By: Sandeep Gill
2003 was the year when the brass at BMW decided to hedge their bets against the market and introduce a smaller version of the super popular X5 introduced only a few years earlier in 1999. They beat the likes of Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, Porsche, Infiniti, Lexus, Acura, Range Rover, and Lincoln to the market. It would be nearly five years before the other boys came to play in the sandbox. During that time the X3 became the only luxury compact SUV or SAV (Sport Activity Vehicle) as BMW likes to call the X series, the masses could gobble up. For good reason, BMW gave the public a compact family hauler that handled like the legendary 3 series sedan.
Enter 2018/2019 and BMW introduces the 3rd generation of this ever-popular vehicle. However, she has done some growing up during that time. The new X3 has only 3 less cubic feet than the current X5 behind the front seats. It is actually 2 inches longer and 1 inch wider than the first generation X5. The result is a very substantial feeling vehicle that occupies the upper end of the scale when compared to the likes of the Audi Q5 or Mercedes GLC. To thrust this mass forward, the BMW X3 30i MSport package utilizes a Twin Scroll Turbocharged 2.0L Inline 4 cylinder which is good for 249 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough oomph to push the X3 to 100km/h in about 6.2 seconds. Combine this with a well-composed chassis and sport-oriented handling, and what you have is a very capable family mover that the more enthusiast car buff in the family can enjoy carving the back roads with. The MSport designation gives the X3 30i some appearance upgrades over the standard 30i. These include M designation brake callipers, door sills, steering wheel, revised front and rear fascia, lower side skirts, M designation 20-inch wheels and dual exhaust outlets. Overall, the result is a very sporty looking SUV that looks aggressive with a degree of European refinement as only BMW can execute. The MSport Plus packages as provided on the as-tested vehicle adds dynamic dampers and sport variable steering.
On the inside, you are treated to high-quality materials, with the BMW ubiquitous floating center NAV screen at 10.3 inches. The upgraded Harmon/Kardon system on our test bed with no less than 16 speakers, utilizes BMW’s iDrive systems and allows controls with hand gestures, voice control, a touch pad, rotary dial and touch screen, and conventional knobs and buttons. This multitude of control methods gives users with novice all the way to extreme tech knowledge, a method of controlling the system. Our test vehicle included the optional heads-up display and BMW’s LCD gauge cluster that is easy to read and navigate and incorporates steel bezels around each cluster that gives them a very refined and up class feel. Rounding out the spacious interior was the panoramic glass roof that made the already large cabin feel that much airier.
The BMW X3 30i MSport is the originator of the Luxury Compact SUV and over the past 15 years, it has matured and refined itself. It does not lead the market in performance figures; however, it continues to remain a benchmark for other luxury manufactures to measure against. As tested, the X3 rolls in at nearly $67,200.00 the enthusiast in me combined with a personal quirk that pushes me always to check every box on the options list would splurge the nearly extra $9,000.00 for the X3 M40i. However, the practical side of me would likely not and understands what a capable luxury family hauler the X3 30i MSport actually is and why previous owners continue to come back generation after generation.