What's the used BMW X3 4x4 like?
BMW has made lots of road-biased SUVs over the years, from the X1 and X2 to the luxury seven-seat X5, with the more rakishly styled X4 and X6 fitting in somewhere in between. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the mid-size X3 sits in between all these, and is now in its third generation.
The X3 hit the roads in 2004, and, despite stiff competition went on to sell extremely well despite not being a class-leading choice. The second generation appeared in 2011 and was noticeably better, but it's this third-generation model that really upped its game in terms of technology, improved refinement and greater interior space, and is especially tempting proposition as a used purchase because it can be had for the price of a new 1 Series.
The engine range consists of two petrols and three diesels that all come equipped with four-wheel drive and a very smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 184bhp 20i is fine for those who do lots of urban driving, but it’ll be the 187bhp 20d that’ll be of more interest, due to its deeper reserves of torque and lower fuel consumption. For those who want more performance, there’s the 30d with a 261bhp 3.0-litre straight six diesel engine, an M40d with a 321bhp version of the same engine, or the really rapid M40i with a 355bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine.
A mild-hybrid system was added to the 20d in 2020, along was a 288bhp plug-in hybrid 30e and an all-electric model called the iX3 that has an official range of 285 miles.
Essentially you will find there are four different trim levels starting with SE. It comes with LED headlights, 18in alloys, leather seats that are heated in the front, dual-zone climate, automatic lights and an electric tailgate. Higher-tier xLine has larger 19in wheels and sports seats, while M Sport gets a more aggressive exterior styling and firmer suspension. The two most powerful engine options only appear on M-badged M40i and M40d that both have bigger brakes and 20in alloy wheels.
Once you’ve got behind the wheel of the X3, you’ll soon realise that the X3 is one of the best large SUVs to drive. It splits the difference between long-distance comfort and driving pleasure really well, thanks in no small part to a relatively playful chassis with a rear-biased four-wheel drive system and impressively low wind and road noise levels. The only slight criticism is that the steering doesn’t have the consistent weighting of some of its rivals. However, few get close to the X3 for ride comfort, particularly on models equipped with adaptive suspension that can be softened off on a heavily rutted piece of asphalt, then sharpened up in an instant when you approach a series of bends.
Inside, you’re treated to a very plush interior that’s awash with soft-touch plastics, with quality leather on the seats. Equipment levels are high, too, with all models getting climate control, cruise control, sat-nav, heated front seats and an electric tailgate.
Space is also in plentiful supply, and most drivers should find that there’s enough adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to find their ideal driving position – although it’s worth noting that adjustable lumbar support isn’t standard.
People in the back should have few complaints, even if there’s a central tunnel that cuts the available space for a middle passenger. You can’t get seven seats in the X3, unlike the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but the X3 makes up for this somewhat by having a large, usefully shaped boot with a decent amount of underfloor storage. Standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats make the most of the available space by being extremely flexible when carrying longer loads and passengers at the same time.
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