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Redesigned 2017 X3 to showcase BMW’s next wave of style, tech, and performance

Last Update August 4th, 2016

2017 BMW X3

2017 BMW X3

What changes make the 2017 BMW X3 different?

Introduction of wireless smartphone charging and WiFi-hotspot capability head the short list of 2017 updates as BMW readies an all-new version of this premium compact crossover for model-year 2018. The place-holder ’17 tweaks include some standard-equipment enhancements for the top-line X3 xDrive35i model, plus a new steering wheel for the popular M Sport package. Competing with the likes of the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Porsche Macan, the X3 slots between the smaller X2 and larger X5 in the German automaker’s lineup. It’s the more sensible alternative to the X4, a fashion-conscious crossover of similar size but with a less functional “four-door-coupe” fastback body.

Should I wait for the 2018?

If you want an X3 with crisper lines and a larger, more luxurious interior. Wait as well if you’re interested in plug-in hybrid or high-performance “M” variants, which aren’t offered in the current model. The fourth-gen X3 will have a stronger, lighter substructure. Overall size won’t change, but a longer wheelbase will increase rear legroom. Anticipate a body with upswept character lines, a slightly lower roofline, sleeker headlamps, and larger air intakes. The traditional twin-kidney grille will return. So will turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines and a diesel four, although all should be more efficient and perhaps have more power. They’ll be joined by an X3 M40i with around 355 horsepower and maybe by a full-on 400-plus horse X3M. The plug-in hybrid would team a turbocharged four with electric power for around 300 net horsepower and the ability to travel some 13 miles on battery power alone. The transmission for all these models probably will be the automaker’s new nine-speed automatic.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

If you’re cool with what is still a pretty cool crossover, despite a vintage-2011 design that’s among the oldest in the class. Leveraging its BMW DNA, the ’17 X3 trails only the Macan and the just-introduced Jaguar F-Pace as the sportiest-driving premium-compact SUV. It’s solidly built, has above-average cargo space, and a trio of laudable engine choices, all turbocharged. The rear-drive sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i use a four-cylinder, the xDrive35i a six, and the xDrive28d diesel four. Every model comes with a power liftgate, LED fog lamps, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and brushed aluminum or real wood interior trim. On the downside, you need to spend extra for premium-strata stuff like leather upholstery, heated seats, full smartphone integration, and imbedded navigation. Still, BMW dealers should be eager to negotiate discounts on 2017 models to clear inventories ahead of the all-new ‘18s. Exploit that, especially later in the ’17 model year.

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Is the styling different?

Only in minor details. For 2017, the optional 19-inch wheels transition to a star-spoke design from a double-spoke style. Chestnut Bronze Metallic replaces Sparkling Brown Metallic among exterior color choices. Inside, beige is no longer a color option for BMW’s standard faux-leather SensaTec upholstery or for the extra-cost real leather. The steering wheel included in the M Sport option package remains leather-wrapped but has a more purposeful look courtesy of slimmer spokes and buttons. The package again includes bolstering-enhanced front bucket seats but it can’t do much to modernize a prosaic cabin design. The main ergonomic issue is a toggle-type transmission shift lever that requires more concentration than it should. More significant, rear legroom is tight enough to discomfit rangy adults on long journeys. Front-seat comfort is good and headroom generous all-around. Exterior styling is handsome but has become a little too familiar in a sea of fresher new rivals. The M Sport package makes it look more belligerent with darkened trim and aero addenda. The X Line package goes for a jeweled look via extra exterior brightwork. All models come with 18-inch alloy wheels; optional individually and included with the M Sport and X Line packages are 19-inch alloys, with 20s also optionally available on the gas models.

Any mechanical changes?

No. The rear-drive sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i return with an overachieving turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The xDrive35i boasts BMW’s classic inline-six-cylinder, a turbo 3.0-liter with 300 horses and 300 pound-feet of torque. With its 2.0-liter turbodiesel four, the xDrive28d rewards with 280 pound-feet of torque and segment-topping fuel economy. All team with an unassailable eight-speed automatic transmission, which gets performance programming in the M Sport package. The 8.3 inches of ground clearance is generous for this class but BMW tunes xDrive for optimal on-road handling. It normally sends 60 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels, reapportioning it fore and aft during acceleration and cornering and to quell slippery-surface tire slip. Handling overall is reassuringly secure and predictable and we don’t find the optional Dynamic Handling Package, with its reactive damper control and variable sport steering, worth the extra $1,300-$1,400, depending on model. The 19- and 20-inch tires sharpen response in quick changes of direction, but test an X3 so equipped before to determine whether
you can abide their harsher ride compared with the 18s.

Does fuel economy improve?

No, but it’s nonetheless slightly above par against gas-powered rivals with similar power. And the X3 diesel remains the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the class. EPA ratings for the sDrive28i and xDrive 28i are 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined. The xDrive35i rates 19/26/21 mpg, the xDrive28d 27/34/30.

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Does it have new features?

Standard for 2017 on the xDrive 35i are keyless entry, power front-seat lumbar support, and satellite radio; these remain optional on the other models. Among features already mentioned, the most useful is the wireless smartphone charging and Wi-Fi hotspot in-vehicle Internet access. They’re part of a $400 option that also incorporates a USB connection to integrate of a range of smartphone features, a function that was formerly a stand-alone $200 upcharge. Also new is Apple CarPlay compatibility, through it’s yet another $300. Indeed, for a premium brand, BMW can seem to nickel-and-dime some amenities. Many less-expensive vehicles, for example, include a rearview camera as standard. On the X3, it’s part of the $950 Driver Assistance Package, along with rear-obstacle detection. Those features are not included in the $1,700 Driver Assistance Plus package. It bundles blind-spot detection and vehicle surround-view video, plus lane-departure and forward-collision warning. But it won’t steer you back into your lane.

And while it can slow the X3 to mitigate a frontal crash it won’t bring it to a complete stop. That deficit denies it coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though it does achieve top scores in the government’s 5-star Safety Ratings crash testing.

Are 2017 prices different?

Options prices largely stand pat, while base prices increase $395-$1,345; the latter partly reflecting the standard equipment added to the xDrive35i for 2017. Base prices in this review include BMW’s $995 destination fee. The sDrive28i starts at $39,945 and the xDrive28i at $41,645. The xDrive35i is priced from $48,645 and the xDrive28d from $43,445. Among key options, an imbedded navigation system is a stand-alone $1,900 extra but is also a component of the $2,750 Technology Package, along with a head-up instrument display and BMW connected app compatibility. A panoramic moonroof is standard on the xDrive35i and a $1,350 stand-alone option on the other models. It’s also included in the other models’ $3,200 Premium Package, along with satellite radio, keyless entry, and power lumbar support. All X3s have a power liftgate; on the xDrive35i, it can be opened with a wiggle of the foot beneath the rear bumper. Leather upholstery is a $1,450 option for all X3s. The $950 Cold Weather Package adds heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and headlight washers. The X Line costs $1,500 on any X3, the M Sport package $2,400-$2,700, depending on model.

When does it come out?

The 2017 X3 went on sale in June 2017.

Best competitors

Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Cadillac CT5, Infiniti QX50, Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Volvo XC60.

What change would make it better?

BMW isn’t apt to liberalize its approach to equipping X3s in a way that compels buyers to spend extra for true premium-grade amenities. To its credit, it doesn’t skimp on design or engineering: even base-level models uphold the brand’s reputation for focused driving machines. Still, that reputation has been tarnished by numb steering feel and some handling foibles. A return to benchmark status for road manners would be the next-generation X3’s No.1 achievement.

How does the X3 handle in the snow?

Very good, with xDrive – and the correct tire choice. Compared to the rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i, all-wheel drive provides an extra measure of valuable snowy-surface traction to get you moving. As with any such system, however, it’s of little help in turning or stopping on slippery surfaces. Be on guard against a false sense of security. A critical component of snow performance is tire tread and compound. The X3’s standard 18-inchers are all-season tires; so are the 19s included in the X Line package. They’re superior in snow to the 19s and 20s that are stand-alone options, and to the 19s included in the M Sport package. These tires have tread optimized for dry-road performance, not slick-surface grip. And their rubber compound doesn’t stay as flexible below 40 degrees. If you choose the performance-tread tires, we recommend a set of four dedicated aftermarket winter tires. BMW dealers are familiar with the drill, and you’ll enjoy astonishing snow traction, even with rear-wheel drive.

These same rules apply for all premium-compact crossovers, although some, like the Audi allroad and Q5, Porsche Macan, and Jaguar F-Pace eliminate the rear-wheel-drive wild card because they come only with all-wheel drive. And should you choose to go without all-wheel drive in this class, front-wheel drive versions of the Acura RDX, Cadillac XT5, and Lincoln MKC would offer better snow traction than rear-drive rivals.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]