By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
BMW doesn't want you to mistake its X3 for an SUV. This 5-passenger compact utility vehicle is, according to the German automaker, an SAV, for "sports-activity vehicle." It's tempting to sneer at that marketing lingo, but one drive in the 2013 BMW X3 proves this isn't just hype. In a segment that has grown since the X3's introduction in 2004 with an onslaught of luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX and Infiniti EX, the X3 stands out with a dynamic nature that makes it feel more like a sports sedan than a cumbersome SUV. After a recent refresh, the 2013 X3 is more fuel-efficient thanks to a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that replaces the larger, thirstier 6-cylinder of past base models. For those who seek more power, a turbo 6-cylinder is still available.
If you're looking for a premium carryall that truly puts the "sport" in sport-utility vehicle, the 2013 X3 is hard to beat. With AWD standard, the X3 is also a good choice for drivers who need extra traction in inclement weather.
Aesthetically, the 2013 X3 isn't as viscerally exciting as some competitors. The iDrive command module and gearshift lever may confuse some drivers, and when optioned up the X3 can reach around $60,000. Here, even paint colors cost extra unless you're okay with non-metallic black or white.
2013 sees the introduction of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that replaces the naturally aspirated (non-turbo) inline-6 in past xDrive28i models. Although this engine is smaller, it creates the same amount of horsepower and more torque than the former 6-cylinder engine, while attaining better fuel economy: up to 28 mpg on the highway.
Driving Impressions The first thing you notice about the 2013 BMW X3 when you press the accelerator pedal? It's fast. And that swiftness isn't just reserved for the more powerful engine. Even...the base 4-cylinder can propel this vehicle from 0-60 mph in the mid-6-second range. Step up to the more powerful 6-cylinder, put the transmission into the second of two "sport" modes, and you're looking at the same sprint taking place in the 5-second range, comparable to a sports car. In the real world, this translates to effortless on-ramp sprints and prodigious passing power. But speed and agility in corners aren't the only high points here. The X3 is also a comfortable, quiet vehicle that eases the rigors of long commutes. Purists may decry the lack of a manual-transmission option, but we take solace in the buttery smooth 8-speed automatic that's standard.
POWER AND EFFICIENCY
With the newly installed turbo 4-cylinder engine, those two traits are no longer mutually exclusive. This bulldog of a powerplant easily propels the AWD X3, yet the BMW still attains up to 28 mpg.
INTERIOR FIT AND FINISH
From the metallic, sliding cargo hooks in the hull to the available wood-grain trim up front, the 2013 X3 is one polished vehicle.
Clean interior design and today's technology are easy friends in the 2013 X3. Indeed, fine materials and lots of gee-whiz tech are in no shortage here, but keep in mind that they'll likely cost extra. That means if you want the Fineline Wave Wood trim, heated front seats or, yes, just leather instead of "Leatherette" upholstery, you'll have to check off the options boxes. If you're prepared for the extra costs, though, it's easy to appreciate the X3's comfortable amenities. Most functions work well, but the jet-fighter gear shifter and iDrive command module can still prove baffling. Rear legroom is adequate and the seat folds for added cargo space.Exterior
Rounded sheetmetal and athletic creases define the BMW X3's outer suit. A head-on view presents a rather sinister vehicle with BMW's familiar grille. The sides and rear of the 2013 X3 are more conservative yet still attractive thanks in no small part to deep side creases that stretch from the front wheel arches to the taillights. These lines give the X3 an athletic stance and visually split the car into parts, akin to what a good belt does with the right pair of slacks. In back are twin tailpipes tucked neatly beneath the lower-left bumper and minimal badging.
A base 2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i comes with AWD, 8-way power front seats, automatic climate control, power-operated tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, and 12-speaker/205-watt audio system with AM/FM/CD player with HD Radio and auxiliary input. The higher-trim xDrive35i model has a more powerful 6-cylinder engine, xenon headlights and panoramic moonroof. Like other new, 2013 BMWs, the X3 comes with complimentary maintenance for the first four years or 50,000 miles. Roadside assistance is offered for the first four years, with no mileage stipulation.
Options are aplenty when it comes to configuring a 2013 X3. But keep in mind that some features require packages that cost thousands of dollars. Among the add-ons available are leather seating, navigation system, heated front and rear seats, a 40/20/40 folding rear seat, heated steering wheel and lane-departure warning. For audio buffs, a 16-speaker, 600-watt sound system is available. Those seeking better performance can opt for packages that tighten the handling and employ larger wheels. Speaking of wheels, specialized BMW M 20-inch varieties are available, but can cost up to $6,000.
The base engine in a 2013 BMW X3 is a turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower – the same figure as the outgoing 6-cylinder. In the higher-trim xDrive35i is a 300-horsepower 6-cylinder. Both are connected to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission (a manual transmission is not available), and offer all-wheel drive as standard. To conserve fuel, the 2013 X3 features automatic engine start/stop, which shuts down the engine when the vehicle is stopped and instantly restarts it when the driver's foot is lifted from the brake pedal. Premium gasoline is recommended for both engines.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
By Sol on Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "How the car handles itself at high speeds"
Cons: "Noisy at high speed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have been driving this car for the last 3 months and I still get excited about it. I had an acura 2002 before that and this was a big step up for me. But what i am getting from this car far exceeds my expectations and I do not think I will ever drive any other brand going forward. This car's performance lives up to the Bimmer's hype."
11 people out of 20 found this review helpful
By Gary L on Sunday, January 04, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Performance, Build Quality, Features, Gas Mileage"
Cons: "Options Are Pricey... Choose Only What You Need"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car is a huge step up from the GM, Ford, Cadillac and Subaru's that are the majority of SUV sales. The level of quality, performance and driving pleasure is outstanding. This is my first BMW so there was a learning curve with the I Drive, Navigation and other unique BMW features. Love the 12 speaker stereo, heated front seats with 3 settings, dual climate control, key-less start and full Navigation. This baby handles like a true sports car with acceleration & brakes putting it in a class of it's own. Great gas mileage and rock solid reliability earn it 5 stars. While pricey it comes with a solid 4 year warranty which includes all maintenance and free inspection. Beat that Lexus."
17 people out of 28 found this review helpful
By Bring on the snow on Tuesday, December 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Feels like a swiss vault when it shuts"
Cons: "Need better noise dampener at high speed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Rock solid vehicle. It has amazing power and acceleration thanks to the silky smooth eight speed transmission. The car feels solid and stable around curvy rounds even going 90 mph, something I would never have done in my other vehicle and though I do not recommend this for others. However, I was very impressed how this vehicle navigated those sweepy curves. I also drove this vehicle on an interstate during a snow storm with the standard all season tires that came with it. It handled like a well trained athlete. I was the only car driving through the snow in the left lane. I am not sure that the vehicle was better than others but it certainly game me confidence that the vehicle could deal with the snow. I also love the look of the vehicle's exterior and interior. The aesthetics is understated elegance, not over the top. It does not call attention to itself other than through the blue and white Rondell. The discreet aesthetic is another reason why I like the BMW. If I could got rid of the Rondell or the indentifiers that announce that it is a BMW, I would love it even more because I drive this car not for its status but because of how solidly it drives and perform. The 48mos/50K miles warranty also comes in handy because repairing this Ultimate Driving Machine can be costly. I love this vehicle more than I enjoyed my 2007 328i."
26 people out of 36 found this review helpful
By Jovelle on Tuesday, December 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,650overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, good looking car"
Cons: "GPS need upgrade, cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This was assembled in Germany/Austria and was shipped to me as a gift from my husband. I love the Flamenco color, so far I've only seen 2 of these in N. California. I Love the moon roof, you can open it halfway or all the way. This is a really good car for me but maintenance is quite expensive.The GPS,I did an upgrade but not quite impressed for a BMW car. Car has parking assist, steering wheel can be tilted,has fog lights,intermittent wipers and more. Car paint is still in very good condition, car has been garaged most of the time. I just drive it to and from work."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Harvest on Tuesday, December 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Driving as Life is too short. Control knob"
Cons: "Rough riding."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"Fun driving. Quality exterior and interior. Zips easily around town and drives great on the freeway. Has leased it for over a year with no problems. Master Control knob next to the gear shift is the ultimate in convenience and safety. Many other vehicle's controls are on the dash, having to push the glass screen, making it more difficult to control the radio, navigation etc. Comparing the exterior design of other luxury and mid-level SUV models, the X3 is far superior. The only downside is the ride which is not as smooth and not as quiet as other models which I would prefer. Secondly, having discussed BMW's with mechanics and other previous BMW owners, the major issue and concern is the future reliability and repair expense as the vehicle passes it's free 4 year BMW maintenance period. Just about all recommend not owning a BMW because it will be in the shop frequently at very high expense. As a result, I plan on buying either a Toyota Highlander or Lexus RX for reliability and smoothness and quietness of ride. The prices with all the options are within the same price range. Or being spoiled by it's drivability and control knob, I will lease a new X3 or X5 for the rest of my driving life...but never buying one."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Jim on Thursday, October 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, runs like a scolded dog."
Cons: "no sunglass holder, no spare tire"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car is a blast to drive. Handling is excellent, performance is near the top of the pack for this catagory, gas milage is good (average about 22 mpg). It sits high enough that my wife and I, in our 60's can get in and out easily. Outstanding transmission. Might replace the run flat tires with regular tires for improved ride, which is a bit on the firm side. Only criticism is the AC which could be a bit stronger. Plenty of back seat room and rear storage is good. Has the best headlights of any car I have ever owned; will burn the paint off stop signs. Not a car for someone who wants a posh ride like a Lexus or Cadillac, but made for the driving enthusists. We picked the car up at the factory in South Carolina and the factory gave us the VIP treatment, spending a day showing us the capabilities of the car. So far no problems with this car. Would buy it again!"
28 people out of 40 found this review helpful