The X3 is an SUV laden with quality. It's been around since 2003 with the second generation arriving in 2011 (a facelift was applied in 2014) and the latest generation in 2018. By SUV standards it delivers a highly engaging driving experience, whilst still ticking the boxes of practicality and comfort. It also boasts a premium interior with plenty of equipment, a great range of engines and decent off-road ability. Add in the classic BMW look and you've got a highly desirable SUV.
The X3 has a strong front with the headlights being connected to the trademark BMW kidney grille in the post 2014 models. They're separated from the grille in the latest generation, and the effect is still imposing. The lower grille gets a redesign in this generation too, keeping the appearance fresh. You get nice big shiny wheels regardless of which X3 you go for too, as the post-2014 models come with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard while the latest generation models have 18-inch alloys at entry-level trim.
The X3's cabin is a pleasure to be in. Visibility is very good thanks to the raised body and small pillars, while both the steering wheel and seat are adjustable, enabling you to find the perfect driving position. The controls are logically arranged and the materials are high-quality. Standard equipment is extremely generous - from 2014 onwards all X3s come with BMW's Business sat-nav and media package, heated front seats, and an emergency e-call function. The latest generation models are also superbly equipped, coming with driver assistance technology such as Drive Performance Control and an automatic parking system.
The X3 is exceptional to drive, feeling more like a saloon than an SUV. It manages to be agile despite its size, while the choice of different driving modes means you can prioritise fun or comfort depending on the situation. The latest generation models include a highly intelligent Adaptive mode, in which the car decides the driving feel based on your driving and sat nav information. The xDrive four-wheel-drive not only makes the X3 a very capable off-road vehicle, it also provides excellent traction on the road, meaning you can tackle corners confidently thanks to the grip and accelerate quickly from a standstill.
The Mk2 and Mk3 versions of the X3 are the same in terms of boot space, with both offering 550 litres when the rear seats are up and an impressive 1600 litres with the seats down. Interior space is pretty good too, with comfortable room for four adults and a fifth passenger when required. There also plenty of extra storage compartments, trays and cup holders dotted around the cabin. Oh, and the X3 can tow 2000kg - ideal for caravan holidays.
Engines and transmissions
All X3 models are diesel-fuelled and automatics are more popular on the used market. Your options for the Mk2 post-2014 models include the 2.0-litre xDrive 20d, offering 187 bhp and reaching 62mph in just 8.1 seconds, plus the powerful xDrive 30d and xDrive 35d. The former offers 255 bhp and the latter 309 bhp, meaning they both sprint to 62mph in under 6 seconds - incredible for a 4 x 4. The same engines power the latest models too, but with slightly increased outputs, and fuel consumption rates are good throughout the engine lineups of both generations, ranging from 45mpg to 56.5mpg.
An SUV that combines practicality and offroad ability with superb handling and performance is a rare thing indeed, but the X3 manages to pull it off. It's ideal for the adventurous driver thanks to its engaging drive and capabilities on difficult terrain, yet it's also a sterling performer when it comes to motorway cruising and towing caravans, so the X3 is also suitable for families. In short, a high-quality vehicle.