Two things are getting hard to find in a compact crossover — and in new cars in general: six-cylinder engines and a rear-wheel-drive-based layout.
The BMW X3 still has both.
It hasn't gone to four-cylinder-only, as is becoming the trend, even in higher-end cars. It also has much more headroom than most of its rivals — and more cargo room than most of them, too.
What It Is
The X3 is a rear-wheel-drive-based compact crossover SUV. It's one of the few vehicles in the class that's not built on a front-wheel-drive layout, so it drives and feels sportier than most of its rivals.
The base price for the X3 xDrive30i is $42,650.
The high-performance M40i has a $54,500 sticker to start.
The 2018 is a little bit longer and wider than before, has a bit more headroom and legroom up front than the old model, and — for the first time — has an LCD touch screen. The old model had a screen, but touching it just left fingerprints.
One other change for 2018 is that all-wheel drive is standard with either engine. The formerly available rear-wheel-drive version (the xDrive35i) has been dropped.
It has more headroom than most rivals.
It has more cargo room than most rivals.
It's fun to drive the rear-wheel-drive layout.
What's Not So Good
The high-mileage diesel engine option has been dropped.
Under the Hood
Both of the X3's engines return: the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder inline and the optional 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder inline. However, both are stronger than before.
The four-cylinder now has 248 horsepower, versus the 240 it had last year. And the six-cylinder engine in the M40i is uprated to 355 horsepower, versus 300 last year. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
Equipped with the four-cylinder, the X3 can get from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, a very quick time for the class. Equipped with the 3.0-liter six-cylinder, the X3 can get to 60 in in 4.4 seconds — an extremely quick time, period.
On the Road
The X3's charm is that it drives very much like a car — and not just any car but a sports car. This despite the four doors (five if you count the hatch out back) and the 8 inches of ground clearance — which, along with the AWD, makes the X3 a sled dog in the event of snow.
The main reason for the X3s sports car-ness is the fact that it is built on the rear-drive layout mentioned up above, just like real sports cars always are. Its engine and transmission are not mounted sideways in the engine bay but front to back — the weight is more evenly distributed compared with the nose-heavy front-wheel-drive layout.
Some of this heaviness is compensated for in the front-drive car by the addition of AWD, which adds both a rear axle and delivers power to the rear axle. Not all the weight of the drivetrain is up front — and not all the engine's power is sent through the front wheels. But it's not the ideal blueprint for optimal feel during acceleration — and balance during cornering.
At the Curb
The styling — and stance — of the redesigned 2018 are only slightly different, not enough that you'd notice at a glance unless someone pointed out the tweaks here and there compared with last year's.
The noticeable changes include more of the already generous headroom for the driver and front-seat passenger the X3 has always had: 41.4 inches now. This is an almost unbelievable 3.6 inches more headroom up front than in the X3's most direct rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300. Weirdly, the Benz has more headroom for back-seat passengers — 38.5 inches versus 37.8 up front — but in either row, there is a lot less headspace in the Mercedes than in the BMW.
Another dimensional advantage the BMW has over the Benz is cargo room. There's 28.7 cubic feet of capacity behind the back seats in the X3 and a total of 62.7 with them folded.
The GLC has 19.4 cubic feet behind its second row and 56.5 cubic feet if you fold it down.
The other obvious X3 change is the updated touch screen. It's an iPad-style touch screen that's mounted on top of the center stack.
The standard size is 6.5 inches, but this can be upsized to 10.3 inches (it's bundled with the Premium and Executive packages, the latter of which also includes the gesture-control touchless interface that debuted in the 7 Series sedan about a year ago).
The Bottom Line
Every reason you had to like the previous X3 is still a great reason to buy the new X3. BMW has just given you more reasons to buy one.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" Is available now https://books.ericpetersautos.com/optin1. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.