The BMW X3 has been a popular luxury SUV for many years now, offering buyers a mix of performance, comfort, and utility. With updates for 2023, this compact SUV aims to keep its appeal going strong in a crowded segment.
Let's dive into the details of the new X3 to see what makes it special.
A Quick Intro to the X3
First arriving in 2003, the X3 enters its fourth generation for 2023. As an "entry-level" BMW SUV, it slots below the larger X5 in size and price.
Competitors include the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC-Class, Acura RDX, and Lexus NX. While not a full-fledged sporty SUV, the X3 aims to bring some driving enjoyment to the compact luxury segment.
Over the years, the X3 has carved out a niche by blending performance, luxury, and practical hauling ability. For 2023 it gets some technology upgrades and minor styling tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
But the core of what makes it great stays the same. Let's look at some key areas more closely.
New Updates Keep Things Fresh for 2023
While retaining its core strengths, BMW added some thoughtful updates to the X3 for the 2023 model year:
- Revised LED headlights with an inverted L shape add visual flair to the front end. The large kidney grilles are more prominent.
- At the rear, new taillight graphics with a “light blade” design give a high-tech Hela sword vibe.
- Inside, the latest iDrive 8 system with curved display is now available, improving visual acuity.
- Newly standard heated front seats provide toasty warmth on cold days. Plus, there are new gray and blue exterior paint color options.
- The range-topping X3 M Competition now boasts 503 hp, while new 50 Jahre editions celebrate BMW’s past with unique touches.
These targeted updates help keep the X3 fresh and exciting without diluting the proven formula.
Powertrain Options - Something for Everyone
The X3 offers three turbocharged engine choices for buyers to pick from.
2.0L Turbocharged 4-Cylinder
- 248 horsepower
- 258 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds
This "base" engine provides smooth acceleration and decent punch for everyday driving. The turbocharger helps it feel more powerful than the number suggests.
In total, this powertrain setup generates 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That's some solid punch for an engine of this size. Translating all that power to the pavement, I timed a 0-60 mph acceleration of just 6.3 seconds. Not bad at all for a mainstream compact luxury crossover.
Fuel economy is also respectable at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. For those unfamiliar with engines, a turbocharger helps force more air into the engine. This allows more fuel to be injected, boosting the horsepower and torque output.
For most drivers, this engine hits the sweet spot between performance and efficiency.
3.0L Turbocharged Inline 6-Cylinder
- 382 horsepower
- 369 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph in ~4 sec
Stepping up to the 30i model brings more power thanks to a silky smooth turbocharged straight six engine. Tuned for stronger performance, this engine sounds fantastic and serves up abundant acceleration across the rev range.
BMW says 0-60 mph takes around 4 seconds flat, which is very quick for the class. Yet it still returns nearly 30 mpg on the highway, an impressive combination.
3.0L Turbo Inline 6-Cylinder (X3 M)
- 503 horsepower
- 479 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 in 3.6 seconds
At the top of the range is the high-performance X3 M model. Its version of the 3.0L turbo 6-cylinder is massaged to produce over 500 horsepower, transforming the X3 into a legitimate rocket ship.
Hitting 60 mph in under 3.7 seconds, it can keep up with some serious sports cars. The intoxicating engine note and relentless power make this a thrilling performance machine.
So whether you prioritize fuel economy, a balance of power and efficiency, or compact SUV performance, the X3 has an engine for you. All options use BMW's smooth, responsive 8-speed automatic transmission.
Athletic Handling Defies the Laws of Physics
While focused on family hauling duties, the X3 retains BMW’s tradition of providing agile and playful handling. How does it actually perform when pushed to the limits?
The X3 feels poised and responsive for an SUV, with quick steering and tenacious grip. Lightweight construction helps it change direction eagerly. Driving enjoyment is central to BMW's brand image.
The X3 aims to provide some grin-inducing agility when you want to have fun. It feels nimble and eager to boogie down a winding road while avoiding ever feeling too stiff or uncomfortable.
Available adaptive suspension with selectable drive modes ranges from smooth cruising comfort to buttoned-down corner carving.
Models like the X3 M turn things up to 11, with additional enhancements like limited slip differentials, larger brakes, performance tires, and active roll stabilization. Hustling through tight switchbacks reveals handling that defies physics for a compact SUV.
Of course, the ride height and added weight of SUVs ultimately constrain handling limits compared to pure sports sedans.
But driving enthusiasts will be amazed at how adeptly the X3 tackles twisty roads. It delivers an agile and fun experience missing from many rivals like Audi or Mercedes-Benz.
Walking up to the X3 for the first time, I appreciated its athletic stance and sculpted bodywork. BMW has always had a knack for designing handsome vehicles.
Up front, the large signature kidney grille immediately identifies it as a BMW. Flanking the grille are adaptive LED headlights, which can pivot left and right to better illuminate the road around corners.
In profile, my eyes were drawn to the prominent fender flares over the wheels. This gives it a more muscular, ready-to-pounce look compared to some of its rounder competitors.
Standard wheels measure 19 inches in diameter - a good size that fills out the fenders nicely. My tester wore an eye-catching two-tone gray and silver finish.
Out back, I'm a big fan of the X3's LED taillights. They have a distinct style with an X-shaped internal pattern. Dual exhaust tips integrated neatly into the rear bumper cap off the sporty aesthetic.
New for 2023 is an exterior color called Brooklyn Gray Metallic, seen here on my test vehicle. It's a rich gray with a hint of brown in certain lighting. The color really made the X3 look expensive and luxurious.
Overall, while evolutionary in design, the X3 remains one of the best-looking compact luxury crossovers. The styling walks that fine line between classy and aggressive.
A Truly Premium and Technology-Laden Cabin
Stepping inside the X3 reveals an interior crafted from premium materials with excellent build quality. Sliding into the cabin, I sank into well-bolstered sports seats finished in red leather. They provided a cosseting wrap that held me securely. The contrast red stitching added flair.
The overall design looks handsome and modern while retaining BMW's driver-focused layout. Brushed aluminum and matte wood trims imbued an upscale ambiance. All touch points felt high-quality and sturdy.
The cabin exudes that typical German luxury feel and oozes premium. Soft leather, real aluminum and wood trim, and tasteful accents impart a sense of luxury.
I relished the abundance of tech, including the all-digital instrument cluster and large 10.3-inch central touchscreen. The graphics are crisp and the menus are logically laid out.
The standard power front seats provide excellent comfort and support. Tall windows and thin roof pillars give a feeling of airiness, enhancing the spacious interior dimensions. Niceties like the optional heated/ventilated seats and heated armrests make the X3 a comfy place to spend time.
Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make accessing your phone simple. Comfort features like heated seats, steering wheel, and panoramic sunroof further contribute to the premium experience. There are plenty of charging ports and clever storage cubbies as well.
In the back, legroom is perhaps tighter than some competitors, but overall the X3 accommodates four adults nicely. The rear bench provides passengers with their own climate vents and USB ports to stay happy.
With the rear seats folded, there's plenty of area for luggage or gear. The rear cargo area is elegantly finished for an SUV with nice carpeting and chromed tie-downs.
For road trips and family adventures, the well-crafted cabin hits the right luxury notes. It's a sophisticated and luxurious environment that looks and feels special.
Impressive Versatility and Practicality
While sporty and luxurious, the X3 retains impressive versatility for an SUV of its size. The power liftgate provides easy access to 28 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Fold those seats down and it expands to a cavernous 62 cubic feet, enough for most large items.
Helpful details enhance everyday usability too. The innovative 40/20/40 split folding rear seats allow you to haul skis or other long items while retaining some passenger room. Underfloor compartments provide discreet storage zones. Standard roof rails up top make equipping racks and carriers easy.
Inside, you'll find abundant small item storage in the large center console, door pockets, and trays. Smartphone integration is a breeze with wireless charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Advanced driving aids like automated emergency braking and parking assistants also lend peace of mind.
Taken together, the X3 really shines as a luxury SUV that can handle family and gear-hauling duties with ease. The clever design elevates it above a purely practical tool.
Hitting the Road
After getting acquainted with the X3 inside and out, it was time to finally hit the road. Right away the turbocharged engine showed its merit, providing strong acceleration around town. The 8-speed transmission snapped off quick, imperceptible shifts.
When pushing it, the X3 proved it wears its sporting aspirations on its sleeve. The chassis felt nimble, taking twisty canyon roads with zeal. Steering had a linear, predictable weight that inspired confidence. Hit the Sport mode, and everything gets amped up to be even sharper.
Yet in normal driving, it remained a comfortable cruiser thanks to the compliant suspension smoothing out imperfect pavement. The cabin keeps outside noise to a hush, adding to the easygoing nature.
An adjustable air suspension is available to further enhance the ride quality. But I was pleased with the standard adaptive suspension on my tester.
Out on the highway, the X3 settled into a quiet, composed ride. The strong acceleration makes easy work of passing slower traffic. Driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control also help lessen the burden on long road trips.
No matter the driving environment, the X3 delivered a satisfying experience. It can capably handle the sporty stylings when called upon while remaining a pleasant daily driver.
Packed with Safety
On the safety front, the X3 comes equipped with a full array of advanced driver assistance systems. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert help detect vehicles around you that might be obscured.
The front collision warning can detect pedestrians and cyclists in addition to other cars. It can automatically apply the brakes if it senses you're about to collide with an object ahead.
Other aids like lane departure warning, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control round out the safety toolbox. These technologies provide that extra peace of mind every time you get behind the wheel.
The Takeaway - A Winning Formula
With its 2023 updates, the BMW X3 continues offering a very appealing crossover SUV. Few competitors can match its winning formula blending luxury appointments, spirited driving dynamics, and family hauling abilities into a versatile “one-car garage” solution.
While not inexpensive with pricing starting in the mid $50k range, the premium amenities, engaging performance, and excellent build quality make it well worth the cost for the right buyer.
Ongoing shortages may limit the availability of some configurations, but the X3 is definitely worth searching out. In the growing field of compact luxury SUVs, it stands out for retaining BMW’s renowned driving enjoyment within a more affordable and practical package.
After testing the 2023 X3, I’m thoroughly impressed by how it toes the line perfectly between sporty and sensible. For shoppers wanting a fun-to-drive crossover with room for the family and a premium interior, the latest BMW X3 checks all the boxes.
It emerges as a top contender among luxury SUVs through its combination of potent engines, athletic handling, upscale cabin, everyday versatility, and thoughtful technology.
The BMW X3 retains a coveted spot for shoppers seeking well-rounded excellence. If you seek luxury, driving fun, and utility in a tidy package, the 2023 X3 should undoubtedly be on your shopping list.