2015 BMW X3: First look
The refreshed 2015 X3 now offers diesel power, but is that enough to make it stand out in an increasingly crowded crossover market?
Diesel power is new to the 2015 BMW X3, but that's not the only update on this refreshed midsize crossover. The X3, which made its U.S. debut at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, plays in an increasingly crowded BMW lineup, with the entry-level X1 below, the X6 and soon-to-arrive X4 competing in the bizarre coupe-like crossover segment, and the X5 offering a three-row option. But with buyers in this price range also considering the all-wheel-drive 3 Series Gran Turismo, does the updated X3 differ enough to stand out?
New models certainly won't hurt the X3's case. The four-cylinder diesel we've seen in the 328d makes an appearance in the 2015 BMW X4, and should translate to a huge boost in EPA-rated fuel economy. The volume-oriented X3 xDrive28i is now available in a $39,325 (including destination) rear-drive sDrive28i model, which once again allows the midsize luxury crossover to slip in below $40,000. The all-wheel-drive 2015 X3 xDrive28i is $40,725, while the new 2015 X3 xDrive28d is a $2100 upgrade. Though we don't yet have fuel economy numbers on the diesel, the lighter and smaller 328d sedan is good for 31/43 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive. The X3 xDrive35i remains available, at a price of $45,825.
The diesel-powered 2015 BMW X3 will only be offered with all-wheel drive, and features a 180-hp turbodiesel 2.0-liter I-4 with 280 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is said to take under eight seconds, compared to the claimed 6.2-second performance from the new rear-drive X3 sDrive28i, which is powered by a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4. When that's not quick enough for your luxury SUV, there's always the X3 xDrive35i, with a 300-hp turbocharged inline-six that helped it scoot to 60 mph in as quick as 5.3 seconds in Motor Trend testing. All engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and we hope the 2015 X3's transmission reacts more quickly than did the one in our long-gone 2011 X3 long-termer.
No matter which configuration you choose, the 2015 X3 has been X5-icized, with revised headlights (LEDs are optional) now connected to the updated grille. The rear bumpers have also been tweaked, and the side-view mirrors now have turn-signal indicators. The changes are subtle, but current X3 owners may notice the difference between their crossover and the updated X3 from the front.
Inside, the 2015 X3 has new cup holders with a sliding cover for the center console and, as you'd expect, a wider range of exterior/interior design combinations. The iDrive controller now has touchpad functionality — an advanced bit of tech that should go nicely with other features including front collision and pedestrian warning systems, a City Collision Mitigation system, a power liftgate like the Escape's that can open with a movement of the foot below the rear bumper, as well as adaptive cruise control and a head-up display. Between the available engine upgrades and advanced technology, good luck keeping the MSRP below the mid-$40,000 range.
To keep your 2015 BMW X3 unlike all the others at the mall, the automaker is offering xLine and M Sport upgrades. The new xLine adds metallic trim in the bumpers, satin aluminum side cladding in the air intakes, and the appearance of an under guard in the front and rear. The X3 xLine also offers different leather interior options, plus other 19-inch wheel designs. The X3 M Sport bumps up the curb appeal with exclusive 19- and 20-inch wheel options and includes a few other visual upgrades, but also offers paddle shifters and revised transmission, steering, and suspension settings.
We're eager to try the 2015 X3's new xDrive display, which shows details about the crossover's body roll and pitch. Most of the time, the xDrive system sends 80 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. Even with all-wheel drive, the 2015 BMW X3 may just hit 30 mpg on the highway in the real world, thanks in part to the coasting feature that disengages the engine at speeds of about 30-100 mph after the driver lifts off the accelerator.
The 2015 BMW X3 remains an ideal size — bigger than the cramped X1 but not as bulky as the more popular X5. The revised X3's changes will help keep the crossover feeling fresh for a couple years, but we'll have to get behind the wheel to see whether it could finally unseat the Lexus RX as the luxury crossover best-seller.