BMW X3 is an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) rather than an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) because the German maker realises that people are looking for a practical wagon not an off-roader.
So, the suspension engineers have gone for handling and comfort ahead of traction on unsealed surfaces. While not really in the 3 Series class in its on-road behaviour it’s pretty impressive the way it handles and provides keen drivers’ good feedback.
The BMW X3, was one of the early players in the SUV (or SAV) and first arrived in Australia in July 2004. The second generation X3, 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 solid upgrade in July 2014. One of its biggest features in today’s connected world is the sophisticated BMW Connected Drive system and the 2014 has major features that please owners.
Gen-two has good legroom for those in the rear seat and three children can be transported. Boot space is good and the area is well shaped and easy to load.
A new generation X3 arrived here in mid-2018. Its X3 bonnet, front guards, and front doors are aluminium to keep weight down – and performance up. Interestingly its body was shaped by Australian Calvin Luk, already one of BMW’s most highly regarded stylists.
Significant attention was given to the underbody aero, with wind deflectors to alter the flow around the suspension.
There’s slightly more space inside than in the superseded gen two and it can carry four adults with little need to compromise on legroom. Again, there is BMW’s attention to detail – 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 way up in the dial, whereas the diesels start to give up in the high 4000s.
Even better are the naturally aspirated straights sixes – one of our all-time favourite powerplants. 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 the autos 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 here any real complaints about availability.
Keen owners can do basic work on any BMW but the really should do the most basic work. These are complex cars with a multitude of electronic items and should be serviced by BMW dealers.
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. And warn 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 interior, including the luggage area will reveal that a car has been used as a workhorse for carting kids or other heavy-duty stuff.
Expect to pay from $10,000 to $16,000 for a 2011 BMW X3 xDrive 20i; $15,000 to $22,000 for a 2013 xDrive 28i; $18,000 to $26,000 for a 2014 xDrive 30d; $23,000 to $31,000 for a 2016 xDrive 20d; $27,000 to $37,000 for a 2016 xDrive 30d; $34,000 to $46,000 for a 2017 xDrive 30d; $45,000 to $60,000 for a 2017 xDrive 30iM Sport; $50,000 to $68,000 for a xDrive 30i M Sport; and $63,000 to $84,000 for a M40i.
CAR BUYING TIP
Beware prestige cars that have owned by someone who has stretched their budget to get into them – but haven’t enough money left to afford expensive servicing.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: www.productsafety.gov.au/products/transport/cars/