By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
BMW calls the 2015 X3 SUV a "sports-activity vehicle." It's a bit of marketing-speak that'd be harder to swallow if there weren't a hint of truth to it. The 2015 BMW X3 continues to stand out against rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Acura RDX and Cadillac SRX, thanks to a dynamic driving nature that makes it feel more like one of the company's sport sedans than a big SUV. This year, BMW adds a diesel option with the X3 xDrive28d, further enhancing the line's fuel economy. On the other end, the 2015 BMW X3 sDrive28i is a new base model only available with rear-wheel drive, a first for the X3.
If you want your upscale SUV to accent "sport," then the 2015 BMW X3 may just be the ticket. Of course, with plenty of cargo space and a choice of two fuel-efficient engines, it's not short on utility, either.
Prices on the BMW X3 climb quickly as you add options. That $40,000 base price for the X3 sDrive28i can easily climb higher than $50,000 or more – even paint colors cost extra, unless you're happy with black or white. Not everyone is a fan of BMW's odd gear selector, either.
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The 2015 BMW X3 gets a new 2.0-liter diesel engine, promising excellent fuel economy without sacrificing performance. A new base model offers rear-drive only for the first time, lowering the entry price for the X3. The X3 also gets a new grille and headlights, among other styling updates.
Whether you're driving the 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder, the 2015 BMW X3 is a quick SUV. And while we haven't had a chance to sample the new diesel first-hand, the same...
... engine in the BMW 3 Series has proven itself no slouch, and we expect the same here. The base turbocharged 4-cylinder propels the X3 from zero to 60 mph in the mid-6-second range. The 6-cylinder does the 0-60 run in about five seconds, and BMW promises the diesel will do it in less than eight seconds. Regardless, expect effortless onramp sprints and plenty of passing power. No matter which engine you choose, it comes with BMW's excellent 8-speed automatic transmission. On top of it all, the 2015 X3 SUV is a luxury car, meaning it's quiet, comfortable, and feature-laden to the point that you might actually look forward to your commute, instead of dreading it.
POWER AND EFFICIENCY
BMW's making a big play with its diesel engines, and we couldn't be happier. The same 2.0-liter diesel in the BMW 3 Series is a gem, with plenty of power and excellent fuel economy. It could make the 2015 X3 a fuel economy leader, and even give hybrids a run for their money.
NEW NOSE AND TAIL
The styling revisions made to the 2015 BMW X3 are subtle, but effective. We particularly like the compact SUV's new headlight design, which extends the lights all the way to the updated grille. It's a more sophisticated look, and it ties in with the current 3 Series sedan design as well.
The 2015 BMW X3 is awash in premium materials...if you're willing to pay extra. For example, if you want upscale wood trim, heated front seats, or even genuine leather instead of the standard "leatherette" upholstery, you'll find them all on the options list. You can bundle a lot of the interior upgrades under the xLine or M Sport packages. Ergonomics are mostly sound, that is, once you make your peace with the odd gear selector and BMW's iDrive system. There's good rear legroom, and the generous cargo space can be expanded by folding down the 2nd-row seatbacks.
The exterior improvements may not bowl you over, but they nicely update the 2015 BMW X3, and integrate the compact SUV better with BMW's current styling direction. While we particularly like the new nose, the rear end changes are more subtle, but help to tie the appearance in to the rest of the car nicely. For the most part though, the styling is carryover which again is fine with us. The brushed aluminum of the xLine makes the exterior look more luxurious, or you can give the X3 a more aggressive look with the M Sport's bigger wheels and aerodynamic package.
The base 2015 BMW X3 sDrive28i drops standard all-wheel drive for the first time to lower the entry price point. But you still get automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, burl walnut trim, a power tailgate, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There's also a 12-speaker/205-watt audio system with AM/FM/CD player, with HD Radio and auxiliary input. The xDrive28i adds all-wheel drive to essentially the same package, and the xDrive28d adds diesel to that. The top-line xDrive35i model has a more powerful 6-cylinder engine, xenon headlights and panoramic moonroof. All BMW X3 models get complimentary maintenance for the first four years or 50,000 miles.
There's a lot of room to build your 2015 BMW X3 just the way you want it, as long as you have the cash. Many features come in packages costing thousands of dollars. For example, a handling package tightens up the suspension and adds sport steering for $1,400. A $3,250 premium package adds adjustable lumbar support, keyless entry and a panoramic moonroof. The Technology Package costs $3,150 and adds a head-up display, real-time traffic info and a navigation system, and BMW apps. Even red paint adds $550.
You now have three choices of powerplants under the hood of the 2015 BMW X3. In the rear-wheel-drive X3 sDrive28i or all-wheel-drive X3 xDrive28i, you'll enjoy a turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower. The top-level xDrive35i gets a 300-horsepower turbocharged 6-cylinder. New this year is the xDrive28d with its 2.0-liter diesel engine. All three come connected to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, and all but the sDrive28i come standard with all-wheel drive. The 2015 X3 also features automatic engine start/stop, which shuts down the SUV's engine when the vehicle is stopped and instantly restarts it when the driver’s foot is lifted off the brake pedal.
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
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
180 horsepower @ 4,000
280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,750
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/34 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
The 2015 BMW X3 sDrive28i has a base Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $39,000. If you want all-wheel drive, the 2015 xDrive28i starts at just under $41,000. The diesel-powered X3 will run you just under $43,000. The top-line xDrive35i starts right at $46,000. However, note that with options, any of these prices can escalate quickly, and it's not hard to option up an xDrive35i to be nearly $60,000. However, the base prices are in line with compact-SUV competition like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35 and Volvo XC60. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are actually paying for the 2015 BMW X3. While that entry price may be high, you can expect the X3 to hang onto a good chunk of its value over the years, similar to the Audi Q5 and Lexus RX.