I’d say you have choices.
And here’s the cool thing: All of those choices will be good, regardless of the route you take. Base model with smaller engine and fewer toys? It’s a great small crossover. Go with the option-heavy M model with a stouter engine? It’s a winner, too.
So how much do you want to spend?
There’s a segment of car buyers who have started to yawn at the sedans put out by BMW. Look, they’re exceptional cars, no doubt. But the love lately has been largely devoted to the crossover SUVs of the family, and that includes the X3.
It falls into the small luxury crossover/SUV category, and you’ll find three trim levels, each with five-passenger capacity: The s model, with front-wheel drive, the x with all-wheel drive, and the M.
The s and x come with a 2.0-liter, turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine, while the M ups the game with its 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder. All of the X3s have an 8-speed automatic transmission.
There haven’t been any substantial changes with the ’20 version of the X3, which saw its last major overhaul with the third generation introduced in 2018.
The exterior is smooth and stylish, with just enough of a jackrabbit hunch to make it clear this crossover is ready to roll. And, let’s face it, just a beautiful machine.
The first thing I noticed was how the seats envelope you. It harkens back to the classic old bucket-seat days. But it’s not confining or claustrophobic; rather, it’s more of a luxurious embrace.
That comfort comes in handy on long drives, but even your short little jaunts around town will feel special, courtesy of 10-way adjustable seats. I mean, if you can’t find the sweet spot with that many options, you may need an adjustment yourself.
There’s great room, to boot. Both front-seat and rear-seat passengers will find the accommodations generous.
BMW did a good job putting together a thoughtful collection of materials that remind you that you’re piloting a luxury vehicle. I wasn’t personally crazy about the two-toned upholstery, but that’s a subjective thing.
Everything is laid out well with the dash and console, and it’s all easy to understand. The shifter might take you a minute or two to comprehend – one of those things where car engineers must feel pretty cheeky with their new-fangled ideas – but once you get the hang of it you’ll be fine.
Cargo space is good for the X3, especially given its compact/small size. And, with the rear seat folded you’ll be able to cram a lot in.
Personal storage space up front is about average. I liked the extra space in front of the funky shifter.
You can’t go wrong here. I drove the mega-souped-up M Competition version of the X3, which puts out more power than you’ll probably need.
But even the s and x models provide more-than-adequate acceleration and power throughout the drive. My M was a beast.
And there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said about almost every BMW on the road. Steering, braking, and overall handling were superb.
For what it’s worth, my over-the-top M Competition model cranked out a little over 500 horsepower, so, as you might imagine, I felt invincible. That’s a lot of power for a crossover.
But, consequently, the mileage for the M is paltry. You won’t even manage 20 mpg, so invincibility does come with a price.
There are some highs and lows here. Your basic tech gadgets are pretty good, but you’ll find that you have to step up to collect all the goodies.
Driver assist and safety features are fairly generous, but the one thing that remains a head-scratcher is BMW’s quirkiness surrounding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The first one – Android – still isn’t supported at all, and that seems to irk some of the faithful. And CarPlay is only included with a one-year subscription, after which you have to purchase it. Why? My M had a price tag of $82k, and I have to pay for a tech feature that even $20,000 cars have standard? I don’t get it.
The Bottom Line
The team from Germany knows they have a consistent winner with the X3. It has sold well since its birth in the early 2000s, and continues to ride the wave of crossover/SUV popularity.
Marrying impressive power with luxurious trappings, the X3 is still a solid choice. It’s fun to drive and cradles you in opulence. Not much more to ask for, and when you’ve arrived (financially, I mean) it’s a nice reward.
2020 BMW X3 M Competition
503 horsepower (s-drive begins at 248 horses)
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 14/19/16 combined
MSRP: $76,900 (low 40s for the s model)
As tested: $82,695
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer