The BMW X3 has long been a strong contender for anyone after a large 4x4; we named it our SUV of the Year between 2011 and 2013. Now the car has been updated with cosmetic changes and more efficient engine options.
The new look incorporates different front and rear bumpers, revised headlights that look a little sleeker than the ones they replace and a new surround for the double-kidney grille. It’s a refresh that’s designed to make the X3 look more like its big brother, the X5.
The changes to the engine line-up are more significant, with an all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine that promises to be more refined than the unit it replaces, as well as trimming a few g/km off its CO2 emissions.
What’s the 2014 BMW X3 like to drive?
The weakest spot of the old X3 was BMW’s 2.0-litre diesel engine, which offered decent economy and CO2 emissions but was beginning to sound increasingly noisy compared with the more modern units offered by several rivals.
The good news is that the new motor in the revised model (available in the xDrive20d tested here and, in detuned form, in the rear-wheel-drive sDrive18d) is a much more accomplished performer.
In xDrive20d form the engine has 187bhp and 295lb ft of torque; that’s more than enough to ensure comfortable progress in a car of the X3’s size, and the low-rev grunt means you rarely have to stress the engine.
Our test car had the optional eight-speed automatic transmission, which is superb; in manual mode it offers smooth, seamless changes. It’s also worth noting than on the xDrive20d model the auto is actually more efficient than the manual (138g/km of CO2 emissions compared with 143g/km).
On all models except the xDrive35d, incidentally, you can also choose an optional 17in wheel and low-rolling-resistance-tyre package (£340) that cuts a further 7g/km from the CO2 emissions.
The most noticeable difference comes in refinement. While the old xDrive20d’s engine could be heard at motorway speeds, the new edition’s engine note fades nicely into the background when you’re cruising along. At higher speeds you’re more likely to be bothered by road noise or a modest rush of wind noise from around the windscreen pillars and door mirrors.
The rest of the X3 package is largely unchanged, but that’s no bad thing. The ride is undeniably firm but there’s enough sophistication in the suspension set-up to keep things comfortable over pock-marked roads. Body control is excellent for an SUV of this size, and while the steering may be a bit heavy for some, it’s precise. The X3 does feel capable of swift progress along a B-road, with a surprising amount of involvement for a big 4x4.
What’s the 2014 BMW X3 like inside?
Don’t expect the face-lifted X3’s cabin to feel like a different world compared with the outgoing model’s. You get a bit more chrome detailing, different materials on the centre console and a leather steering wheel as standard across the range. An updated infotainment system includes the latest iDrive rotary controller, complete with integrated touch-pad on the top. BMW has also added an automatic parking system, a gesture-controlled rear hatch, a head-up display and auto-dipping headlights to the (extensive) options list.
There’s decent space up front for two adults, and two more grown-ups will be comfortable enough in the rear. The central transmission tunnel is likely to make life uncomfortable for a middle passenger in the back, however.
Boot space is unchanged in the face-lifted car, so you get 550 litres with the rear seats in place or 1600 litres with them folded down. That’s more than the capacity of a Land Rover Discovery, although the Disco is much larger with them down.
Should I buy one?
The BMW X3 was a strong package before, and the revisions to the car are in all the right areas. In particular, the new 2.0-litre diesel engine’s refinement makes the car an even more accomplished all-rounder. If you’re in the market for a refined, comfortable, well-finished and practical family SUV, the X3 should be at the top of your shortlist.
What Car? says...