The first car to ever receive a full five-star rating from CNBC was the newly-redesigned BMW 5 series. For 2018, the X3 gets a similar rejuvenation, with fresh sheetmetal and a familiar but updated interior to keep the Bavarians competitive in what's becoming one of the most important car segments.
Brimming with technology and seemingly milled from one massive chunk of German steel, our $57,620 X3 xDrive 30i test car makes a fantastic case for itself. We can't make a full verdict on the fun-to-drive factor until we get our hands on an M-sport variant, but for now we absolutely recommend the X3 as a smart and well-rounded entry in the space.
Most cars have one big thing — a new powerplant, dramatic styling, a gimmicky feature — that defines them. What surprises me about the X3 is that you'd be hard pressed to identify the one big thing. Instead, it seems like BMW has put its engineering might into making the everyday things work better.
The interior lighting is soft and adjustable. The camera setup is class-beating with a full 360-degree view around the car. The infotainment system offers a touch pad, a touch screen, a rotary controller, voice commands and steering wheel controls to navigate; all work effectively and naturally. The navigation system can quickly parse full line addresses.
The motor, despite being a turbocharged four-cylinder, delivers its 248 horsepower without any perceptible lag, shake or drama. The 8-speed transmission is telepathic in its gear choices, the suspension adept at washboard surfaces and tight corners.
Noises are hushed. Tunes from the Harman Kardon stereo aren't. There's a wireless charging pad that charges your phone, too, which is a bonus since BMW offers Apple CarPlay support over Bluetooth rather than through a usually-necessary USB connection. Plus, the heads-up display is the clearest and best in the business, showing full top-down views of intersections and full-color depictions of highway off ramps.
And it ain't too shabby to look at, either.
As equipped, our BMW was a bit bland. The X3 already has restrained styling, but a brown-over-tan color combo didn't do the SUV any favors.
The X3's cabin still can't match the elegance of a Mercedes GLC or Volvo XC60, though materials and quality are absolutely top-notch.
The seats are also a low point. While comfortable, they look like economy car seats instead of the quilted and perforated leather options you can get elsewhere in the segment or in other BMW models. A strange slip, to be sure.
Overall, BMW has more exciting variants you may want to consider, including the M-sport option and the X3 M40i, which has a larger engine.
If you're optioning an X3 xDrive30i, start with the standard "xLine design theme."
The executive tier adds the convenience, premium, and executive packages in one big bundle. That means gesture control, a heads-up display, surround-view cameras, a navigation system, a panoramic moonroof and about a dozen other features that transform it from a basic Bavarian to a tech-forward premium SUV.
You'll be forking over $9,650 more than a standard X3, but the luxurious and well-implemented technology is the core competency of this BMW, so it's worth paying up for. Add $550 if you want a color other than black or white.
$300 buys you Apple CarPlay and $2600 buys you the Driver Assistance Plus package, adding semi-autonomous capability and a slew of life-saving active safety features to your new BMW. For $875, the awesome Harman Kardon audio system is a no-brainer.
Add in destination, and you're at $57,620 for the whole package.
Hey, I never said it was cheap. But a well-optioned X3 is a fantastic choice for people who want a bit of luxury and cutting-edge technology, wrapped in body and chassis that feels unflappable and rock-solid.
If you're going to get one, make sure you get add some of the features mentioned above. The line between uninspired, uninteresting crossover and technological marvel is drawn somewhere on the order form.
Driving Experience: 4.0
Price as reviewed: $57,620