Caught in the classifieds: 2015 BMW X3 xDrive
When BMW introduced the X3 back in 2003, it was heavily criticised by automotive journalists and reviewers alike. Fortunately for BMW, their smallest SUV at the time was relatively popular among consumers who loved how stylish it looked and how practical it was. BMW called it an SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle) instead of an SUV, which fit in perfectly with what the X3 represented.
Slotting in just below the larger BMW X5, the X3 was aimed mostly at younger people who loved the idea of owning a crossover but didnít want the larger X5 or they couldnít afford it just yet. Nowadays, the X3 fits snugly in BMWís lineup between the smaller X1 and its larger sibling, the X5. BMW introduced the third-gen X3 in 2017, but if you want the most value for money, youíre better off finding a pristine second-gen X3. Itís nearly as good as the latest one and itíll cost you less than half the price of a third-gen. In this weekís ďCaught In The ClassifiedsĒ section, weíve got an excellent example with 70,000 miles on the clock, costing a shade under £16,700.
Styling-wise, the X3 is arguably the most aggressive crossover BMW has ever made. Outside the latest X7, the second-gen X3 is incredibly special and unique, especially in M-Sport trim like the one weíre highlighting here. The proportions are astonishing, not just for a crossover, but for any body type full stop. Itís got a menacing stance and real presence, especially in person. Pictures donít do it justice.
Compared to the normal X3, the M-Sport package includes different bumpers, a different side skirt, M-Sport bespoke wheels, different trim elements, and mandatory ĎMí badging scattered everywhere throughout. Unlike the very latest BMWs, the second-gen X3 doesnít have ridiculously large kidney grilles, so it looks very ĎBMW-ishí in the best way possible.
The only thing missing is a slightly more aggressive rear bumper with dual exhausts. As it is, itís only got a single outlet on the left. Otherwise, I think the X3 has an amazing design which will age extremely well ten or twenty years down the line.
Unlike its relatively flamboyant exterior, the X3ís cabin is what youíd call conservative or traditional. Most of the switchgear is taken straight from the 3-Series and the 5-Series, which isnít necessarily a bad thing, but it is somewhat ordinary. That being said, itís a great cabin because itís well-thought-out and everything just works. Thereís beauty in things that are designed properly and just work the way theyíre supposed to every time.
The steering wheel is similar to the one found in the F10 M-Sport, as is the gear lever, as is the infotainment screen and system. In fact, apart from sitting slightly higher and having a more commanding driving position, the X3 feels remarkably like an F10 inside. Can I fault it because of that? No, not really, especially given how great the F10 is.
I love the sporty steering wheel and the driving position. Yes, you do sit a bit higher up than you do in the saloon, but you can get low to the actual floor of the car, giving you great response and feedback from the chassis. This might be a crossover, but it feels connected and exciting.
The instrument cluster is clear and easy to read, and so is the infotainment screen. BMWís iDrive is probably the best in the business right now, and despite being five years old, the X3ís system feels just as modern and fluid as the latest iterations. Itís buttery smooth and super intuitive.
The rear seats offer a ton of legroom and headroom, though itís not as large as some of its competitors. That being said, itís an excellent family car and a very practical daily driver.
Engine and Performance
A BMW has to be exciting to drive and throw around. It should feel special behind the wheel and offer a thrilling driving experience. Fortunately, the X3 hits the mark when it comes to the way it drives. This particular example has BMWís infamous B47 turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, producing 187 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Itíll hit 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and top out at 131 mph.
Power is sent to all four wheels through ZFís brilliant eight-speed auto. Iíve driven plenty of manuals and autos throughout the years, but none have been as smooth and effortless as the ZF 8HP. Itís a transmission which really suits diesel engines, especially BMW diesels, which offer plenty of low-down torque but arenít afraid to rev out.
Speaking of engines, I want to point out that the B47 in this X3 is a real gem. The pre-facelift X3 had the N47 engine, a somewhat troublesome unit known for having various issues, including a loose timing chain which could potentially damage or total the entire engine. With the B47, BMW sorted a lot of those little kinks out and they ironed out most of the issues. As far as performance is concerned, the B47 is honestly one of the most reliable and spritely 2.0-litre diesels Iíve ever driven.
The xDrive all-wheel-drive system is one of the best AWD systems Iíve ever had the pleasure of experiencing too. Unlike Audiís Quattro unit, cars equipped with BMWís xDrive feel fundamentally rear-wheel-driven. The system has an electronically-operated clutch pack which engages to send power to the front wheels. Default torque split ratio is 40:60 front to rear, but the system can route up to 100% of all available torque to either axle.
On the road, this means you get an exceptionally sweet chassis which feels neutral and balanced most of the time, but it wonít hesitate to help you out or pull you out of sticky situations if it feels like you need assistance. The system works seamlessly and itís completely non-invasive. Half of the time youíre not even aware of the fact that itís all-wheel-drive because of how little understeer there is.
Model: BMW X3
Trim: xDrive M-Sport
Why buy one
The more I think about it, the more I like the BMW X3. Iíve never been a massive fan of SUVs in general, but I have to concede that the X3 is one of the best-rounded cars ever made. Itís practical, good-looking, full of technology, and even fun to drive. It combines the best of both worlds with none of the drawbacks. Itís nearly as fun to drive as a saloon 3-Series, but itís a lot more spacious and practical. Itís nearly as large as an X5, but itís more efficient and easier to maintain and own. You get where Iím going with this, donít you? As a sporty crossover alternative to a saloon car or an estate, the X3 is one of the easiest choices you could ever make. Decide for yourself by checking out the used BMW X3 cars for sale on the DesperateSeller.co.uk website.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8 out of 10