2021 BMW X3

2021 BMW X3
2021 BMW X3 In Motion
2021 BMW X3 Infotainment System
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2021 BMW X3 Review: Model Of Choice

by Michael Butler

The BMW X3 SUV has come a long way. The first-generation model sold well but wasn't nearly as accomplished as subsequent generations that followed. This compact luxury crossover SUV competes against the likes of the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class SUV, and the Jaguar F-Pace. That's a formidable trio but the X3 betters or matches them in most aspects that count. For 2021, there are once again two gas engine options and a plug-in hybrid, the most powerful of which is the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six in the M40i that produces 382 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque. The X3 is a shining example of how a manufacturer can create a practical and luxurious family SUV yet still make it engaging to drive. With all of this on its side, it's no wonder the X3 is becoming the modern BMW buyer's model of choice.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 8 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 8 /10
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2021 BMW X3 Changes: What's the difference vs. 2020 BMW X3?

The standard features list sees the addition of some modern tech that brings the X3 into line with its competitors in the USA. Newly added features include Android Auto connectivity and SiriusXM 360L. The X3 is also safer thanks to the newly-standard Active Driving Assistant package, which adds driver assistance tech such as blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning. A digital gauge display is now standard on the X3 30e plug-in hybrid and the M40i. There are other minor updates such as Dark Olive and Terra Brown being removed from the color palette and the addition of a new Shadowline Package for the exterior.

Pros and Cons

  • It's a pleasure to drive
  • Powerful engine options
  • Updated safety and tech features
  • German build quality
  • Slick infotainment system
  • Some rearward visibility issues
  • Interior design not as appealing as some rivals

What's the Price of the New BMW X3 SUV?

Owning an X3 doesn't come cheap, but at least this Bavarian is competitively priced against its main rivals. The entry-level sDrive30i will set you back $43,000 before tax, registration, and a destination fee of $995 in the US. Stepping up to the AWD xDrive30i will add another $2,000 for an MSRP of $45,000, while the BMW X3 will cost $49,600 in xDrive30e hybrid guise. The PHEV also qualifies for a federal tax credit to the value of $5,836.

The M40i AWD sees the asking price jump all the way to $56,600, which makes sense when one considers the massive leap in performance. Fully loaded, the price of the BMW X3 M40i will exceed $70,000 including the destination charge.

Best Deals on 2021 BMW X3

2021 BMW X3 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
xDrive30e Plug-In Hybrid
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 BMW X3 Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

One of the X3's biggest drawcards is the fact that it drives better than some premium sedans in its price class and manages to combine refinement and driver enjoyment in a unique way that is matched by few. These attributes are immediately apparent on a test drive. The ride quality of the 2021 X3 is well balanced, and while there is some stiffness to give it a dynamic edge, it's not overly rigid, and rough terrain and slow speed bumps are still soaked up with ease. Driven with enthusiasm, the X3 is surprisingly willing to turn into a corner and feels more athletic than its size and weight would suggest. The optional adaptive suspension adds another layer of refinement and capability that is well worth the extra cost. The sporty M40i is offered with adaptive M Suspension that makes for an even better on-road driving experience.

Verdict: Is the 2021 BMW X3 A Good SUV?

The BMW X3 isn't a new player. This luxury SUV has been around the block and has been honed into one of the best of its kind. The 2021 model is more comfortable and luxurious than ever, thanks to some minor feature adaptations that make a big difference. Under the hood, BMW provides just enough power in base form and marries impressive performance with equally impressive fuel economy figures. For those who like to embarrass hot hatches off the line, the M40i is a great choice; not only does it offer tons of power, but it's still a refined and comfortable family hauler. The X3's road manners are one of its greatest selling points. This SUV drives as well as some sedans and is genuinely entertaining to throw around some bends. The interior is tasteful and practical, and there's a mass of safety tech on board. The X3 remains one of the better choices in this segment. However, it is due for a major update for the 2022 model year, so if you want the latest BMW tech, it might be worth waiting it out just a little while longer.

What BMW X3 Model Should I Buy?

BMW makes the choice easy. If you're simply looking for a luxury family SUV to do the daily school run, then you can't go wrong with the base 2.0-liter model. We'd suggest going with the AWD xDrive30i simply because of its added grip. The xDrive30i offers enough power for most daily driving situations and has enough convenience and safety tech to keep most happy. If it's power you're after, the M40i is surely an option, but the vastly superior X3 M is just around the corner, especially when you're playing in the $50k plus range. The PHEV is not a bad choice if you're looking for similar performance to the base model but greater efficiency. If we were buying, we'd get the X3 xDrive30i and add the $4,500 Premium Package, which adds features such as heated front seats, a head-up display, and Live Cockpit Pro. How much you spend will depend on the features that matter to you most, as going mad on the options can drive the price up quickly.

Check out other BMW X3 Styles

2021 BMW X3 Comparisons

Audi Q5 Audi

2021 BMW X3 vs BMW X5

As the name suggests, the 2021 X5 is the X3's larger sibling and has a base price that is $16,400 higher than the X3's. To give you an idea of the size difference, the X5 measures 194.3 inches in length, compared to the X3's 185.9 inches. Under the hood, the X5 features a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine similar to the unit found in the X3 M40i but producing a lesser 335 hp and 331 lb-ft. Power is sent to the rear or all four wheels via the same eight-speed transmission. The mighty M50i gets a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. The X5 is the more premium-feeling car, especially when it comes to the interior and features list, but both vehicles are similarly practical. The X3 will make more sense in the city, but if you're after status or outright power, the choice is a no-brainer.

See BMW X5 Review

2021 BMW X3 vs Audi Q5

The Q5 has traditionally offered strong competition, and little has changed in 2021. The Audi Q5 competes directly with the X3 but goes about it in a slightly different manner. The Q5 can be considered the more mature vehicle, and despite being marginally quicker off the line in base form, it doesn't come close to offering the same exciting driving experience as found in the X3. The Audi's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is also less efficient, and power is sent exclusively to all four wheels. On the inside, the Audi's interior design is more tasteful in our eyes, and despite a smaller trunk, feels like the more upmarket place to sit. Both cars are stylish, practical, and safe, and are competitively priced. The choice will boil down to the type of driver; those who like driving will go for the X3, and those who prioritize comfort and refinement will stick with the Q5.

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