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Unprecedented power, pure-electric propulsion on tap for 2020 BMW X3

2020 BMW X3

2020 BMW X3

What changes will make the 2020 BMW X3 different?

Two new variants — one for super-performance enthusiasts, the other for electric-vehicle disciples. They’ll expand this premium compact crossover’s lineup into niches already occupied by top rivals and broaden the market for BMW’s best-selling U.S. vehicle. The hot-rod X3 M and the battery powered iX3 will join the returning four-cylinder sDrive30i and xDrive30i models and the six-cylinder X4 M40i, which are expected to carry over with few changes.

The 2020 X3 M will be the first version of this stylish five-seater to receive full treatment from the German automaker’s high-performance M division. In addition to exterior and interior modifications and exclusive chassis tuning, it’ll have its own twin-turbo six-cylinder engine expected to generate around 450 horsepower in standard form and 500 or more with the optional Competition Package.

BMW says the all-electric iX3 will have about 270 horsepower and a range of more than 249 miles on a full charge. It’ll share the dimensions and basic look of the other X3s but will introduce the company’s new modular understructure, adaptable for gas, hybrid, and electric powertrains. As of December 2018, however, the automaker had not confirmed whether the iX3 will be rear-wheel drive or available with all-wheel drive (AWD). The iX3 is slated to go on sale in the second quarter of 2020, making it a candidate for the ’20 X3 lineup but also eligible to be sold as a 2021 model.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy a 2019?

Wait, if you’re interested in the X3 M or the iX3. Fortified with racetrack-honed engineering reserved for BMW’s most powerful cars and crossovers, the 2020 X3 M will go beyond the already-impressive 355-horsepower M40i. Expected to be priced over $70,000, it’ll compete with ultimate versions of rival premium compact crossovers, such as the 505-horsepower Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the 469-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GLC63 4Matic, and the 440-horsepower Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package.

Built in China, the iX3 will be BMW’s second all-electric vehicle, after the i3 subcompact car. It’s designed to compete in a burgeoning automotive segment: premium-compact-crossover electric vehicles. This EV segment has been defined by the Tesla Model X, which offers 328-680 horsepower and a range of 237-295 miles, depending on model. Other entries include the impressive Jaguar I-Pace (394 horsepower, 248 miles per charge), the Audi e-tron (355 horsepower, 248-mile range), and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC (402 horsepower, 280-mile range). All these rivals are AWD. Although the iX3 will trail them for power, its range seems competitive and it should be among the more affordable vehicles in the competitive set, where base prices range from around $75,000 to $140,000.

Buy a 2019 X3 if you’re not revved up about the X3 M or charged up about the iX3. Both will be low-selling additions to a lineup anchored by the carryover models. Except for a possible new color choice or two and maybe some equipment-package shuffling, the 2019 sDrive30i, xDrive30i, and X3 M40i will be virtual duplicates of their 2020 counterparts – sans the inevitable model-year price increases. Attractive and solidly built, they are appealing but far from hands-down leaders for value and all-around performance among premium compact crossovers.

Launched for model-year 2018, this third-generation X3 is slightly larger than its 2011-2017 predecessor, though not much roomier. The redesign brought racier styling, new engines, and more connectivity and safety features. Sales have been strong enough to make it BMW’s most-popular U.S. model, although it was running fifth in the segment through October 2018, behind the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Cadillac XT5, and Acura RDX, in that order.

Once BMW’s only small crossover, the X3 now shares showroom space with several intriguing alternatives. These include the X4, an underskin twin that substitutes a fastback body for the X3’s squared-off wagon shape. BMW extends that formula to the premium subcompact-crossover segment with the smaller, less expensive X1 and its fastback sibling, the X2. It taps it again to market its larger and costlier premium midsize-crossover duo, the X5 and its coupe-like cousin, the X6.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, but only in the unique visual touches associated with the X3 M and the iX3. Like other M-massaged BMWs, the 2020 X3 M will have a front facia with enlarged air intakes, a rear apron integrating four tailpipes, and various aerodynamic tweaks. It’ll also have its own wheels, likely 20- or 21-inchers (BMW hadn’t specified in time for this report). The iX3 will share the standard X3 body but introduce a new take on the brand’s twin-kidney grille without the central vertical division; BMW says it reduces air resistance. It’ll have no tailpipes, feature blue accents in the grille and along the lower-body edges, get its own aero-optimized wheels, and incorporate a covered charge port in the left front fender.

The rear-wheel-drive 2020 sDrive30i and all-wheel-drive xDrive30i should again come standard with s BMW’s xLine trim, with satin-aluminum and silver-matte accents and 18-inch alloy wheels (with 19s optional). The Luxury Package option will again add chrome grille bars and two-tone bumper trim. The returning M Sport package will mimic elements of the M40i, adding the M Aerodynamic Kit with enlarged front air intakes, side-skirt trim, and a diffusor-style rear apron. It’ll also include Shadowline exterior touches and 19-inch alloys. M Double-Spoke 20-inch wheels with wider rear performance tires should again be optional.

Despite its 355 horsepower, the ’20 X3 M40i will return at a performance tier below the full-out X3 M. It’ll compete with the Audi SQ5 and Range Rover Velar P380, along with other “one-step-below” rivals such as Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and Porsche Macan GTS. It’ll echo some of the X3 M’s look with slightly flared fenders and BMW’s M Performance-specific touches. These include the M Aerodynamic kit enhanced with gray metallic accents, darker tailpipe embellishers, and blue-painted aluminum front brake calipers. Nineteen-inch alloys will be standard, with 20- and 21-inch cast light-alloy wheels optional.

Even with its 2.1-inch longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) and body, this third-generation X3 is hardly larger inside than the second-gen model. It has marginally more front headroom, legroom, and shoulder room, but fractionally less rear legroom, so knee clearance for tall back-seaters remains no better than average for the class. On the upside, the redesigned X3 added interior storage space, and even the least expensive version comes with front sport bucket seats with power-adjustable side bolsters. The 2020 Luxury and M Sport packages will again add faux-leather dashboard trim, with the M Sport also featuring a unique leather steering wheel. The M40i will have added front-seat adjustments and continue to sprinkle about “M40i” logos but expect only the X3 M to come with leather upholstery, which will again cost extra on the other X3s.

BMW hadn’t released details on the iX3’s cargo volume, but the other ’20 X3s will return with a 40/20/40 split/folding rear bench seat with individually adjustable sections that can be released remotely from the luggage compartment. They furnish a class-average 28.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 62.7 cubic feet with it folded. No spare tire is included; ordering the optional space-saver spare introduces an intrusive housing that raises the cargo floor several inches, reducing capacity and creating an uneven load floor with the backrests folded.

The iX3 will have unique instrumentation to monitor battery-charge status and range, as well as its own center-console shifter-type lever. The other 2020 X3s will return with no-nonsense round analog-style gauges in a binnacle before the driver. Per BMW’s latest practice, the dashboard features a horizontally oriented central stack of infotainment-, climate-, and audio-system controls. Governed by BMW’s iDrive array of center-console knobs and buttons (and supplemented by available voice and gesture control) the standard infotainment touchscreen is a 6.5-inch tablet-like display atop the instrument panel. With the available imbedded navigation system, it’s a generous 10.25 inches in diameter.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, courtesy of the M and iX3; the returning X3s won’t be altered mechanically. The 2020 X3 M will use the latest iteration of BMW’s high-performance twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine. Employing the company’s “M TwinPower Turbo” technology, the 3.0-liter will also appear in the new-for-2020 X4 M and likely in the next-generation 3-Series-based M3 and M4 cars. Expect more than 450 horsepower supplemented by racetrack-worthy modifications to suspension, steering, brakes, and critically, to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system for enhanced rear-wheel-drive-like road manners. It’ll also come with BMW’s active M rear differential, which continuously distributes torque evenly to both rear wheels.

The iX3 integrates its electric motor, transmission, and power electronics into a single component that BMW says allows for more freedom of design and more powerful performance. It says the onboard fast-charging unit enables the crossover to fully charge its 70k Wh battery in 30 minutes when connected to a fast-charging station.

Returning unchanged, the 2020 rear-wheel-drive X3 sDrive30i and AWD xDrive30i share a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The returning ‘20 X3 M40i’s 3.0-liter inline-six is also used in the X4 M40i and has 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. All gas-powered 2020 X3s will use an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. In the X3 M and M40i, it’ll be tuned to M Performance specifications, with sharper shifts and calibrations that maximize engine rpm and throttle response on twisty roads. It also features launch control.

While the X3 M will have specific suspension calibrations, some of its attributes will be available via the M Sports suspension. Boasting tuned springs, dampers and antiroll bars, it should return as standard on the M40i and as an option on the sDrive30i and xDrive30i. Also back will be a system that furnishes a Driving Dynamics Control toggle switch to adjust steering, powertrain, and suspension within modes BMW calls Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and, on the X3 M and M40i, Sport+.

The sDrive30i and xDrive30i will again be available with BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control to help the suspension respond automatically to the road surface and driving situation; the driver can also vary its characteristics between comfort and sport. Likely to be standard on the X3 M and optional for the 2020 M40i is the Adaptive M Suspension. It features electronically controlled dampers and even sportier suspension settings. Look for the variable sport steering system that’s optional on the xDrive30i to be standard on the X3 M and M40i. To supplement their throaty sound, the X3 M and M40i will get a flap-controlled M Sport exhaust system

Although no 2020 X3 will be promoted as an off-roader, xDrive models will again have hill descent control and 8.0 inches of ground clearance. That’s slightly less clearance than most rivals, but xDrive does an adequate job distributing power fore and aft automatically to enhance traction on loose surfaces or in snow. However, its main focus remains heightened on-road dynamics, aided by a rear-drive bias on dry pavement and the ability to constantly vary power among all four wheels to aid cornering. Like the previous X3, this one has an optimal 50:50 front-rear weight balance.

BMW promises peerless performance from the 2020 X3 M; expect 0-60 mph the low-4-second territory. And the iX3 should furnish the seamless, instant-torque acceleration that makes premium-segment electric vehicles so satisfying to drive. We haven’t yet tested either, but evaluations of the returning four- and six-cylinder X3s reveals them as solid performers but far from class-leading overall. The sDrive30i and xDrive30i do 0-60 mph in around 6.0 seconds, the M40i in 4.8. Away from a stop, all suffer some pre-boost lethargy. Once underway, the four-cylinder models continue occasional turbo lag, pending transmission kick-downs but the M40i is robust and responsive, with especially gratifying highway-passing power.

Alas, we may have to wait for the M version for an X3 that recaptures the top-notch road manners that once defined the BMW experience. The returning models are rock-solid at speed but lack the eagerness and composure in fast cornering you enjoy in rivals from Porsche, Audi, Jaguar, and especially Alfa Romeo. In particular, the BMW would benefit from more predictable and linear steering; even the M40i’s has an arthritic feel that sabotages the experience. It’s also compromised by its optional 20- and 21-inch wheels and tires, which transmit impacts of even minor bumps into the cabin. Ride quality is better with the M40i’s standard 19-inch wheels and tires but best with the four-cylinder models’ standard 18-inchers (19s and 20s are optional for the sDrive30i and xDrive).

Will fuel economy improve?

It’ll take a step forward with the iX3 – which doesn’t use any gas at all – but a step backward with the X3 M — which is likely to use lots of it. Electric range depends on a variety of factors, including driving style, ambient temperature, and terrain. BMW’s projected range of at least 249 miles for the iX3 isn’t as much as it might be had the automaker based its new electric crossover on a clean-sheet design utilizing the efficiencies of a dedicated chassis that integrates the battery pack “skateboard” style. But its recharge time of 30 minutes is among the fastest available today for an EV.

Look for the 2020 X3 M to handily out-guzzle the X3 M40i, which should retain its 2019 EPA ratings of 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. That rating is about par for premium compact crossovers with around 350 horsepower and you can expect the X3 M to reflect ratings of its circa-450-horse competitive set, at around 17/23/19 mpg.

The 2020 sDrive30i should likewise repeat their 2019 EPA ratings: 23/30/26 mpg for the former and 22/29/25 for the latter.

Will it have new features?

The X3 M will essentially come standard with several of the performance-enhancing options available on the other gas X3s. And the battery-monitoring and electric-propulsion gizmos associated with the iX3 will count as new features. Otherwise, the 2020 X3 sDrive30i, xDrive30i, and M40i probably won’t add to their already lengthy list of standard and optional equipment. Note that while some desirable features will again be standard, including LED headlamps, 10-way power front seats, and dark-oak wood or aluminum cabin trim. However, while leather upholstery probably will be standard on the X3 M, on other ’20 X3s expect to again pay around $1,700 to substitute it for the automaker’s admittedly convincing Sensatec vinyl.

More important, we’d urge BMW to expand the X3’s roster of standard safety features. Foremost among these would be autonomous emergency braking. For 2019, it was included in the optional Active Driving Assistant Package and marketed as City Collision Mitigation. It’s designed to bring the X3 to a halt automatically from around-town speeds when sensors detect an imminent frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Also in the package was rear cross-traffic alert. BMW priced the package at just $500 but charging extra for such an essential safety feature feels unseemly in this league, especially when rival automakers include autonomous emergency braking as standard on vehicles costing far less.

In the same vein, BMW charged $1,700 for the Driving Assistance Plus Package option on 2019 X3s. It included City Collision Mitigation as well as active cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go congestion. It also contained lane-maintaining autonomous steering that corrects for unintended lane departure and can also follow the road for limited periods without the driver touching the steering wheel. Enhanced side, front, and rear alerts are part of the package too.

Even if it continues to make key driver assists optional, BMW will include as standard some less-than-obvious safety features. For example, a system designed to anticipate a collision and automatically close the windows and moonroof should return as standard on all 2020 X3s. And for owners anxious about the environs in which they’ve parked, BMW will again offer its Remote 3D View function, which uses the BMW Connected App to transmit to your smartphone a three-dimensional, 360-degree view of the X3’s immediate vicinity.

Also back will be the available touch-free gesture-control infotainment interface, which responds to waves of your hand. The returning BMW Connected system supports iOS and Android devices, including certain wearable gear like the Apple Watch. And it enables owners to perform tasks like locking the vehicle and activating its ventilation system from home using Amazon Echo Alexa commands.

Available again on all models will be a WiFi hotspot with internet connection for up to 10 mobile devices. Available wireless linking to Apple CarPlay allows you to project your mapping app on the dashboard screen (Android Auto wasn’t available as of model-year 2019). For real-time guidance where there’s no cell signal, you’ll need imbedded navigation. It’s likely to be standard on the X3 M and iX3; for other X3s expect it to again be part of the Premium Package, which cost $3,400 for 2019. (The package also included the $2,850 Convenience Package and bundled a host of other desirable features such as LED headlamps, a panoramic moonroof, full keyless access, a hands-free power liftgate, and for the four-cylinder models, 19-inch wheels.)

Upgrading to the automaker’s Navigation Professional system links your X3 with other inter-connected BMWs, for car-to-car communication that shares information about traffic and weather hazards and adjusts navigation guidance accordingly. In cities with compatible parking-spot-locator service, the X3’s available ParkNow and On-Street Parking Information systems can project on the nav screen the probability and location of available parking.

How will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll increase for the returning models, while the X3 M and iX3 are likely send the X3 into new price strata. (Estimated base prices in this review include the automaker’s destination fee, which was $995 for 2019.)

Estimated starting prices are $43,000 for the 2020 sDrive30i, $45,000 for the xDrive30i, $56,700 for the M40i. Expect BMW to price the 2020 X3 M from around $70,000 and the iX3 from around $60,000.

Don’t foresee much difficulty adding $6,000-$9,000 in options to an X3 to achieve your luxury or performance ideal. For example, the M Sport package that gives the four-cylinder models a touch of M40i flare, including interior and exterior dress-up items and 19-inch wheels in place of the standard 18s, should again cost around $5,300, with an extra $950 for 20-inch wheels and $1,300 for the Dynamic Handling Package.

When will it come out?

Expected release date for the 2020 X3 line of gas-powered models is in the third quarter of 2019. BMW has already begun taking orders on the iX3 in some overseas markets, but says it’ll begin delivering the crossover EV sometime during 2020. It had not specified whether initial North American versions will go on sale as model-year 2020 or 2021 vehicles.

Best competitors

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

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]