2020 BMW X3

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
June 12, 2020

Buying tip

BMW scatters pricey packages around like expensive landmines in the X3 lineup, but it’s possible to spec a great car for less than $50,000.

features & specs

M40i Sports Activity Vehicle
sDrive30i Sports Activity Vehicle
xDrive30e Plug-In Hybrid
21 city / 27 hwy
25 city / 29 hwy
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The 2020 BMW X3 is excellent at delivering what crossover buyers want: luxury, capability, and a prestigious badge attached.

The 2020 BMW X3 has an honesty we like. 

The tall-riding luxury crossover delivers on its promise of capability and versatility, and it seats up to five adults in relative comfort. 

It’s a 7.5 on our overall scale without factoring in performance versions. The X3 M40i and X3 M would rate higher if rated alone. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Review continues below

Not much has changed on the X3 for 2020, which is good news for shoppers. It starts at nearly $43,000 for a base, X3 sDrive28i. All-wheel-drive models cost $2,000 and it’s worth the upgrade—the base 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 powers those wheels nearly effortlessly. 

All X3s get the same good looks with the wheels pushed out toward the corners and tall windows. Inside, the 2020 X3 eschews tradition for digital conveniences and we don’t mind, at least for now. 

The base engine is a good one—perhaps the best among competitors—but the uprated 3.0-liter turbo-6 in M-branded models (M40i, X3 M, and X3 M Competition) pushes the boundaries of what we expect from compact crossovers. The M40i happily spins out 382 hp, while the X3 M and X3 M Competition churn a blistering 473 hp and 503 hp, respectively. 

All X3s comfortably seat up to five adults, although four will be more comfortable. There’s room in the back for nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo, which expands to more than 60 feet with the rear seats folded flat. 

Federal and independent testers have good things to say about the X3’s crashworthiness, and the IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick+ award in top trims thanks to those scores and good headlights. 

All X3s can stop themselves, and most will leave the factory with spend-up safety extras that include blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and active driving assistants. 

Base cars get good stuff, including an 8.8-inch touchscreen for infotainment, synthetic leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and automatic emergency braking. It’s not hard to drive the price up from there, but the X3 is best around $50,000 where it’s within earshot of the word “value.” 


2020 BMW X3


The 2020 X3 delivers on a promise of versatility and capability without sacrificing looks.

The 2020 BMW X3 doesn’t break any new ground among compact crossovers, but we don’t mind. 

What’s there is good. We give the X3 points above average for its inside and outside—it’s a 7 on our style scale. 

The new X3 amps up compared to the old version with bigger intakes and a wider grille. Its wheels are pushed closer to the corners, which complements the tall glass. In the BMW lineup, the X3 does the best at delivering what buyers are looking for—it’s a tall-riding crossover with good outward vision and excellent capability. 

Inside, the X3 leans digital in a digital-ready world. There aren’t many analog cues inside to BMW’s past—the crossover goes all-in on big touchscreens and digital clusters. It’s a look that may not age as well as the exterior, but what’s here is on-trend for now. 

BMW charges more for any paint shade that’s not called black or white—keep that in mind before configuring your own. 

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2020 BMW X3


There’s no bad pick among powertrains in the 2020 BMW X3 lineup.

The 2020 X3 offers thrilling performance in top trims, but even the base car is noteworthy. 

Starting from an average score of 5, the 2020 X3 gets points above average for a good ride and powertrains that range from very good to excellent. It’s an 7 out of 10. 

The base engine is a 248-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s remarkable in its power delivery and refinement. The base engine is bright, efficient, and minds its manners very well—no complaints at all. It’s paired to an 8-speed automatic that’s telepathic in its gear selection and rapid-fire delivery. Most X3s will be paired to the all-wheel drive that delivers good capability off-road, but smile-state buyers may want to consider a rear-drive X3 sDrive30i to save $2,000 if all-wheel drive isn’t a must-have. 

Most of our time behind the wheel of the X3 has been in the X3 xDrive30i, which in BMW speak means “base engine, all-wheel drive.” It accelerates confidently, even through mountain passes, and steams up to 60 mph from a stop in less than six seconds. There’s just a whiff of turbo lag, but there’s a fix.

The fix is called the X3 M40i, which pairs a sweet 382-hp turbo-6 with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. BMW estimates the X3 M40i will take 4.4 seconds to speed up to 60 mph from a standing start—our necks confirm the immense speed. It’s one of BMW’s best engines in one of its best cars right now...but it’s not cheap. The BMW X3 M40i is a good rival for the Mercedes-Benz GLC43 AMG and Audi SQ5, and bleats a silly rap of overrun into the air for the ride home. We don’t mind. 

The X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid is new this year, but we haven't yet driven it. We'll report back once we do.

In any configuration, the X3 steers confidently and with the verve of a rear-drive sedan. BMW’s all-wheel-drive system prioritizes torque to the rear wheels—up to 100 percent, in theory—with good traction. 

The X3 offers up to 8 inches of ground clearance for rutted trails, likely more than any BMW owner will ever ask of it. 

The X3 is better left to the pavement, where it has the manners of a solid sedan.

The X3 sports a double-pivot front strut suspension (a BMW hallmark) and a five-link independent rear.

Adaptive shocks cycle between Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes, and in M40i, Sport+ with a stiffer setup.

Steering the X3 is relatively heavy, even in Comfort mode, with considerable heft coming through the thin steering wheel.

X3 M and X3 M Competition

Silly money demands silly performance. Both the X3 M and X3 M Competition cost north of $70,000 and screw the turbos tighter on the turbo-6 to make 473 hp and 503 hp in X3 M and X3 M Competition models, respectively. 

For more on their performance, read our colleagues at Motor Authority’s first-drive review

Review continues below

2020 BMW X3

Comfort & Quality

Seek alternate definitions of “compact” when considering the 2020 X3 compact crossover. It’s big inside.

Compact crossovers like the 2020 X3 give us reason to petition Merriam-Webster’s for a new definition of the word “compact.” 

Despite the X3’s relatively small footprint, the BMW opens up for good space for up to four adults—five in a pinch—with room for cargo. 

Starting from an average score of 5, the 2020 X3 gets points above average for good front seats, good cargo room, and good fit and finish. It’s an 8 for comfort. 

We’d prefer to sit up front, although 6-footers can easily sit behind other 6-footers. The X3 has comfortable seats in any specification, although the deeper sport buckets predictably offer better bolsters. 

Behind the front row, rear-seat riders get more than 36 inches of leg room, which is made better by the upright seating position. Tall riders may need to horse trade with each other, but average bodies should fit fine. Three across in the back is a big ask—it’s better for two bodies on the regular. 

The outboard positions are more comfortable and can be heated, when optionally equipped.

Behind the seats there are nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space, which expands to nearly 63 cubic feet with the seats folded forward. 

There’s plenty of room for small-item storage and the fit and finish on all X3s is very good. Top trims go further with real wood, leather, and carbon fiber accents. 

Review continues below

2020 BMW X3


Good crash-test scores pair well with standard and available active safety features.

Safety may not be the first reason shoppers would consider buying a BMW. It’s certainly not a reason to disqualify it. 

The 2020 X3 gets top marks from federal and independent testers, a five-star overall score from the NHTSA and Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS is proof. (The IIHS award applies to any model with the executive package equipped, which includes uprated headlights.)

The X3 gets automatic emergency braking on every model—life-saving stuff—and spend-up extras include BMW’s excellent driver-assistance features, surround-view camera system or both. 

We give the X3 a 9 on our safety scale. 


2020 BMW X3


Nothing on the 2020 X3 is cheap; BMW also stands for “bring my wallet.”

The 2020 X3 is flexible in ways that would impress an Olympic gymnast. 

Base cars get impressive equipment but also cost more than $40,000. Starting from an average score, the X3 gets points above average for its good base features, excellent options, good warranty, and an 8.8-inch touchscreen. It's a 9 for features.

BMW offers myriad options for the X3, although some aren’t available on specific models. BMW lumps the lineup into xLine, Luxury, and M Sport packages. Rear-drive X3s cost $42,945, including destination charges. Full-throat, hairy-chested X3 M Competitions don’t pass the breakfast test at more than $77,000 before options. That price delta is big enough for a Boeing, so let’s dissect. 

We recognize that many BMW owners are more likely to lease their cars than just about any other brand, so the final figure may as well be drawn in with soft lead. We’d still lower our monthly payments by sticking close to the base spec, with a handful of options for safety and convenience. 

First up: All-wheel drive for a $2,000 upcharge. We’d add a convenience package with keyless ignition, moonroof, and lumbar support for $2,250. A $500 safety package that adds blind-spot monitors and lane-departure warnings is an easy pick. From there, a $1,700 driver-assistance package adds adaptive cruise control and active lane control. Premium paint and 19-inch non run-flat tires run up the tab by $1,150 together. 

Final tally? Just short of $50,000 or about $650 on a lease—give or take a few dollars. Adding better tech including native navigation seems like a good pick if you’re flexible. We could be talked into thicker glass that makes the cabin quieter, upgraded audio, and other conveniences that run up to $55,000—or about $700 a month. 

If your budget doesn’t stop there, mazel tov. BMW has you covered with an X3 M Competition with all the bells and whistles for about $83,000, or $1,100 per month. Wonderful.

Review continues below

2020 BMW X3

Fuel Economy

The 2020 X3 is frugal among crossovers, the X3 M just isn’t and that’s fine.

The 2020 BMW X3’s fuel economy is a pleasant surprise. 

Most X3 crossovers will manage about 25 mpg combined when equipped with a turbo-4. That’s good enough for a 5 on our fuel-economy scale. 

The X3 with a turbo-4 and all-wheel drive is rated by the EPA at 24 mpg city, 29 highway, 26 combined. The most-efficient X3 is the plug-in hybrd X3 xDrive30e that manages 24 mpg combined and 18 miles of all electric range.

With just rear-wheel drive, the EPA rates the X3 at 25/29/27 mpg. The turbo-6 in the X3 M40i is rated at 21/27/23 mpg, and the uprated turbo-6 in the X3 M and X3 M Competition is rated at 14/19/16 mpg. 

Review continues below
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