BMW doesn't really want you to think of its X3 as an SUV. The German automaker calls its 5-passenger compact sport-utility vehicle a "sports-activity vehicle." You may sneer at the marketing-speak, but there is substance behind the 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. The 2014 X3 is also fuel-efficient thanks to the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine standard in the xDrive28i model. For those who want more power, a turbo 6-cylinder comes in the xDrive35i.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a premium carryall that truly puts the "sport" in sport-utility vehicle, the 2014 X3 is hard to beat. If you need extra traction in inclement weather, the X3 comes with all-wheel drive as standard.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Aesthetically, the 2014 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 approach $60,000. Even paint colors cost extra unless you're okay with non-metallic black or white.
After the introduction of the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the xDrive28i last year, there is little change in the line for 2014. The Technology Package now includes USB connectivity and Bluetooth with smartphone integration. The Navigation/iDrive system gets some further refinements. Some packages and availability are shuffled.
Driving the X3
Take off up the road in a 2014 BMW X3 and the first thing you'll notice is that it's quick. And it doesn't matter which model and engine you have....
... Even the base turbocharged 4-cylinder can propel the vehicle from 0-60 mph in the mid-6-second range. Step up to the more powerful turbo 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, quicker than many quite sporty sports cars. 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're happy with the standard, buttery smooth 8-speed automatic.
POWER AND EFFICIENCY With the turbo 4-cylinder engine, performance and fuel economy are not mutually exclusive. This bulldog of a powerplant easily boots the X3 around, yet still attains 28 mpg on the highway.
INTERIOR FIT AND FINISH From the metallic, sliding cargo hooks in the hold to the available wood-grain trim up front, the 2014 X3 is one polished vehicle.
2014 BMW X3 Details
Fine materials and lots of gee-whiz technology abound in the 2014 BMW X3, though some of it costs extra. So if you want the Fineline Wave Wood trim, heated front seats or, yes, just leather instead of "Leatherette" upholstery, you'll have to check options boxes. As long as you're prepared for the extra charges, though, it's easy to appreciate the X3's comfortable amenities. Most functions work well, though the jet-fighter gear shifter and iDrive command module can still prove a little confusing. Rear legroom is adequate and the seat easily folds to increase cargo space.
Smoothly contoured sheet metal and aggressive creases define the BMW X3's appearance. In a head-on view it can look pretty sinister, with BMW's trademark twin-kidney grille. The sides and rear of the 2014 X3 are more conservative yet still attractive thanks in part to deep side creases that run from the front wheel arches all the way back to the taillights. These lines plus the overall proportions give the X3 an athletic stance that nicely mirrors its dynamic capabilities. In back are twin tailpipes tucked neatly beneath the lower-left bumper and nicely subtle badging.
A base 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i comes with AWD, 8-way power front seats, automatic climate control, power-operated tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, and a 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 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 limitation.
When it comes to configuring a 2014 BMW X3, the options and choices are plentiful. But purchase price rises fast, especially since some features come in packages that cost thousands of dollars. Among the add-ons available are leather seating, navigation, 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. Driver's wanting even better performance can opt for packages that tighten the handling and employ larger wheels, most notably the $1,400 Dynamic Handling Package and the $3,000 M Sport Package.
Under the Hood
The engine in a 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i is a turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower – the same figure as the 6-cylinder it replaced last year but with more torque and better efficiency. In the higher-trim xDrive35i is a 300-horsepower turbocharged 6-cylinder. Both are connected to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission and offer all-wheel drive as standard. To stretch fuel efficiency, the 2014 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 off the brake pedal.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i starts at just over $40,000 and can quickly escalate from there. An X3 xDrive35i starts at around $45,600 and can easily top $56,000. The X3's base price is in line with the Lexus RX 350 and a little above the starting price of 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 2014 BMW X3. The X3's price tag is higher than that of many competitors, but its expected resale value will also be strong, sharing a lofty position with the Audi Q5 and Lexus RX.
"Very practical car. Fast enough. Big enough, but not too big. Fast enough and the mileage is better than expected. I had a Mercedes 500ML before this and this is soooo much better in every way without the ostentation."
Cons: "Interior, so called auto features, terrible GPS"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I really wanted to love this car, but I just never did. There were just a ton of things that rubbed me wrong. Those include: Doors that require 2 pulls to open, automatic wipers that have to be turned on every time you want them to operate, cruise control that needs to be turned on every time, and an interior that is just plain boring. When my seat heater went out in the dead of winter, it took them nearly 4 weeks to get the issue resolved. Lastly, this car has to have one of the worse GPS systems I have ever used. It never got me to the destination. The best thing about this car was it's performance, but you only get that in sports mode and you have to turn that on every time you start the car. Definitely a premium priced car with a poor customer experience."
"Most would not complain about being given one but my husband is a BMX nut so I've owned 2 so far-the x5 and now the x3. I put a total of 12K miles on the x3 in the 2 years I've owned it. It has so many unnecessary "options" (he bought it fully loaded) that I'm sure I'm not using half of them so "value" for me? None. Especially when the GPS system on my 2014 is so inferior to the one that came with my 2008 x5. And as soon as I got an iPhone 6+, the bluetooth quits intermittently. BMW blames Apple who blames BMW."