The 2020 X3 offers thrilling performance in top trims, but even the base car is noteworthy.
Starting from an average score of 5, the 2020 X3 gets points above average for a good ride and powertrains that range from very good to excellent. It’s an 8 out of 10.
The base engine is a 248-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s remarkable in its power delivery and refinement. The base engine is bright, efficient, and minds its manners very well—no complaints at all. It’s paired to an 8-speed automatic that’s telepathic in its gear selection and rapid-fire delivery. Most X3s will be paired to the all-wheel drive that delivers good capability off-road, but smile-state buyers may want to consider a rear-drive X3 sDrive30i to save $2,000 if all-wheel drive isn’t a must-have.
Most of our time behind the wheel of the X3 has been in the X3 xDrive30i, which in BMW speak means “base engine, all-wheel drive.” It accelerates confidently, even through mountain passes, and steams up to 60 mph from a stop in less than six seconds. There’s just a whiff of turbo lag, but there’s a fix.
The fix is called the X3 M40i, which pairs a sweet 382-hp turbo-6 with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. BMW estimates the X3 M40i will take 4.4 seconds to speed up to 60 mph from a standing start—our necks confirm the immense speed. It’s one of BMW’s best engines in one of its best cars right now…but it’s not cheap. The BMW X3 M40i is a good rival for the Mercedes-Benz GLC43 AMG and Audi SQ5, and bleats a silly rap of overrun into the air for the ride home. We don’t mind.
In any configuration, the X3 steers confidently and with the verve of a rear-drive sedan. BMW’s all-wheel-drive system prioritizes torque to the rear wheels—up to 100 percent, in theory—with good traction.
The X3 offers up to 8 inches of ground clearance for rutted trails, likely more than any BMW owner will ever ask of it.
The X3 is better left to the pavement, where it has the manners of a solid sedan.
The X3 sports a double-pivot front strut suspension (a BMW hallmark) and a five-link independent rear.
Adaptive shocks cycle between Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes, and in M40i, Sport+ with a stiffer setup.
Steering the X3 is relatively heavy, even in Comfort mode, with considerable heft coming through the thin steering wheel.
X3 M and X3 M Competition
Silly money demands silly performance. Both the X3 M and X3 M Competition cost north of $70,000 and screw the turbos tighter on the turbo-6 to make 473 hp and 503 hp in X3 M and X3 M Competition models, respectively.
For more on their performance, read our colleagues at Motor Authority’s first-drive review.
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