The BMW X3 helped launch the compact luxury crossover segment more than a decade ago, and the model has grown even stronger over the years. The 2015 BMW X3 is one of the standouts in this competitive class, and is an ideal match for shoppers seeking both sporty driving dynamics and family-friendly utility.
In true BMW fashion, superior handling and performance are at the heart of the X3’s appeal. The typical luxury SUV is uninspiring on winding canyon roads, but the X3 breaks the mold with sharp reflexes that make it a top pick in its class for driver engagement.
A range of capable engines is available, starting with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel that’s been added for 2015. This engine delivers 180 horsepower and a robust 280 pound-feet of torque, but more importantly boasts the strongest mileage in the engine lineup at 30 miles per gallon combined. Most X3 buyers, though, will likely opt for the energetic yet frugal 240-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder found in the 28i models. Rounding things out is a turbocharged 300-hp 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes the X3 xDrive35i one of the quickest in its segment, with minimal compromises in fuel economy.
Complementing this crossover’s fun-to-drive disposition is a cabin that melds opulence, comfort and utility. This BMW’s interior furnishings are the last word in low-key luxury, with stylish design and outstanding materials quality. Front seats are endlessly supportive, whether you’re whipping through canyons or logging highway miles on a long road trip. And the X3 is ready for family duty, thanks to its spacious rear seat and roomy cargo area.
The X3 faces extraordinary rivals, each with its own strengths. The Audi Q5 is the most synonymous with the X3, as it offers a similar blend of driving fun, utility and engine variety. The 2015 Porsche Macan is the class leader in handling and performance but it’s significantly more expensive than the X3 and offers less cargo capacity. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2015 Acura RDX and 2015 Volvo XC60 are among the most spacious and family-friendly, and offer better value as well. The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 impresses with its uniquely angular elegance, but it’s not as family-friendly as the X3, falling short in both cargo space and rear legroom.
Overall, the X3 shines as a very well-rounded model in the segment even if it’s on the pricey side. It’s a compelling choice for shoppers who want a luxurious family crossover that’s also a blast to drive.
Don’t dismiss the 2015 BMW X3 28i models based on their 4-cylinder power plant. Acceleration is very quick, and these are among the most fuel-efficient models in the crossover segment based on EPA estimates. The auto stop-start function that comes with all X3 models helps with fuel economy but can be an annoyance in heavy traffic, as the engine doesn’t restart as quickly or smoothly as we’d like when transitioning between the brake pedal and the gas. Fortunately, you can manually disable this feature. If your budget allows, though, the X3 xDrive35i will be hard to pass up, as its acceleration is very impressive, while fuel economy is still quite good in normal driving.
The X3 delivers on the promise of BMW performance in other respects, too. Take it around a turn with enthusiasm and it feels light and nimble. As compact luxury crossovers go, it’s one of the sportiest, particularly with its optional suspension and drivetrain add-ons. And while the drive quality is definitely on the firm side, most people will find the 2015 BMW X3 quite livable, whether commuting along city streets or taking long trips on the highway.
The 2015 BMW X3 crossover SUV is available in four trim levels that correspond to powertrain: sDrive28i, xDrive28i, xDrive28d and xDrive35i.
The sDrive28i model comes standard with 18-inch wheels, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, LED foglamps, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with driver memory functions, "SensaTec" premium vinyl upholstery, a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface with touchpad controller, and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an iPod/USB sound interface and an auxiliary sound jack.
The xDrive28i adds all-wheel drive and hill descent control. The xDrive28d adds to this a diesel engine.
Besides its more powerful inline-6, the xDrive35i adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and a panoramic sunroof. These items are options on the other trims.
The Premium package includes the panoramic sunroof (sDrive28i, xDrive28i and xDrive 28d), keyless ignition and entry, hands-free tailgate functionality, leather upholstery, satellite radio and four-way lumbar support for the front seats. The Cold Weather package includes heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and a retractable headlight-washer system. The Technology package gets you a head-up display, a navigation system with a larger main iDrive display, smartphone app integration and the BMW Remote Services emergency communications system. The Dynamic Handling package adds adaptive suspension dampers and enhanced speed-adjustable power steering. With this package, an enhanced torque-vectoring version of the all-wheel-drive system is included on all trims except the sDrive28i.
The Driver Assistance package adds front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. On top of this you can add the Driver Assistance Plus package (requires navigation), which has rear- and top-view parking cameras, a blind-spot detection system, a collision mitigation system and a lane-departure warning system. Adaptive cruise control is available with this package for additional cost. With the Lighting package, all trims except the xDrive35i get automatic xenon headlights, while adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams are added to xDrive35i models. Adaptive LED headlights are available with this package for sDrive28i, xDrive28i and xDrive35i models at additional cost.
The M Sport package features 19-inch wheels, roof rails, special exterior trim, sport front seats, special interior trim and headliner, unique door sills and footrest, and a sport steering wheel. All trims except the sDrive28i get an enhanced torque-vectoring version of the all-wheel-drive system. Also, all models except the xDrive28d get an eight-speed sport transmission with shift paddles. The xDrive28d gets the shift paddles minus the transmission upgrade.
Some of the above items, specifically the navigation system and heated seats, are available as stand-alone options. Other stand-alone options include a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound sound system.
The X3’s interior will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a BMW product. Classic analog gauges, sensible ergonomics and a restrained overall aesthetic combine to create a pleasant driving environment. Occupants will feel cocooned within the high-quality materials covering the seats, console and dash.
Overall, we’re fond of the iDrive electronics interface, particularly with the higher-resolution screen that comes with the navigation system. An integrated touchpad allows a driver or passenger to use his or her finger to write letters for text inputs. The menu structure is straightforward, the graphics are crisp and processing times are quick, which helps minimize the amount of time you spend looking away from the road. That said, new owners should sit down and familiarize themselves with iDrive before hitting the road, because it’s still a complex system and you can’t master everything while the car’s in motion.
Room for front passengers is more than ample, while rear legroom is downright generous and pairs with a truly cozy seat. Indeed, this is one of the most family-friendly vehicles in the class. Total cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is 63.3 cubic feet, which is good for the compact-to-midsize segment.
Every 2015 BMW X3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, automatic brake drying (useful in rainy weather), front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and active front seat head restraints, while AWD models come with standard hill descent control. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification and on-demand roadside assistance.
The optional BMW Remote Services system upgrades BMW Assist with stolen-vehicle recovery and remote door unlocking. Other optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, a blind-spot detection system, a collision mitigation system, rear- and top-view parking cameras and a lane-departure warning system.
In SUVS brake testing, an xDrive35i stopped from 60 miles per hour in 123 feet, which is an average distance for the segment. An xDrive28i with 19-inch wheels stopped in 127 feet.
In government crash testing, the 2015 BMW X3 received five out of five stars in overall crash protection, with five stars for frontal crash protection and side impact protection. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 BMW X3 28i models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard on all BMW X3s, along with an automatic stop-start system. The latter saves fuel by shutting off the engine when stopped and then starting it when you take your foot off the brake. In BMW-speak, sDrive equals rear-wheel drive, while xDrive equals all-wheel drive.
In SUVS performance testing, the X3 xDrive28i went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds, which is slightly better than the overall average for the segment and as quick as some 6-cylinder crossovers. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 24 miles per gallon combined (21 city/28 highway) for both the sDrive28i and xDrive28i.
The xDrive28d is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine that produces 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. BMW estimates it will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.8 seconds, which is slow for the segment but typical for a diesel. EPA-estimated fuel economy rings in at an excellent 30 miles per gallon combined (27 city/34 highway).
The X3 xDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. In SUVS performance testing, the 35i hit 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest vehicles in this segment. Fuel economy is rated at 21 miles per gallon combined (19/26), which is actually better than some of the X3 xDrive35i’s less powerful rivals.
Large selection of potent and reasonably efficient engines; high-quality cabin; generous passenger and cargo room; crisp handling; cozy rear seat.
The 2015 BMW X3 is an excellent, if somewhat pricey, choice for a luxury crossover SUV, with a broad selection of engines and wide-ranging talents.