BMW subcontracted much of the development to Austrian company Magna Steyr, which also built the car. As the first mid-size SUV with a premium badge, it had strong early sales in the UK, with a peak of 7600 cars registered in 2006. But volumes slumped as more modern rivals entered the market and just 2000 found buyers here in 2009.
The X3 was the first mid-size SUV to offer both the draw of a premium badge and unashamedly road-biased driving manners. Its sales success was in spite of a lack of critical acclaim.
But the second-generation X3 – known within BMW by its F25 design code – faces a far tougher test in a more crowded and competitive marketplace. Everything from the Range Rover Evoque and the Ford Edge to the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC is vying for a share of an increasing market, while now the bigger and more capable second-generation BMW X1 sits beneath the X3 in BMW’s SUV line-up.
BMW has sharpened the X3’s appeal accordingly. Not only is it bigger than the car it replaces, but it’s also claimed to be quicker, greener and even slightly cheaper once extra standard spec is factored in. In 2014, the X3 was facelifted with a range of new engines along with some exterior changes dominating the update.
The X3 range is limited to twin-turbocharged four-cylinder and six-cylinder diesel engines in the UK. All of the current generation X3 come with four-wheel drive, the pre-facelifted model offered a rear-drive-only sDrive18d. The 3.0-litre diesel, available in two states of tune in the xDrive30d and xDrive35d, offers even better performance and only marginally less impressive economy and emissions than the 2.0-litre four-pot unit, which produces 187bhp.
All versions are offered in a choice of three spec levels – SE, xLine and M Sport – while the four-cylinder models can be had with either a manual or automatic gearbox; the six-pot versions are automatic only.