signal lamps, and some other minor changes to the front and rear appearance. Inside, the X3 manages to be elegant but soft, calming, and decluttered—actually blending a driver-centric cockpit feel with the brand's warmer interior look.

Otherwise, the BMW X3 family continues with its all-turbocharged engine lineup, including the new TwinPower 4-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's the perkiest and most V-6-like of the current crop of German turbo fours, and moves the X3 with no hesitation, foot to the floor. Last year heralded the arrival of a rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i model, for those in warmer-weather climates, that should be even a bit more spirited for the lack of all-wheel-drive weight.

There's also now a xDrive28d model, packing BMW's punchy 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder. It makes 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque (with maximum twist available from just 1,750 rpm), the diesel X3 can hit 60 mph in under eight seconds.

With the xDrive35i, you get a 300-hp, 300 lb-ft TwinPower inline-6 that sizzles to a 60-mph acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, and to a top speed of 150 mph. As we've noted in repeated drives of various X3 variants, it's all a little disconcerting how agile and athletic this vehicle can feel—because the seating height is so tall, yet it lacks the squat, nosedive, and excess motions that in this class are quite common.

All X3 versions except for that base sDrive28i come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, which splits power delivery 40/60 percent. It sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels in normal driving but can flex to send 100 percent to the rear; we've found it is especially good for maintaining traction and poise when the road surface is slippery.

You should focus in on the X3 especially if back-seat space, cargo space, and overall versatility are priorities in an upscale crossover. The X3 is sized in the vicinity of models like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, and Cadillac SRX, but it seems to package in a little more usable space than many of the other entries.

With seating for five, the X3 has 19 cubic feet of 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 seat back folding. In back, there's space carved out for feet, under the front seat, and headroom 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. Throughout the cabin, BMW has paid close attention to the details.

The X3's standard-equipment list is quite good on its own, and if you can hold back on some of those other high-test options, you get a lot, including a power tailgate; dynamic cruise control; power front seats; automatic climate control; a garage-door opener; fog lamps; rain-sensing wipers; Bluetooth calling and audio connectivity; and an audio system with 205 watts of power, 12 speakers, HD and satellite radio, and a USB port.

For 2016, a new Enhanced USB and Bluetooth connectivity kit bring mobile-office capability, Bluetooth sync for a second phone, and voice control for contacts and music. And X3 xDrive35i models get the Harman Kardon surround sound system.

Many of the desirable extras are in major packages. 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. Then there's a Cold Weather Package that 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.

There's no X3 M, but the M Sport does a long way toward looking the part, with a unique aerodynamic package, high-gloss Shadow Line trim, a choice of six paint hues, and two exclusive 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheel options; the interior of the X3 M Sport gets an Anthracite roof liner, sport seats, and other M-bred touches.

EPA ratings for the xDrive28i now land at an impressive 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. Rear-drive sDrive28i models earn the same numbers. The 300-horsepower xDrive35i earns 19/27/22 mpg highway ratings, while it's the new diesel model, the xDrive28d, that's the efficiency leader in the lineup at 27/34/30 mpg highway.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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April 4, 2016
2016 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door xDrive35i

Sweet machine

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I test drove a BMW X3 idrive3.5i and bought it the same day! How's that for convincing proof of a sweet machine. This is my 5th BMW automobile - and each one has exceeded the previous ones. The X3 is easy to... + More »
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April 26, 2017
2017 BMW X3 xDrive28i Sports Activity Vehicle

Fine vehicle that lacks the old "Ultimate Driving Machine" feel of prior year BMW's..

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Very little steering feel compared to my 2007 X3. Much better ride but the steering makes it difficult to drive the car at a brisk pace. Lack of standard features such a rear camera for such an expensive car... + More »
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October 18, 2015
2015 BMW X3 RWD 4-Door sDrive28i

Relaxing in traffic

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I actually own 2015 bmw x3 3.0d I live in Australia. The 3 litre diesel is amazing. Only regrets not buying dynamic dampers and tyre pressure gauges. it so nice to be in it is even relaxing in traffic... + More »
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June 22, 2015
2015 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door xDrive28i

Incredable driving experience!

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This vehicle is incredible. The performance and handling is very smooth. The ride is extremely comfortable. It is very fun to drive.
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April 28, 2015
2015 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door xDrive35i

I love my new car it is awesome and really preforms very very well

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This is such a cool vehicle and I love the way it corners and has such great pick up, I have always had BMW's and this one is just as nice. It has all the bells and whistles I love and hope that everybody will... + More »
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April 29, 2015
2013 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door xDrive28i

Great To Drive

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Love driving this car. Navigates well in all weather conditions and is sporty enough to get your heart racing on teh corners. Hate the iDrive system for navigating the controls as they are not intuitive and it... + More »
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February 24, 2017
2012 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door 35i

BMW X3 - Just Right!

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The BMW X3 is "just right" in almost every rating! It's a nice size with wonderful performance, comfort, styling and practicality. My 35i xdrive M-package performs wonderfully and has great seats, interior... + More »
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June 22, 2015
2012 BMW X3 AWD 4-Door 35i

2012 BMW X3

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This car has the best engine in his class, acceleration and handling are exceptional but the cheapness of the interior is off putting. Comparing it with Audi, it is pitiful.
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April 17, 2015
For 2012 BMW X3

Great diesel performance and smooth Auto

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Changed to Pirelli P Zero tyres that last twice the milage with no less grip. Just carry a pump and goo pack with us. If there was a choice when new would never go for the run flats. Most trips get as far as... + More »
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April 17, 2015
For 2012 BMW X3

A powerful, agile alternative to a sedan with..room for all my gear ...

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This is my third BMW and they just get better and better. The X3 3.5 twin turbo has fantastic acceleration and handling, 26mpg highway and room for fishing gear, toys for the grand kids and cruises at 80mph... + More »
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