Review and road test of the BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)

THREE'S A CHARM

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

BMW's third generation 'G01'-series X3 was a premium mid-sized SUV that in this form got plusher, more spacious and more powerfully efficient compared to its predecessor, stacking up impressively against prestigiously-badged period alternatives from Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and Volvo in this sector. Like its rivals, dynamically targeted almost exclusively towards on-road use, it was another example of just how car-like a model of this kind could be.

Models

5dr SUV (xDrive20i / xDrive20d / xDrive30d / xDrive30e / M40i / M40d)

History

You wouldn't would you? Dramatically change a car that's already a best seller. So this third generation BMW X3, the Munich maker's entrant in the ever-growing premium mid-sized SUV segment back in 2017, very much emphasised evolution over revolution when it came to the alterations made. We'd had the major changes with the previous generation MK2 'F25'-series version back in 2010, when BMW transformed the awkward first generation 'E83'-series X3 model onto a proper smart-suited mid-sized SUV fully up to the task of taking on classy rivals from Audi and Mercedes. That previous MK1 design, originally launched in 2003, had been one of the company's poorer efforts, essentially a re-bodied 3 Series Touring that looked ugly, felt cheap, rode poorly and only sold a lot because it didn't have much competition. What buyers really wanted an X3 to be was a slightly shrunken version of the company's luxury X5, so that's what the Bavarians tried to provide with the second generation 'F25' series version of this car, production for which was moved to the X5's US plant in Spartenburg, South Carolina. The same American factory built this replacement 'G01'-series X3 model too, like all X-range models designated by BMW as an 'SAV' (or 'Sports Activity Vehicle') to try and differentiate it from less dynamic SUV rivals. As you can see from the styling, presided over by Australian Calvin Luk, it was moved a touch up-market. Necessarily so, to leave a little more breathing space for the two other only slightly more compact X-series models that by 2017 had been slotted in to sell beneath it, the second generation X1 and that car's sporty derivative, the X2. True, the size of this model was much the same as it was before, but under the skin, things were much changed, the previous 3 Series-derived architecture here replaced by a more sophisticated design that shared its technology with the more luxury-orientated 5 Series model. As part of that, buyers got a whole new level of safety provision and media connectivity, plus cabin quality took a big leap forward too. When buyers wanted an agile driving experience, weight reductions and improvements to the chassis promised to provide it. When they didn't, the company's autonomous driving tech was supposed to allow you to relax and settle back. There were also properly potent 'M Performance' flagship variants for the first time too. This 'G01'-series third generation X3 was subtly updated in mid-2021, but it's the earlier 2017-2021-era versions of it we look at here.

What You Get

Though the exterior dimensions here were hardly changed over those of the previous 'F25'-series MK2 model, this third generation 'G01'-series X3 has significantly more road presence than its predecessor. Predictably, it shares many aesthetic cues with the second generation version of its smaller X1 showroom stablemate - which is not surprising since both models were the work of the same stylist, Australian designer Calvin Luk. Of course as usual, what's more important is what you can't see, primarily the fact that the under-skin architecture, which in previous X3s was based on a 3 Series, here drew from more up-market 5 Series-derived technology. There's a reason this car feels more sophisticated, both on the road and in the cabin. Inside, you're seated in the pleasingly commanding position you'll want if you've switched into an X-series model from either a 3 or a 5 Series. And for the first time in an X3, MK3 model buyers were treated to a properly premium experience behind the wheel. We mentioned the new-found close relationship this third generation model now has with BMW's 5 Series model. Well inside, you really feel that, perhaps most notably with the use this X3 makes of the cutting-edge Media Connectivity systems from that car. Most notably, that means the 10.25-inch 'Professional MultiMedia' centre screen infotainment set-up, which is either standard or optional, depending on the variant you've chosen. Base models get conventional gauges, but as an option, original buyers could replace these with virtual dials that came as part of the TFT 'Digital Cockpit' screen fitted as standard on the top M40i variant. 'M Sport'-trimmed derivatives got a compromise semi-digital cockpit arrangement. And in the back? Well here, a six-footer will be able to sit comfortably behind a driver of similar size, which is about as much as you can ask of a mid-sized SUV of this sort. There was seat backrest-reclining functionality, but original buyers had to pay extra for it so it might not feature on the model you're looking at. Once the powered hatch rises, you're provided with 550-litres of capacity. Need more room? If you've got the reclining back seat, this process is neatly activated by cargo sidewall latches and when they've been pulled, a 1,600-litre cargo area is revealed.

What to Look For

Our owner survey revealed many satisfied users of this 'G01'-series X3 model, but inevitably, there were a few issues reported. The four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine of the xDrive 20i has proved to be pretty strong but we've come across some problems with it such as coolant leaks and gasket failures. It's also used as part of the xDrive 30e Plug-in Hybrid powertrain and with that, we've come across occasional sensor module failures. Some X3 PHEV owners have also had issues with charging and one even had a problem with the car's central computer. The six cylinder petrol engine in the M40i is also pretty reliable, but we have come across issues with coolant and oil loss, failing gaskets and VANOS solenoid failure. With the diesels, the main thing we'd check for is for diesel particulate filter problems for diesel cars which haven't ventured onto the highway very frequently. The DPF has to be up to temperature before it can regenerate. Obviously, a fully-stamped service history is vital. This car uses complex engines and only regular and appropriate maintenance will see them go the distance. Otherwise, it's just the usual things. Insist on a fully stamped-up service record and check the alloys for scratches and scuffs.

Replacement Parts

[based on a 2018 model X3 xDrive20d ex-vat] Parts prices for an X3 model from this period can be reasonable if you shop around. We trawled around the internet and found these: An oil filter is in the £9 bracket. An air filter is around £20. Front brake discs cost in the £200 bracket; rear discs are in the £122 bracket. A set of front brake pads is around £29-£70; rear pads are around £32-£44. A fuel filter is in the £35 bracket; an alternator is around £352; wiper blades are around £11-£25.

On the Road

This MK3 model X3 was tasked with serving up a more rewarding driving experience than its predecessor. Hence the changes made here - a greater rearward bias for the xDrive 4WD system, a small but significant 55kg overall weight saving and the addition to the line-up of the first ever X3 'M Performance' models, the M40i, a straight-six 360bhp petrol powerhouse that goes Porsche Macan-hunting at the top of the range. Shortly afterwards, that variant was joined by another straight six 3.0-litre M Performance model, the M40d diesel. For most used buyers though, the focus will be on more mainstream models, all of which in 'G01'-series form got xDrive 4WD and a silky smooth 8-speed automatic gearbox. There are two four cylinder derivatives, a 184bhp petrol xDrive 20i model that hardly anyone will want and a 190bhp xDrive20d diesel derivative that the vast majority of X3 buyers tend to choose. The latter variant is capable of 56.5mpg on the combined cycle and 132g/km of CO2. The other option is the six cylinder 3.0-litre xDrive30d diesel, which we think, hits a very appealing power, performance and efficiency sweet spot in the range if you can stretch to it. Whatever your choice of variant, you should feel that the roadgoing experience served up by the X3 is a slight cut above its most direct competitors from this era, if you're one of those people who likes to drive. There's a superior compromise between agility and ride quality, an engaging rearward bias to the xDrive 4WD system and more precise steering than you'd normally expect from a car of this kind. Plus you get BMW's usual 'DPC' 'Drive Performance Control' system allowing you to change steering, throttle and gearchange timings via selectable settings.

Overall

BMW has had a lot to do with the rise in popularity of mid-sized premium SUVs since the X3 was first launched, pioneering this segment back in 2003. Rivals have grabbed the headlines since, but with this third generation model, the Bavarians set out to redefine what a car of this kind should be. In many ways, this early 'G01'-series version of the MK3 model did just that. Yes it's true that it didn't offer much that was radically different to what we'd previously seen before in this class, but everything it did do was so complete and polished that from launch, it was hard not to admire the end result. There's certainly no doubt that it was an immeasurable improvement over the MK2 version in every possible way - and still feels that way even now. It looks more up-market, it rides impressively and, thank goodness, on-tarmac, it drives just as a BMW of this kind should. That's important because the previous generation version didn't really differentiate itself very much from obvious rivals in this regard. Probably more significant though, is that in this form, the X3 gained a luxury demeanour it had lacked before, both in terms of its streetside presence and its classy cabin. In this form, it really is the junior X5 we were always promised and quite a number of owners of that larger model might well be tempted to downsize into this one. A vehicle this good ought to speak for itself. Try one and we think you'll find that it does.

BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021) review by Jonathan Crouch

Money4yourMotors.com: We will buy your car today

Overview

Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Manufacturer:BMW
Model:BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Category:Large-Sized Premium SUVs
Rating:9 out of 10

Gallery

Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)
Car review: BMW X3 [G01] (2017 - 2021)

Scores

Performace:
80%
Handling:
80%
Comfort:
80%
Space:
80%
Styling:
80%
Build:
80%
Value:
80%
Equipment:
80%
Economy:
90%
Depreciation:
80%
Performace:
70%
Total:
80%