What’s with the cheap trim and serious lack of six-cylinders?

So, BMW recently dropped full details on its third-generation X3 SAV and right way we praised it for its overall packaging, looks, and that awesome power output improvement for the M40i trim level. With more than 1.5 million X3’s registered since the vehicle was first introduced, it goes without saying that the X3 is a hot item. And, with pricing expected to start somewhere around $40,000 to $42,000, it’s not exactly a bank-breaker, either. And, even though I recently wrote a very favorable review about the X3 not that long ago, I have to point out that I do have a few gripes as well.

For starters, I love that the front end of the new X3 is more aggressive than ever, and it’s amazing that BMW finally ditched those round foglights. But, what the hell is with the big fake vents? Aesthetics aside, there is no point and why not use them to channel air to the brakes or to improve aerodynamic efficiency? And then, there’s the interior. Sure; the dash looks a lot better than it used to, and the steering wheel is sleeker, but what is with that aluminum trim? That’s a little Toyota Camry-ish to me. Anything with this price point and a BMW badge should at least come standard with wood trim. And, what’s with the M-Sport seats? They are no different than the standard seats in the X-Line, with the exception of the black leather and contrast stitching – where’s the extra support M cars are supposed to have? But, what about those engine choices? Sigh…

Engine Choices are Disheartening

2018 BMW X3 High Resolution Exterior
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2018 BMW X3 High Resolution Exterior
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Now, don’t get me wrong, the diesel and gasoline powerplants available in the new X3 aren’t bad, but what’s a brotha gotta do to get an inline-six. Nothing more than pay out the ass for the M40i. Not that it’s not the model you really want, but why not offer the 3.0-liter in the lesser trims as well, even if it is detuned a little bit? Think about this – there’s a 108-horsepower gap between the xDrive30i and the M40i. Why not offer the 30i with a 310-horsepower turned version of the inline-six for those who want some extra power but can’t justify going for the M40i?

Of course, then there’s the competition, and that’s where the X3 really fares pretty decently – regardless of my aforementioned concerns. It beats out just about anything the competition can throw at it. The Mercedes GLC300 comes up with 241 ponies and 273 pound-feet, the GLC43 362 and 384, respectively. The X3 takes it no problem Beating out the standard 300 by 0.3 seconds and the GLC43 by 0.2 seconds. It also schools the Audi Q5 even worse with the 2.0-liter model being good for 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet or 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet when equipped with the 3.0-liter. The sprint times come correct too, with the X3 beating the 2.0-liter model by nearly a second and the 3.0-liter model by 1.4 seconds... yikes.

Model Engine Transmission Horsepower Torque 0-60 mph Top Speed
Mercedes GLC300 2.0-liter 9-Speed 241HP 273LB-FT 6.3-Seconds 130MPH 3,500LB 20/28/23
Mercedes-AMG GLC43 3.0-liter 9-Speed 362HP 384LB-FT 4.8-Seconds 155MPH TBA 18/22/20
Audi Q5 2.0 2.0-liter 8-Speed 220HP 258LB-FT 7.0-Seconds 130MPH 4,400 20/27/22
Audi Q5 3.0 3.0-liter 8-Speed 272HP 295LB-FT 6.0-Seconds 130MPH 4,400 18/26/21
Range Rover Evoque 2.0-liter 9-Speed 240HP 250LB-FT 7.1-Seconds 155MPH 3,500 21/30/24
BMW X3 xDrive30i 2.0-liter inline-4 8-speed automatic 248 HP 258 LB-FT 6 seconds 130 mph
BMW X3 M40i 3.0-liter inline-6 8-speed automatic 355 HP 369 LB-FT 4.6 seconds 130 mph

At the end of the day, the new X3 is a fine vehicle. It looks comfortable and is powerful enough to bring some shame to the competition, but there are a few things that could have been executed a little better. Furthermore, why isn’t ambient lighting and acoustic glass standard across the line? Pricing isn’t yet available, but you can bet the LED ambient lighting will set you back at least $500 to $1,000 for maybe $20 worth of LEDS. And those 3D-style lights – come on, just put them on all models.

Comparison to Second-Gen

2018 BMW X3
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2018 BMW X3
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2018 BMW X3
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The third-gen X3 is significantly more attractive than its predecessor

With all of that said, one has to admit that the third-gen X3 is significantly more attractive than its predecessor. The new headlights are sleeker and get the more angular LED strips, the fascia is more attractive (despite the fake vents), and this model looks very nice with the larger, angled kidney grilles. The side profile, on the other hand, comes off as a bit lazy to me. Nothing really changes aside from the upper body line, which is now straight instead of curved downward, and the rear stationary glass has been designed to come to a point much lower in the rear. That’s it. You want bigger wheels; you have to pay up. On the plus side, the roof is a little more sloped, which not only improves aerodynamics but gives it a sportier look, too. More importantly, it doesn’t look all raked in the rear like the outgoing model - that’s a big plus in my book.

Of course, the rear didn’t change much at all. The new dual exhaust outlets on all models is a plus, and the rectangular outlets look much better than the twin, round outlets, but otherwise, the only notable difference is the slightly restyled taillights, and you need to pay for the 3D taillights if you really want something work admiring. All told, it’s not bad, and I think it trumps most of the competition, but I’d probably still put my money on the Range Rover Evoque. But, maybe I’m crazy. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

Read our full review on the BMW X3 here.

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