Car Reviews SUV of the Year

BMW X3: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contender

Playing it too safe?

Playing it too safe?

WE LIKE Road manners, improved iDrive

WE DON’T LIKE Single USB port, fee for Apple CarPlay

This third-generation X3 moves to the CLAR architecture for a better ride, more tech, and its first M variant, setting it up to be BMW’s best-selling SUV.

The 2018 X3 is almost the size of the original X5 and gains some maturity, being quieter and more composed. The 248-hp 2.0-liter turbo I-4 provides adequate power with smooth shifting from the eight-speed automatic. Kim Reynolds liked the brakes and well-composed chassis, with good ride quality and handling, but its responsive steering was almost too quick for our lane-change test. Off-road, it powered through the slush and washboard, and it has an excellent programmable hill-descent cruise control.

The two-tone interior with nice wood touches does not feel seismically different from the outgoing model. Seats are attractive but still firm. The iDrive system has become more usable, though its gesture control commands remain undercooked. Judges found it inexcusable that there’s only one USB port in front and none in the rear. And Christian Seabaugh called BMW “greedy” for charging a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay and thus encouraging drivers to engage in the less safe practice of handling their phones.

Although some felt the X3 helps restore BMW to some of its former glory, others thought the automaker short-armed the fresh sheet of paper it was given. “If you didn’t tell me, I’d easily believe it’s a midcycle refresh, not all-new,” Scott Evans said. “Other than infotainment software and digital gauges, it all seems pretty much the same.”

The X3 plays in a segment prone to radical change (see: Volvo XC40), and although some admire consistency over time, BMW might have played it too safe.

READ ABOUT 2019 SUV OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS:

2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Base Price/As tested $43,995/$57,120
Power (SAE net) 248 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 258 lb-ft @ 1,450 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 6.7 sec
Quarter-mile 15.1 sec @ 91.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 127 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.81 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.6 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 22/29/25 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine/Transmission 2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 /8-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,268 lb (49/51%)
Wheelbase 112.8 in
Length x Width x Height 185.9 x 74.4 x 66.0 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 153/116 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.79 lb/mile