2022 BMW X3 Test Drive and Review: Adding Fun to Your Life
BMW clearly understands that life is to be enjoyed, not endured.
In the compact luxury SUV segment, the BMW X3 is one of the best-selling models in the U.S. market. Not only that, but the X3 is also the best-selling BMW in America, and it's made right here in the U.S.A. in the company's Spartanburg, South Carolina, assembly plant. Is this an important model to BMW, consumers, and South Carolina's economy? Absolutely.
With the X3, BMW fills the gap between the smaller X1 and the larger X5. The X3 is another BMW built to appeal to people who love to drive, so it takes a sober rather than expressive approach to luxury. BMW last redesigned the X3 for the 2018 model year and made several important updates to the 2022 X3, making it a perfect time to road-test the latest version and report on this popular model.
For this 2022 BMW X3 review, I test-drove the xDrive30i in Southern California. It came with The M Sport package, the Premium Package 2, the Dynamic Handling Package, Live Cockpit Pro digital instrumentation, wireless smartphone charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, extra-cost paint, and upgraded 20-inch wheels. These extras brought the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) to $55,220, including the $995 destination charge. BMW provided the vehicle for this X3 review.
2022 BMW X3 Review: The Design
BMW did not take significant design risks with the X3, likely because the automaker wants to keep the SUV aligned with the overarching design themes that govern the appearance of all of its models. Increasingly, that means big grilles and geometric detailing, so the 2022 X3's trademark kidney grille grows a little more prominent while the redesigned headlights, taillights, and bumpers adopt newly angular detailing. The changes are subtle enough that you might not notice them, but effective enough to keep the X3 looking fresh and like it's a part of the modern BMW family.
The test vehicle came with the M Sport design package, which adds a more aggressive appearance, BMW's signature Shadowline treatment that darkens some of the exterior chrome, more intricate wheel designs, and body-color lower perimeter trim. In addition, it wore a new paint color for 2022 called Brooklyn Grey metallic and had optional 20-inch wheels with performance tires.
Inside, the X3 had Canberra Beige SensaTec upholstery. SensaTec is a simulated leather that looks and feels like the real thing, and it is perforated for 2022 for an even more upscale look and feel. In addition, BMW updates the available trim panels this year, and a new center console with BMW 3 Series and 4 Series elements divides the power-adjustable, heated front sport seats.
Early in my automotive journalism career, I spent extensive time driving a 1999 BMW 3 Series, and this test X3's interior scent brought those memories rushing back. Beyond that olfactory treat, the driving position, the fat-rimmed and perfectly shaped steering wheel, and the outstanding seat comfort reminded me why people love their BMWs. I do miss the traditional round gauges, though. It would be nice if owners could switch instrumentation themes to obtain a classic appearance.
Rear seat passengers are not as comfortable. There is enough space for adults back there, but the seat cushion is mounted too low, the seatback is reclined too much, and there's a distinct lack of support. These traits are common in SUVs to ensure that a folded back seat lays flat when you want to expand cargo capacity. However, the result is that a 3 Series sedan has more comfortable rear accommodations.
Speaking of cargo space, the X3 offers 28.7 cubic feet of it behind the back seat. The load floor space is generous, but the standard cargo cover prevents you from loading full-size suitcases on their sides. BMW provides storage nets and straps, hooks for plastic grocery bags, and a decent amount of storage under the floor. The rear seat's 40/20/40-split design accommodates long and thin items without kicking your passengers to the curb. Fold the back seat down, and the X3 supplies 62.7 cu-ft of cargo space.
2022 BMW X3 Review: The Technology
Once upon a time, people hated BMW iDrive. That was understandable because interacting with a static dashboard display screen using just a few controls located on the center console was an alien concept in the era of flip phones, PlayStation 2, and low-rise jeans.
Two decades later, iDrive 7 offers one of the best and most intuitive infotainment interfaces you can get in a modern automobile. The center console controls are still present and accounted for, but now you also get a configurable touchscreen display, intuitive steering wheel controls, and an Intelligent Personal Assistant that wakes when you say "Hey, BMW" and quickly and accurately responds to a wide range of commands and questions.
You can also get Gesture Control as an upgrade, allowing you to adjust the stereo volume or change radio stations by waving your hands in front of the touchscreen. (This is still a work in progress, so don't bother with the upgrade.)
Additionally, the X3's iDrive infotainment system comes with a new connected navigation system, an expanded package of connected services, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM 360L satellite radio, Amazon Alexa integration, and a My BMW smartphone app providing remote access to selected vehicle functions.
You can upgrade the technology with wireless smartphone charging, remote engine starting, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. A Harman Kardon premium surround-sound system is available in the X3 M40i and X3 M.
I rarely have no complaints with an embedded voice recognition system, but that's the case here. The Intelligent Personal Assistant accurately responded to every single one of my usual test commands. When I said, "Hey, BMW, I need to go to a hospital," I got a list of the closest hospitals to my location, filtered to eliminate medical businesses without emergency rooms.
When I said, "Hey, BMW, I want to listen to reggae music," it sent me to The Joint on SiriusXM. It had no trouble providing directions to the White House or a favorite local restaurant using only the establishment's name and the street on which it is located. It adjusts the temperature, turns on the seat heaters, and can even operate the windows, all with voice commands. In short, it is brilliant.
Now, if only one of the tech wizards at BMW could make the X3's optional head-up display work with polarized sunglasses, we'd be getting somewhere.
Reviewing the X3's list of standard driver-assist and collision avoidance technologies, you could sum it up as "everything you need and nothing you don't." From monitoring the driver for fatigue or distraction to preparing the cabin and occupants for a frontal- or rear-impact crash, the X3 does its best to keep you safe.
There's even a post-collision braking system that brings the SUV to a stop as soon as possible following a crash so that the X3 doesn't hit anything else after its airbags have deployed.
The Active Driving Assistant collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The blind-spot monitoring system is active, meaning that if you insist on attempting to make an unsafe lane change, it will actively try to discourage that action.
Unfortunately, it appears that if you want the contents of the more advanced Driving Assistance Professional Package, you'll need to choose the X3 M40i or X3 M. BMW doesn't offer it on the 30i versions of the SUV, so you can't get adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and a lane-change assistant, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, evasive steering assist, or front cross-traffic alert.
The Parking Assistance package is also available only for the M40i and X3 M. It adds a surround-view camera system, Parking Assistant Plus (takes control of the steering for semi-autonomous parking), and Active Park Distance Control (automatic braking when parking).
Given that I test-drove the X3 xDrive30i, the evaluation vehicle did not have these upgrades. I will note, however, that the lane-departure warning system is unintrusive and warns you with a vibration through the steering wheel instead of a blaring, jarring, and irritating audible sound when you're drifting from a lane.
2022 BMW X3 Review: The Drive
The BMW X3 sDrive30i and X3 xDrive30i have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine whipping up 248 horsepower between 5,200 rpm and 6,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque between 1,450 rpm and 4,800 rpm. The engine pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and the xDrive all-wheel drive system features rear-biased power delivery for a more athletic feel from behind the wheel.
Admittedly, those power ratings look unimpressive for an SUV that weighs two tons. But this is where BMW's engineers work their magic. Note how peak horsepower or peak torque is available across nearly the entire rev range. That helps to make the X3 xDrive30i feel mighty lively. Additionally, BMW's wizards calibrate the automatic transmission to maximize the available power. The result is a BMW-claimed sprint to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat.
In the real world, this turbo-four engine supplies just enough acceleration and passing power to satisfy and entertain the driver. Considering that it costs $12,100 to upgrade to the X3 M40i, which BMW says can race to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, the xDrive30i should make all but the most hardcore speed freaks happy.
Besides, with that savings, you can upgrade to the M Sport Package, add larger wheels with performance tires, choose the Dynamic Handling Package, and still have money left over. The Dynamic Handling Package equips the X3 xDrive30i with variable sport steering, an adaptive damping suspension, and M Sport brakes with your choice between blue or red brake calipers.
When testing vehicles equipped to provide their owners with performance, I use Deer Creek Canyon road near Malibu, California. It rises rapidly in elevation from the beach, serving as a perfect test of drivetrain behavior.
Coming back down to its terminus at Pacific Coast Highway, this treacherous road reveals steering accuracy, body motion control, tire grip, and braking stamina under hard, repeated use. On this road, the tested X3 xDrive30i excelled, and my notes from the experience sum the SUV up as a sports car blended with a sport utility vehicle.
Granted, the xDrive30i isn't outright fast like the X3 M40i or X3 M. The X3 M is also better equipped for driving on this type of road. But the contents of the Dynamic Handling package, coupled with the test model's 20-inch wheels and Pirelli run-flat performance tires, made this example of X3 feel heroic in the handling department. Precise steering, expertly controlled body motions, outstanding grip, and utterly fade-free brakes result in joyful driving. I even found the paddle shifters rewarding to use, which is atypical for me.
Few BMW X3 owners will explore the model's capability on roads like Deer Creek Canyon. Instead, they'll drive them in the city, around the suburbs, on highways, and across expanses of rural America on arrow-straight, two-lane roads. They'll pack it with spouses, kids, dogs, groceries, or luggage for a road trip.
In these environments, where most X3 owners will spend most of their time, the SUV also excels. Quick and nimble, the X3 is fun even when you're just slicing and dicing through heavy traffic or taking freeway on-ramps or exits with enthusiasm. It inspires confidence no matter the situation, including when you need to avoid a fellow motorist who isn't paying much attention to the road.
Also, despite the test vehicle's 20-inch wheels and short sidewall tires, the Dynamic Handling Package's adaptive damping suspension supplied a supple yet communicative ride, and the X3 was relatively quiet at highway speeds. In addition, the variable sport steering makes quick work of parking the X3 at the local strip mall.
Some people think modern BMWs have lost their mojo, but it's not true. I loved driving this thing, no matter the road or situation. But, on the other hand, perhaps I had too much fun. The test vehicle returned a paltry 20.8 mpg on the evaluation loop, falling well short of the official EPA fuel economy rating of 24 mpg in combined driving.
Is the 2022 BMW X3 a Good SUV?
The BMW X3 is an excellent choice in a compact luxury SUV, and that's especially true if you love to drive. Beyond that, however, it satisfies your need for practicality, providing enough interior room to seat four adults and a good amount of cargo space. Favorable safety ratings make it a good family SUV, too. And, as long as your right foot behaves itself, every X3 except for the M model delivers decent fuel economy. It is a shame that BMW discontinued the plug-in hybrid version, though.