In 2003, BMW introduced the X3 series as a compact luxury crossover option to their Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) lineup following the successful release of the X5. BMW based the X3 on the 3 Series platform and intended it to compete with the likes of the Lexus RX and with the Mercedes-Benz GLK series that came later.
Crossover SUVs from Japanese automakers have experienced immense success, and BMW has been planning to produce luxury SUVs for some time. BMW’s purchase of the Rover Group helped make this a reality.
First Generation X3 (E83), 2003-2010
The first-generation BMW X3, known as the E83 series, was primarily developed and manufactured by Magna Steyr AG & Co KG based in Graz, Austria under their contract with BMW. Taking its design cues from the BMW X5, the X3 was only 103 mm shorter in length with almost the same width. Interior space was very roomy and similar to the X5.
Being based on the BMW 3 Series platform, the X3 derived its suspension from the BMW E46 330Xi with power transmitted to the all-wheel-drive system called the xDrive. This system defaults at a 40:60 torque split that automatically varies to optimize traction based on the monitored data to adjust power distribution to the wheels with better traction.
Trims & Powertrains
Offered in Australia initially as a 2004 model, the engine options were either the 2.5i or the 3.0i and later the 3.0d.
- The X3 2.5i was powered by the 2.5L petrol BMW M54B25 (141 kW / 245 N⋅m) with a choice of either a 5-speed auto or a 6-speed manual gearbox.
- The X3 3.0i came with the 3.0L petrol BMW M54B30 (170 kW / 300 N⋅m) paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission.
- The X3 3.0d was added in 2005 powered by the 3.0L diesel M57D30TÜ (160 kW / 480 N⋅m) with a 6-speed auto transmission.
Beginning in 2006, although the M54 series powerplants were still available, BMW started to offer its successor, the N52 series of inline 6-cylinder engines.
- The X3 2.5si was powered by the 2.5L petrol N52B25 (160 kW / 250 N⋅m).
- The X3 3.0si received the 3.0L petrol N52B30 (200 kW / 315 N⋅m).
- The 2.0d became available in 2007 powered by the 2.0L M47TU2D20 (125 kW / 340 N⋅m).
The first-generation X3 suffered from a reputation of having a harsh ride, average material quality, poor off-road capability and a high price. Although with all of these, the X3 managed to appeal to buyers looking for a roomy cabin with a driving experience and dynamics often found in other sportier segment vehicles. A slightly softer suspension improved the ride beginning in 2005.
Another update in 2006 revised the headlights, grille, interior, taillights, front and rear bumper. In the US market, the 'M" Technik body kit was introduced known as the M-Sport Package and became available worldwide as a factory option.
Second Generation X3 (F25), 2011-2017
BMW moved production of the second-generation X5 to its US factory at Greer, South Carolina. A significant improvement from the previous generation, the F25 series was about the size of the previous X5 with lots of space. The rear seats fold down almost flat, which enlarges the cargo space. The interior was also significantly improved in material and quality with numerous options available, including a HUD that gives the benefit of not taking your eyes from the road.
- The xDrive20i variant came with the 2.0L petrol N20B20 (135 kW / 270 N⋅m).
- The xDrive28i (2.0) was powered by the 2.0L petrol N20B20O0 (180 kW / 350 N⋅m) twin-scroll turbo.
The diesel-powered cars came as either of the following:
- The xDrive20d powered by the 2.0L N47D20 (135 kW / 380 N⋅m)
- The xDrive30d with the 3.0L N57D30O1 (190 kW / 560 N⋅m)
Australian models were all equipped with the 8-speed automatic transmission, but other parts of the world had an option for a 6-speed manual gearbox.
For the xDrive28i, other countries used the 3.0L petrol N52B30 (200 kW / 315 N⋅m). There was also a rear-wheel-drive-only version internationally and was called the sDrive18d powered by the 2.0L twin-scroll turbo N20B20U0 (135 kW / 270 N⋅m). A more powerful petrol engine variant also entered the market, known as xDrive35i with the twin-scroll turbo 3.0L N55B30M0 (225 kW / 400 N⋅m). A further diesel variant was the xDrive35d with the twin-turbo N57D30T1 (230 kW / 630 N⋅m).
For the 2015 model year, the F25 was outfitted with modified twin circular headlights, redesigned BMW kidney grille, front and rear bumpers. The interior also received a complete redesign with upgraded upholstery and console. Starting in 2017, BMW offered the M-Sport package, an array of sports-oriented styling upgrades, sports suspension, and dynamic dampers. The trim provided either 19" or 20" alloy wheels making a very sporty SAV that also fits well as a family SUV.
The F25 series won the title of the "Offroader of the Year 2011" from Off Road, a German magazine, which catapulted sales of this second-generation X3. These crossovers are performers with top speeds at 210 km/h for the xDrive20i and 230 km/h for the xDrive28i (2.0). Acceleration from 0-100 km/h was tested at 6.5 seconds for the xDrive28i (2.0).
Third Generation X3 (G01), 2018-Present
With the X Series crossovers taking up the lion's share of BMW's sales (about 30% of the total), development of the third-generation X3 is heaps better than the previous generations. With heavier competition like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan and the Jaguar F-pace, the X3 needed all the improvements it can get.
Size has grown to be bigger than the first-generation X5. The new X3 is based on the longitudinal engine components set of the BMW G30 series, a 5 Series offering that uses the Modular Cluster Architecture Platform (CLAR) rather than the previous adherence to the 3 Series. This decision to use the CLAR gives X3 buyers access to some very advanced electronic systems, although a lot come as options.
The interior is up to BMW standards, with excellent quality materials and workmanship. The dash has a flowing design with seats and panels that are truly luxurious. The design and comfort are carried over to the rear seating area and even to the cargo area.
There are so many options to list and several trims available from the cheapest (per BMW pricing) sDrive20i to the most expensive M40i. If you load this X3 up with options, the price would be in the realm of the Range Rover Velar.
The X3 is available in a plug-in Hybrid variant badged as the X3 xDrive30e powered by the 2.0L turbocharged B48B20 with a 50-kW electric motor which gives a total output of 185 kW of power and torque rated at 420 N⋅m with a combined consumption advertised at 2.4L/100km. It clocked a top speed of 210 km/h and acceleration from 0-100 km/h of 6.1 seconds.
Petrol variants are available in quite a range of trims and engine packages. The sDrive20i (2-wheel drive0 and the xDrive20i (all-wheel drive) both uses the 2.0L twin-scroll turbo B48B20B (135 kW / 290 N⋅m) as used on the hybrid but without the electric motor. The xDrive30i is equipped with the 2.0L B48 (185 kW / 350 N⋅m). The M40i is powered by the 3.0L twin-scroll turbo B58 (265 kW / 500 N⋅m).
Two variants are available with the high-performance version of the B58, the S58B30T0. The BMW X3 M uses the S58 rated at 353 kW / 600 N⋅m and the X3 M-Competition that’s rated for 375 kW / 600 N⋅m. All engine options teamed up with the BMW ZF 8HP (8-speed transmission with Hydraulic converter and Planetary gearsets) automatic transmission first introduced with the 7-series F01 platform 760Li V12.
Diesel versions are the xDrive20d with the B47D2 (140 kW / 400 N⋅m), the xDrive30d with the B57D30O0 (195 kW / 620 N⋅m) and the M40d that comes with the B57D30T0 (235 kW / 680 N⋅m).
With so many variants available and the expected introduction of the electric BMW iX3 by the year 2020, the X3 series will continue to grow and outpace competition coming from other automakers and even within BMW’s lineup of X series SAVs.
What the Future Holds
BMW redefined what it means to owning a compact family SUV when they first started releasing the X3. Now with almost all manufacturers coming out with their version, the X3 is still one of the best. Maintenance of these cars is not cheap – to enjoy BMW’s reputation for reliability, the key is proper maintenance. Earlier models are becoming more affordable in the used car market, and maybe it’s your chance to own one of these, especially the better performing second-generation X3.
Visit us at Carpart.com.au, and we can help you save on your BMW parts, whether you're searching for brand new parts, good condition used car parts or even an entire used BMW X3! You can also sell us your X3 or parts that you no longer need by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Fred Cajulis