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.