The BMW X3 is a premium compact crossover utility vehicle produced over three generations since its original launch in 2003. The X3 was BMW’s second foray into utility vehicles, expanding the Bavarian brand’s crossover portfolio beyond the earlier X5.

NEW FOR 2020: Up until recently, the X3 was only available as a fossil fuel powered vehicle but now BMW has added a plug-in hybrid version to the X3 lineup. The xDrive 30e is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which combined with an electric motor produces a combined output of 292 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Equipped with a 12kWh battery pack it can do about 20 miles and 68 mph in pure electric mode. The US launch is slated for spring 2020. Expect prices to start from $45,000 MSRP.

As the name suggests, the BMW X3 is based on the 3-Series car, the current third-generation model offering the same choice between rear- and all-wheel drive as its car counterpart. That latest X3 iteration first went on sale for the 2018 model year in the U.S., and it marks the first time a manual transmission is not available.

The BMW X3 has grown in size over the generations, today occupying a footprint larger than the original X5. In the US, it can be had with either of two turbocharged gasoline engines—a 2.0-liter inline-four, or a 3.0-liter inline-six—paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Peak output ranges from 248 horsepower with the basic 2.0-liter, to 382 in the M40i.

With a starting MSRP of $42,945 including destination, the 2020 BMW X3 is solidly in premium vehicle territory.

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BMW X3 Pricing

For 2020, the BMW X3 starts at $42,945, including a $995 destination fee. That’s for a base, rear-wheel-drive X3 sDrive30i with no options. The all-wheel-drive X3 xDrive30i starts $2,000 higher, at $44,945 before options. Both are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine.

To get the 3.0-liter turbo inline-six, you’ll need to step up to the BMW X3 M40i, which starts at $56,895. It comes standard with intelligent AWD, and delivers a strong 382 hp backed by 365 lb-ft.

Load up a 2020 BMW X3 M40i as far as it will go and you’re looking at about a $65,000 price tag in the US, after destination.

BMW X3 Features

For a premium vehicle, the BMW X3 is a bit light on standard features. Vinyl SensaTec seat upholstery comes standard, as does 12-speaker audio, automatic stop-start, adaptive cruise control, 10-way power front seats with driver’s seat memory, and a power liftgate. But lumbar support on the base model doesn’t enter the picture until one opts for a $2,250 Convenience package, and heated front seats are $500 as a standalone option—or available with a $5,000 Premium package.

The top-spec package on the X3 sDrive30i is the $7,750 Executive package, which comes with heated front seats, a digital instrument panel, head-up display, 360-degree camera, automatic high beams, gesture control, and other high-tech goodies. Dynamic Damper Control—arguably a must-have, adjusting damper stiffness to suit conditions and driving tastes—aren’t part of any package on the sDrive30i. The system costs $1,000 as a standalone option.

BMW X3 vs Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Prior to its reentry into the US market earlier this decade, Alfa Romeo’s presence was sorely missed by car fanatics, and its absence hardly noticed by anyone else. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the Italian brand’s first attempt at a utility vehicle, and it’s the clear choice for those who prize driving dynamics above all else.

For those who look at a crossover more as a means of getting from A to B in comfort, however, the BMW is the superior compact CUV. It’s the more polished, refined vehicle, and perfectly well-balanced in its own right.

Read More 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review

BMW X3 vs Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

Higher-performance models of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class align pretty exactly with the BMW X3, with an AMG GLC 43 delivering 362 horsepower to the X3 M40i’s 382.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class also starts at around the same price point as the BMW X3, and with a stronger emphasis on comfort, convenience, and safety features, it poses a real threat to BMW’s compact crossover range.

Read More 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Review

BMW X3 vs Porsche Macan

Forget about the Alfa Romeo Stelvio; the Porsche Macan is the true sporty option in the compact premium crossover space. It’s also Porsche’s best-selling model globally, and the lowest-priced vehicle in the German sportscar-maker’s lineup.

That said, it still starts several thousand dollars higher than the BMW X3, and while it’s better at carving corners, it can’t match the BMW’s utility or comfort.

Read More 2019 Porsche Macan S Review

2018 BMW X3 Review Video

Read More 2018 BMW X3 Review

Detailed Specs

Engine / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl / 3.0L turbo 6-cyl
Horsepower / 248 / 382
Torque / 258 lb-ft / 369 lb-ft
Transmission / 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain / Rear-wheel drive / All-wheel drive
Price Range / $42,945-$56,895

Our Final Verdict

The BMW X3 is a good, solid premium compact crossover that ultimately comes up short of “excellent.” But it’s important to note just how high the bar has been set—not only by other competing premium compact crossovers, but by BMW’s own history. Spend years touting yourself as maker of the “ultimate driving machine” and more-or-less delivering on that tagline year after year, model after model, and you may find you’ve put yourself in a position where “good” isn’t good enough.

That’s where the BMW X3 sits. It’s comfortable, nicely trimmed, and it offers all the niceties one could ever want in a compact crossover. But for the most part, those niceties are high-priced extras that add to an already-large price tag, and as smooth and refined as the X3’s standard powertrains are, the basic models fail to excite.

At the end of the day, a vote for the BMW X3 is really—or at least partially—a vote for its badge.