by Jonathan Yarkony
Crossovers are boring, right? White's a boring color on a car, right? BMWs are just so common these days aren't they? Short of a beige Corolla, it can't get much more boring than another compact luxury crossover, can it? Then why did I enjoy the 2018 BMW X3 in ho-hum xDrive30i trim so much? It's me, isn't it? I've become boring guy (just don't tell my kids, they still think I'm awesome!). Well, I'm happy in my own skin, so I can live with that, and I sure as hell could live happily ever after with an X3 like this.
The X3 was redesigned for the 2018 model year and has been on the market for about a year now. We finally got a chance to drive the mainstream 30i trim with its 2.0-liter turbo after several stints in the M40i trim. The M40i is good and all, but not necessarily worth the extra scratch. Sure, it handles better and is faster, but it doesn't suddenly transcend its boring compact luxury crossover niche. So why spend the extra money on the lease and on fuel when you can get all the looks and features with the right option packages? The xDrive30i has everything you want on its options list and more speed than you'll ever really need.
The X3 starts at $41,000 for a rear-drive sDrive30i, then jumps to $42,650 for the all-wheel drive xDrive30i. It jumps to $47,950 with the M Sport Design Package, but the larger double-spoke wheels, body kit and black trim really turn the X3 into something desirable and sporty over the base or luxury finishes. Add $995 to each of those for destination and handling, and option packages can take it to $60K easily. The X3 30i is powered by BMW's 2.0-liter turbo, in this generation making 8 more horsepower for a total of 248 and torque holding steady at 258 lb-ft, and readily available at 1,450 rpm for effortless low-speed pull.
Also aiding its quickness, smoothness and efficiency is an eight-speed transmission that was faultless in our week-long test, so the X3 delivers as smooth a driving experience as you would expect. The 2.0-liter turbo is also supposed to be the efficient one, but I guess that's when you're not too busy tapping into all that torque. The EPA estimates that it will get you 30 miles to the gallon on the highway and 23 in the city, averaging out to a combined 26 mpg. But that appears to be a little optimistic and we ended up at 21 mpg with our usual suburban routine and no particular heavy-footed driving. I guess my foot's heavier than I thought.
As with any competitive luxury vehicle these days, it has several drive modes from the efficient Eco Pro, everyday setting of Comfort, to Sport for firmer suspension and heavier, quicker steering and more aggressive powertrain setting. It also has an Adaptive setting that 'reads' your driving inputs, car feedback and conditions and adjusts those settings on the fly. The settings are quite distinct, and while I enjoyed the Sport steering and suspension, I was happy to keep the engine and transmission in Comfort most of the time. Then again, those drive modes are appreciated, because below the surface it is still a BMW and has hints of dynamic capability that can make the drive more fun.
To be completely honest, I was more impressed with the supple ride that was always comfortable while remaining composed and in control even when I decided to push its limits a bit. The steering, once set to Sport, feels more responsive and quicker, yet not needlessly heavy for this practical vehicle though it won't excite anyone looking for a sporty ride and feedback. Most BMWs these days have lost that steering charm, but it's less relevant here than in something like the M2. To go along with the smooth drive and controlled but comfortable ride, the cabin marries modern design with luxurious materials even if the leather is a bit weird and rubbery.
The design is smart, with all the controls easy to decipher and quickly becoming second nature, with cool tech like full-color head-up display, gesture control, in-car hotspot, Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise and parking aids that show if your doors would hit a car or object you parked beside. Controlling it all is the iDrive knob that spins and clicks to navigate the menus, with handwriting recognition on the top surface to quickly enter a contact's name or digits. While driving, you can also scroll though some phone, audio and navigation functions on the head-up display using steering wheel controls.
With the full suite of connected services, the in-car navigation will route you around traffic snarls, and it'll even give you the weather forecast and other trivial info. The front seats are supremely comfortable, with a wide array of adjustments, but they had great support and a couple of memory positions for a household with drivers of drastically different sizes. The rear seats are just spacious enough for adults to be comfortable and the roof is high enough to easily lean in and install car seats and buckle up younger kids. The rear seatbacks split 40/20/40 allowing for a pass through in the middle or taking the 28.7 cubic feet trunk to a 62.7 cu. ft. cargo hold. It was just big enough for the usual family gear and even big shopping runs.
As much as it's an anonymous crossover in a sea of luxury SUVs, there is something captivating about this BMW. The creases catch shadows and highlight the subtle sculpted surfaces against the white backdrop, and black accents suggest a hint of sportiness along with the chrome luxury cues. It is the quintessential everyday luxury vehicle, for small families or active couples, ready for any season or any adventure, and ready to tackle it with style.