BMW X3 Review: 2010 Model | X3 | Car Buyers Guide

2010 BMW X3 Review

Somebody at BMW obviously ordered too many 'X' badges and the company is creatively trying to use them up. Instead of jumping on the “X Factor” 'band' wagon, the letter is being copiously applied to the company's cars. We already have the X1, X5 and X6 models, but along with this new X3 comes the more widespread use of the 'xDrive' name. It means four-wheel drive, of course – not to be confused with sDrive models, which are rear-wheel drive only. Got that?


As you can see from the images, we were rather glad that this version of the X3 put its power down to all four wheels. I wonder, did you do a double take to check we used the right pictures? You won't be alone if you thought the car above was in fact an X5.


Before the Celtic Tiger's tail got frostbite, the X5 was the car to have – and to be seen in. You don't need me to tell you that things are now a little different. It seems a perfect time, then, for BMW to offer a brand-new car that has virtually as much appeal as the X5, but for a more affordable price. That's the X3 in a nutshell.


While buyers of the new car might appreciate its similarity to its big brother, we reckon it's a little too understated. Design-wise, the same could be said of the X3's interior, though it has taken an appreciable step up from its predecessor's in terms of quality. Naturally, it's not quite as luxurious as the X5's cabin, but it's still a nice place to sit. That's helped no end by the generous headroom and legroom all round.


Given that you're spending nearly 50 grand on this car, you'll be glad to hear that it's well equipped. A leather interior is standard, as is cruise control, parking sensors front and rear, dual-zone climate control and auto lights and wipers, among other things. To that lot, it'd be advisable to add the automatic gearbox to ensure a good price come resale time.


BMW's latest eight-speed automatic transmission is an impressive unit. In its default mode it switches ratios quickly and smoothly, noticeably changing up early in a bid to save fuel. The well-proven 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine has plenty of low-down urge to support this strategy. Should you fancy quicker changes and a little engine braking, slide the lever over into S for Sport, and you can also override the gearbox's software by tapping the lever forward or back. We found that particularly handy in the icy weather.


The test car was fitted with Pirelli winter tyres, which, combined with the four-wheel-drive system, made the X3 unstoppable in the early December cold snap. It barely lost traction, and even then it inspired the driver with enough confidence to do it for fun. In normal conditions you rarely feel the power being divided up between the wheels. The steering is well-weighted, not being too heavy for parking but offering up useful resistance when on the move, and progress is aided by the high-up driving position.


BMW's original X3 excelled at tackling twisty roads, but it was universally panned for its uncomfortable ride and bouncy demeanour. This new model couldn't be further removed. Now, like many of the latest 'regular' BMWs, the emphasis is on ride comfort, and the new X3 glides along the motorway and absorbs urban potholes and speed bumps. Despite that, it's still good to drive, but BMW has perhaps realised that more family SUV buyers care about comfort than absolute-on-the-limit handling.


When scouting around for possible rivals to the X3 we realised that there's a real mix of talents. The Audi Q5 is a desirable alternative, as is Volvo's XC60, while the Land Rover Freelander could be considered, too. The pricing of the BMW also puts it into contention with larger cars from the non-premium brands, though the X3 is pitched at image-conscious buyers who probably won't consider the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser.


On paper, the X3 appears to be quite an expensive car. However, it's significantly bigger, tangibly better on the road than before and well equipped. It's also cheaper to buy than the car it replaces. So, BMW shouldn't have a problem getting rid of a few of those superfluous X badges. Though if you bin the one on the rear, the neighbours will never know it's not a new X5...


Interior image caption: The X3's cabin is a tad low key, though it is a significant improvement over its predecessor's



BMW X3 xDrive20d



1,995cc turbocharged 4-cyl diesel


Output @ rpm

184hp@4,000, 380Nm@1,750 – 2,750



8-sp auto 4WD



0-100km/h 8.5 seconds


Top Speed






CO2 Emissions



CO2 Tax Band

C (€302 p.a.)





Boot Capacity

550l – 1,600l


Base Price



Price as Tested



On Sale




Almost as big as X5, comfort, space, quality



Too understated






Login to leave a comment

Login with Facebook Login with Twitter