2022 BMW X3 xDrive30i First Test: Small Changes, Decent Gains

The last time we drove the third-gen BMW X3, we were a bit disappointed with its cabin design, technology, and overall position in the segment. The 2022 BMW X3 is trying to change that with its midcycle update, which involves a moderate improvement to its interior and exterior design, plus the addition of more up-to-date technology. Are these changes enough to impact its impression among our staff?

What Changed?

If you place a 2018 and 2022 X3 side by side, the differences are quite noticeable. Up front, the grille, headlights, and fascia are new, with the air vents getting bigger and bolder, particularly on versions with the M Sport design package. The iconic double kidney grille is a bit bigger on the newer model, and it seems like the two kidneys sit closer to each other, while the headlights adopt a modern design and feature new daytime running lights. Walk to the back, and the squared taillights stand out, while the rear fascia and tailpipes are similarly more squared than before.

The exterior upgrade is well received, making the 2022 BMW X3 look younger, fresher, and sportier. It’s not that the 2018 model looks old, but in a segment that’s quickly evolving—and where there’s stiff competition—last year’s X3 seemed to be stuck in time.

The changes inside are also welcomed. Gone is the old CD player layout, which is replaced by a redesigned center console with updated, metallic switchgear that gives the interior a fresh feeling. Although the center console didn’t change much, the updated design is nicer and more contemporary, with a new display for the climate control. Also new are the shifter and all the real estate around it, which now includes a push-start button next to the shifter (instead of next to the air vents) and new iDrive controls. But the most important upgrades are the bigger 12.3-inch touchscreen atop the dashboard and the 12.3-inch display that replaces the analog instrument cluster. The touchscreen adds the new iDrive infotainment system, which now supports Android Auto—a first in the X3. Wireless Apple CarPlay is now standard across the board.

These changes are not only noticeable but appreciated. The graphics in the new instrument cluster aren’t as eye-popping as the 3-D graphics in the Genesis GV70, but we’re glad to see a more modern interior in the Bimmer. iDrive 7 is easier to use than the outgoing version, with updated maps and more modern graphics.

The Drive

Under the X3’s hood, things remain mostly unchanged. The X3 xDrive30i’s turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 engine again delivers 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends that power to all four wheels, though when the conditions are optimal it sends most of the power to the rear wheels.

This formula plays out well on the road. Although the X3 xDrive30i isn’t a dynamic SUV (that task is meant for the more powerful, six-cylinder M40i), it delivers a comfortable yet sporty ride. The base engine is punchy enough to power the X3 through twisty uphill roads without hesitation, with the transmission quickly downshifting when needed to deliver more torque. Paddle shifters are included in case you want to manually select your own gears, but we found the transmission quick on its own.

A Sport Individual driving mode allows the driver to customize the driving experience for the engine, transmission, and steering, but we didn’t feel much difference compared to Normal mode. In any case, the chassis tuning stands out on the twisty roads, where the X3 feels planted and exhibits low body roll, while the suspension manages to absorb pavement imperfections in a good manner.

Objectively, the X3 xDrive30i’s numbers aren’t eye-popping. Going 0 zero to 60 mph takes 6.4 seconds, a so-so figure compared to other entry-level German SUVs. The 2021 Audi Q5 Quattro we tested earlier this year got to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and a 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 did so in 5.4 seconds—a full second ahead of the Bimmer.  Expand that list to include the 2020 Acura RDX and 2022 Lexus NX, and the X3 stands in a better position. The RDX reached 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and the NX with its new turbo 2.4-liter engine did so in 7.3 seconds.

The story is mostly the same with the quarter-mile and figure-eight tests. The X3 crosses the quarter-mile mark in 15.0 seconds at 92.5 mph, a number that’s slower than the Audi (14.4 seconds) and Mercedes (14.1 seconds), but faster than the Acura (15.2 seconds) and Lexus (15.5 seconds).

Braking, however, is a strong characteristic of the X3; it stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet—an impressive number considering its size and weight.

The Final Word

The X3 xDrive30i starts at $46,695, though prices quickly rise depending on the equipment. The good news is that the cost stayed relatively the same compared to the pre-refreshed model; the bad news is that the model we tested was $57,590. Our X3 was well equipped, but that’s a hefty price tag, and one that could easily be beaten by non-German entries in this segment.

However, the changes made to the X3 make it younger and fresher—both inside and out. Is the X3 a better competitor because of these changes? Partially. The technology inside is newer and better, and we like the fact that prices didn’t escalate much with the new equipment. Still, that doesn’t completely fix everything with the X3. Its performance isn’t up to par with the other Germans, making it mid-pack at best in the segment.

We welcome the refreshed X3, but we hope the next generation is stronger.

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