BMW calls its X3 is an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) rather than an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) because the German maker realises that most people are looking for a practical station wagon not a bush bashing off-road beast.
So, the suspension engineers have gone for handling and comfort. While not really in the BMW 3 Series class in its on-road behaviour it’s impressive the way it handles.
It also provides the good feedback that keen drivers love.
The BMW X3, was one of the early players in the field and reached us Downunder in July 2004.
The second generation X3 that was sold from March 2011 is significantly larger than the model it replaced.
Indeed, it’s within a few centimetres of the first-generation BMW X5.
The X3 received a major upgrade in July 2014. One of its biggest features in this upgrade is the sophisticated BMW Connected Drive system.
Luggage space is pretty good and the area is well shaped and easy to load.
The 3rd generation BMW X3 arrived here midway through 2018.
The bonnet, front guards, and front doors are aluminium to keep weight down and performance up. Interestingly its body was shaped by Australian Calvin Luk one of BMW’s highly regarded stylists.
Significant attention was given to the underbody of this latest generation X3 with wind deflectors to alter the flow around the suspension.
There’s slightly more space inside than in the superseded X3 and it can carry four adults with little need to compromise on legroom.
BMW’s attention to detail was in practical ways, one-litre bottles can be carried in the front door pockets and there are numerous other stowage areas for smartphones and the like.
Four and six-cylinder engines are offered in petrol and diesel format.
BMW has long been a specialist in turbocharged engines and both the petrol and diesel units work well.
There’s some turbo lag, but it’s less with each new model.
Once the turbocharger is doing its thing the engines are beautifully responsive, making them feel ‘very BMW’ and much loved by those who are longtime BMW drivers.
Though the diesels are the more economical we do have a preference for turbo-petrol engines as they just love to rev, whereas the diesels start to fade in the mid to high 4000s.
Even better are the naturally aspirated straights sixes – one of our all-time favourite power plants. These are offered in 2.5 and 3.0-litre capacity.
Automatic transmissions have eight forward gears in the all-new 2011.
There are manual overrides that give you a fair bit of control, but increasingly we find that these automatics almost seem to read our minds.
BMW is long established in Australia and has a well organised dealer network.
As you would expect they are chiefly in the major metro areas but there is an increasing number in country cities and large country towns.
Spare parts are relatively expensive, but no more so than others in this class.
We seldom hear of any l complaints about availability.
We’ve met several ex-BMW mechanics who are now working in private practice and owners speak highly of them.
Some may not have access to the very latest information on changes to the X3.
Insurance costs aren’t low, but it’s worth shopping around.
As always, we caution you to make sure you’re doing an accurate comparison.
Keep in mind that a long-term relationship with one company can be very handy if a doubtful claim incident arises.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The BMW X3 is generally trouble free, but it makes sense to buy a used one with a full-service history.
The use of incorrect tyres can cause problems with the transfer case due to incorrect rolling radii.
Make a note of the details of tyres then contact BMW for a list of recommended tyres.
If you suspect one has been off the beaten track examine the bumper corners, doors sills and undertray for damage – or choose an X3 that hasn’t been beating about the bush.
Make sure a petrol engine starts almost instantly, or a diesel within a couple of seconds. Slow starting can indicate real problems.
An inspection of the condition of the cabin and load area of the BMW X3 will show if it has been knocked around.
If it has this can be a signal that previous owners haven’t looked after it correctly, and possibly not had the servicing done on time.
Budget on paying from $11,000 to $16,000 for a 2011 BMW X3 xDrive 20i; $13,000 to $18,000 for a 2013 xDrive 20d; $16,000 to $23,000 for a 2014 xDrive 20i; $19,000 to $28,000 for a 2014 xDrive 30d; $22,000 to $31,000 for a 2015 xDrive 28i; $28,000 to $38,000 for a 2017 xDrive 20i; $36,000 to $48,000 for a 2018 sDrive 20i; $45,000 to $60,000 for a 2019 xDrive 30d; and $54,000 to 71,000 for a 2021 xDrive 20d M Sport.
CAR BUYING TIPS
Start looking at adverts for used vehicles several months before you intend buying.
That way you can see the prices being asked and whether they are rising and falling as dealers need to clear stock due to overcrowding.
Used car prices have generally increased during the period of new car stock shortages so hunt around for the best deal.
If checking a used car at a dealership look at other cars on the lot.
This can give you an insight to the quality of vehicles in which the dealer specialises.
Take a slow walk around any car you’re considering, looking for obvious defects.
It amuses us how many people dive into tiny details, only to later discover a major ding somewhere on the other side of the car.
Ideally any road test of a car you’re getting serious about should be done with the engine stone cold. Early morning is best.
In their later years, cars with a reputation for being long lived and trouble free sometimes attract buyers who have no intention of ever servicing them. The next owner may suffer as a result.
Keep an eye on adverts for new cars that say there are specials on particular models.
These can mean a lot of traded-in cars are taking up too much space in the yards and will be discounted to get rid of them.