Road Test: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE 5dr Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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First Drive

Road Test: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE 5dr

£30,955 when new
Published: 24 Jun 2014


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • CO2


  • Max Speed


  • Insurance


BMW has blown/invested around £2bn on its i3 and i8 programme, but continues to work wonders with its conventional powertrains. Take the lightly rebooted X3 range, for example. In its sharpest-dressed form, the xDrive35d ponies up 312bhp, 464 torques and hits 62mph in 5.3secs, while averaging a claimed 47.1mpg and emitting 157g/km of CO2. That would have been crazy talk not so long ago, never mind in a smallish SUV. There’s scope yet in mixing fuel and air, make no mistake. 

The model that matters most, the xDrive20d, gets a new 4cyl turbodiesel engine barely less impressive. This will soon be rolled out across BMW’s range, while the X3’s rather fussy styling is given a gentle polish, its interior quality enhanced, and yet more fashionable connectivity crowbarred in. A decade after a wobbly start, the X3 isn’t so much a car as a steamroller of competence.

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The new engine is fantastic. It’s an all-aluminium unit with a clever evolution of BMW’s commonrail injection, power is up from 181bhp to 187bhp, while 295 torques are shovelled out in the mid-range 1,750–2,500rpm band. BMW claims a combined average of 54.3mpg, and CO2 emissions of 136g/km. This is as pleasing to the dog-owning, procreating private buyer as it is the fleet overlord. (The 148bhp, RWD sDrive18d on 17in ‘aero’ alloys manages a best-in-class 60.1mpg and 124g/km CO2.)

Several key things are immediately apparent. Although the engine emits a baritone rumble on start-up, that’s it as far as dieselly noises go. On the move, even the world’s finest NVH specialist would be hard pushed to distinguish this unit from its petrol equivalent. 

We drove the X3 in New York, a city so besieged by roadworks it makes pothole Britain look like a billiard table; even here the BMW is supple. Further upstate, a smattering of corners suggests the X3 remains a most dynamic SUV, with moderate body roll, decent steering and considerable chassis poise. Our car had the optional 8spd auto, so while the engine is barely ticking over at motorway speeds it can be a little sleepy when you need to overtake quickly. 

It’s not the magic-bullet future of motoring, but it is extremely good.

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