The third-generation BMW X3 arrived for 2018 with a total overhaul, boasting all kinds of features and technology designed to help it stand out from the competition.
Given all the premium crossovers that flooded the market in the years since the X3 launched, this generation had to fight harder than ever for attention, so shoppers should expect no less than BMW’s full arsenal of safety, infotainment, and luxury features.
Look for flexible rear seating, plenty of storage and charging provisions, and advanced features like a drive mode selector and head-up display to help enhance the drive. The X3’s latest interior boasts numerous high-end touches sourced from further up the BMW model line. Stitched leather and aluminum trim help support the price tag, and the all-digital instrument cluster is gorgeously animated and customizable, though easily smudged.
The available upgraded stereo is a beast, and the performance from the headlights is excellent. Ditto the cargo hold with its low load floor, an easy-to-pack shape, underfloor storage, and clever rail-mounted tie-down system to keep clumsy items secure.
This generation of the BMW X3 is available in numerous configurations. Many used models will run a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 250 hp. An available plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version added electrification to the mix, bumping output to 288 hp and enabling all-electric driving capability for shorter trips and commutes.
High-performing versions were also available, including the sporty M40i and the extreme X3 M. Turbocharged six-cylinder engines give these rockets between 355 and as much as 500 hp, respectively.
What Owners Like
In the most popular versions of the X3, owners tend to report satisfaction with the overall blend of comfort and performance, the quality of the cabin and displays within it, and a smooth and quiet powertrain. Many owners say the latest X3’s interior should prove a solid upgrade from previous-generation models. Here’s a handy guide to the leather colours used in the BMW X3’s interior.
What Owners Dislike
Common complaints tend to centre around ride quality and tire or suspension noise levels on some road surfaces, as well as some easily smudged or scratched surfaces within the cabin. Note that Android Auto was introduced to the BMW X3 for 2020. If you’re set on using this feature, you’ll want to make sure the unit you’re considering has it. Here’s some more information.
Understand the Basics
If you’re shopping for a used BMW X3 from this generation, there’s plenty of selection on slightly used units that are still in warranty, some of which perhaps haven’t seen their second oil changes.
It’s uncommon for vehicles this new to have trouble, though issues relating to weak batteries, rough shifting from the transmission, and warning or malfunction lights may be common. To minimize potential headaches before you buy, consider a battery and charging system test, as well as a pre-purchase diagnostic scan performed in a dealer setting to reveal potential trouble.
Be sure the warranty on the used X3 you’re considering hasn’t been voided by any aftermarket modifications, or any skipped or stretched maintenance intervals. Always check all service records before you buy, to ensure there are no gaps. Be sure to understand that the X3’s warranty doesn’t cover damage or problems caused by a failure to properly maintain the vehicle.
If the BMW X3 will be your first premium vehicle, be sure to understand any implications on operating costs, including insurance, tires, brakes, and fuel cost and consumption.
Some BMW X3 owners from this generation have reported a significant water leak, which can leave pooled water on the floor of the vehicle if parked outside in the rain. Many have not.
On your test drive, it’s important that you remove any floor mats and press your hand – or a towel – into all carpeted areas to check for signs of unwanted moisture and dampness, or water staining. Removing the cargo area floor cover and attempting to locate pooled water in the area beneath the trunk is a good idea, too.
Water leaks may be caused by problems with the sunroof drainage system, weather seals, and door alignment, or even the vehicle’s air conditioner. A water leak in a modern vehicle is not a problem you want to have, and it could cost you a lot of money. Be on the lookout.
Note that numerous owners have also reported an annoying sunroof rattle, which could tie into the water leak problem. During ownership, properly maintaining and cleaning the sunroof and its drainage tubes can help fend off annoying leaks. Your owner’s manual has the full scoop. Here’s some more reading.
Carefully inspecting the BMW X3’s body before you buy can save you money in two interesting ways. First, check the condition of all wheels and tires, looking for visible damage from curbs, pothole strikes, and the like. Some owners have reported easily damaged rims and tires, especially on sportier models. Bulges or cracks in any tire sidewall are a possible safety issue, and wheel rim curb rash can impact resale value.
Confirming that both bumpers and the windshield are in excellent condition can prevent potentially irritating and pricey problems with the safety system sensors and cameras mounted behind them. If the BMW X3 you’re considering shows any damage to its windshield or bumpers, proceed with caution.
Front End Checkup
Some owners have reported unwanted sounds from the front end and steering system of their X3s. Most have not. On your test drive, park the X3 with the engine running and quiet the cabin fully. Turn the steering wheel fully from one side to the other, multiple times, and at various speeds. If you notice anything that resembles a rubbing, clunking, or popping sound, you’ll want to have the unit checked out professionally before you buy.
Next, wiggle the steering wheel rapidly back and forth, allowing it to rotate just 50 to 75 mm from centre each time. Listen closely for a clunking or knocking noise here as well. If you detect it, treat it as a potential issue that could cost you money until a technician says otherwise. Here’s some more reading.
Used BMW X3 Recalls
In Canada, all model years of this generation of BMW X3 were subjected to safety recalls that affected certain units. Safety recall work is performed by dealers, free of charge, to address latent safety defects.
If the vehicle you’re considering has been regularly dealer serviced, chances are that any outstanding recall work has been performed already – though you’ll want to double-check by contacting the service desk at your local dealer for more information. You can see the full list of BMW X3 recalls here. Note that safety recalls don’t necessarily apply to every unit built in a given model year.
Winter Driving Your Used BMW X3
There are two important factors to keep in mind if you’ll be driving your BMW X3 in wintertime. First, remember that use of a quality winter tire makes all BMW X3 systems related to traction, safety, braking, steering, and overall performance work better. Without winter tires, much of the BMW X3s capabilities are wasted when driving on snow- or ice-covered roads. [This rule of thumb applies to all new and used vehicles, not just the X3. – Ed.]
Second, if you’re adding a remote starter, consider having it installed by the dealership. Installing a remote starter may involve modifying factory wiring within the vehicle, which can cause expensive problems and void remaining warranty coverage.
Most owners report satisfaction with their BMW X3s so far, though test-driving shoppers considering this model are highly advised to shop with the preceding information in mind to help find the most trouble-free second-hand unit they can.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2018)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (overall)
Here’s a list of recalls.