2020 BMW X3

By April 1, 2020

The 2020 BMW X3 compact luxury crossover has a laudable, refreshing honesty about it. Last redesigned as a 2018 model, for its third generation, the tall-riding vehicle delivers on its promise of strong capability and versatility.

Little has changed for the 2020 model year. New standard equipment includes digital displays. The 30i version now includes Live Cockpit Plus, while Live Cockpit Pro with navigation goes into the M40i. LED headlights with cornering lights are standard on 30i models.

Three trim levels are offered: base 30i, more powerful M40i, and performance-focused X3 M. BMW divides the X3 lineup into xLine, Luxury, and M Sport trim packages.

In the base 30i, a 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine mates with an 8-speed automatic transmission and either rear-drive or all-wheel drive. Opting for AWD adds $2,000 to the price.

The M40i model matches a sweet 382-horsepower turbo-6 with 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. BMW estimates 4.4-second acceleration to 60 mph.
BMW also offers high-performance X3 M and X3 M Competition offshoots, equipped with a 3.0-liter turbo-6 that makes 473 or 503 horsepower, respectively.

Good crash-test scores complement standard and available active-safety features. The NHTSA gave the X3 a five-star rating overall, with five stars for both frontal and side impacts. Only the rollover score (a calculated figure) was four-star.

The IIHS named the X3 a Top Safety Pick+, provided it came with the Executive Package, which includes upgraded headlights. The X3 was rated “Good” in all instrumented tests, also earning a “Superior” designation for frontal crash prevention.

Every X3 is equipped with automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warnings, and city collision mitigation.

Model Lineup

Prices include $995 destination charge.

The X3 30i base model ($42,945 with sDrive rear-drive, $44,945 with xDrive all-wheel drive) comes with the turbo-4 engine, an 8.8-inch touchscreen for infotainment, synthetic leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and automatic emergency braking.

Offered only with rear-drive, the X3 M40i ($56,895) upgrades to a 382-hp turbo-6 engine. The X3 M ($56,895) and X3 M Competition ($70,895) employ a 473- or 503-horsepower turbo-6, respectively.

Exterior

Nothing is especially startling about the X3, compared to rival compact crossovers. It simply performs assigned tasks without fuss, while looking good in the process.

Measured against its pre-2018 predecessor, the 2020 X3 wears a wider grille, with bigger air intakes. Like other crossovers, BMW’s compact has a foundation that pushes the wheels out toward the four corners of the body.

Interior

Within the cabin, the X3 shuns tradition, turning instead toward digital conveniences. Not much evidence of BMW’s analog past remains evident, as vehicles like the X3 adopt large touchscreens and digital gauge clusters.

Regardless of model, fit and finish are impressive. Upper trim levels reach further into luxury with wood detailing, leather upholstery, and carbon-fiber accent pieces.

Despite its relatively tight dimensions, the BMW X3 reveals ample space and comfort for up to four adults. Five can squeeze in, but some of those in back won’t be so comfortable.

Front seats are comfortable in every X3. A 6-foot rider can easily sit directly behind a similarly tall front occupant. Deep sport bucket seats are available, with better side bolstering.

Back-seat passengers face more than 36 inches of leg space—made even better by an upright seating position. Two average-size occupants should fit nicely. As usual, the outboard positions are the most desirable.

Cargo space is abundant for a compact model. Behind the back seats, volume totals 28.7 cubic feet. Folding the seatback flat expands volume to nearly 63 cubic feet. Plenty of room for small items is available, too.

Driving Impressions

Of all BMW vehicles, the X3 crossover ranks near or at the top for delivering the kind of road experience that most buyers crave.

Each X3 powertrain does a fine job. Even the base 30i model, with turbo-4, deserves praise. Capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than six seconds, it moves out with confidence, even through mountain passes. Bright and mannerly, the turbo-4 exudes refinement as well as strong power delivery. Barely a hint of turbo lag emerges as the 30i behaves almost effortlessly.

Moving up to the 3.0-liter turbo-6, standard in M40i and X3 M models, produces the kind of performance that isn’t ordinarily expected from a compact crossover. Not many vehicles in this class can boast of thrilling responses. In the M40i, the turbo-6 cheerfully whips up 382 horsepower. If that’s insufficient, enthusiasts might gravitate to the X3 M.

Mating with any engine, BMW’s 8-speed automatic seems almost telepathic in gear selection—intensified by rapid-fire delivery of the next ratio.

Ride comfort is satisfying, but BMWs are best known for handling. In any configuration, the X3 steers confidently, behaving with the verve of a rear-drive sedan. Steering feels relatively heavy, even in Comfort mode. Considerable heft reaches the driver’s hand, via the thin steering wheel.

BMW’s all-wheel-drive system prioritizes torque sent to the rear wheels, providing good traction and off-road capability. Up to 8-inch ground clearance helps when traversing rough and rutted trails. Even so, on-pavement motoring is the X3’s primary forte, where it handily displays the manners of a solid sedan. Adaptive shock absorbers can function in Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes (plus Sport+ in the M40i).

Unlike some crossovers, the X3 permits good outward vision.

A regular X3 is frugal among crossovers; the X3 M is not. An X3 30i with all-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 24 mpg city, 29 highway, 26 combined. Rear-drive raises the estimate slightly, to 25/29/27 mpg.

With its turbo-6, the M40i is rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. The uprated turbo-6 in X3 M and M Competition models sinks the estimate to 14/19/16 mpg.

Final Word

BMW’s X3 excels at delivering the benefits that premium crossover buyers seek: namely luxury, capabilities, and a prestigious nameplate.

Base models are impressively equipped, powered by a satisfying engine. Performance-focused versions step up the capability quotient sharply, but cost plenty. So do BMW’s add-on options.

 

—Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.

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