Move over, 3-Series. In a market gone ga-ga for crossovers, the BMW X3 is the new Bavarian breadwinner. With a full redesign for 2018, the new X3 seems to embody the future of BMW. It offers something for everyone – handling for the brand faithful, space for the modern yuppies, and enough power to satisfy both parties. There's little sign of philosophical compromise in the brand's quest to build a top-flight crossover, making the whole package a compelling return to form.

Best Value

To figure out which X3 was the best bang for the buck, we first narrowed our sights down to the xDrive30i. This wasn't a hard choice – its all-wheel-drive traction makes it a better option that the rear-drive sDrive30i, and the tempting M40i trim is $12,000 pricier and therefore out of consideration for any "best value" laurels.

Next up was choosing a Design, which is essentially a sub-trim, and a Tier, which dictates the level of equipment. We went with the no-cost xLine and the $6,150 Premium Tier, which includes features like navigation, real-time traffic updates, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. All told, this is our X3 as it would look on delivery day:

  • Model: 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 248 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 22 City / 29 Hwy
  • Options: xLine ($0), Premium Tier ($6,150, navigation, heated seats, heated steering wheel, real-time traffic, panoramic roof, LED lights, keyless entry, SiriusXM radio, lumbar support, head-up display), Leather upholstery ($1,700), Parking Assistance Package ($1,300, parking sensors, active parking assistant, surround-view camera).
  • Base Price: $43,645 (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $52,795

Performance

BMW X3

The X3 has a lot to live up to. This is, after all, BMW, purveyors of the purported Ultimate Driving Machine. While some have lambasted the brand for losing its way, a stint in the X3 hints that there may be a glimmer of hope yet for those who still worship at this house of Germanic tradition.

Most versions of the X3 will be powered by the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder found in the sDrive30i and xDrive30i models. This engine makes 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet torque, which is enough power to get the 4,200-pound crossover to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. More importantly than the zero-to-60 time, however, is the smoothness with which this motor operates. Under hard acceleration, it'll run through the rev range seamlessly and responsively. The eight-speed automatic will dutifully match the engine's poise as it changes gears with all the grace and precision of a distinguished British butler.

The turbocharged six-cylinder in the M40i takes all this up a notch or three. With 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, there's no shortage of power from this peachy inline-six. It's enough firepower to bang off zero-to-60 runs in just 4.6 seconds, making it faster than the SQ5 and a couple tenths off the GLC43 AMG. Like the comparatively humble four-cylinder, it's smooth and refined, with no compromises of comfort for performance. All M40i examples come with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Over the road, the suspension is equally impressive, with fluid road manners and no pitching and heaving through corners. It's as if the venerable 3-Series had a guiding hand in dialing in its younger showroom sibling.

Our primary quibble with the X3 is that the steering is overly heavy, even in comfort mode. We'd prefer something that's a little more forgiving in the most relaxed setting.

Style

Even though it's all new for 2018, the styling should look quite familiar; some might even be hard-pressed to see any major differences from the prior year's model. Considering the success of the X3, it's not surprising that BMW took a conservative approach when restyling their popular crossover. Look at the new model with a critical eye, though, and the new should begin to materialize. The subtle changes include front wheels pushed farther forward for better proportions, a lower and wider stance, and bigger front air intakes to make for a more aggressive-looking front fascia.

Inside, the X3 proves to be just as comfortable and familiar as the exterior. The all-important infotainment screen comes standard in 6.5-inch guise, but can be upgraded to a 10.3-inch screen when the Premium Tier is checked off. The larger touchscreen includes gesture control, navigation, and an impressively high-resolution display. The added functionality of the 10.3-inch screen is worth the cost of admission for the Premium. Splurging for it also means getting other must-have features like heated seats, a heated steering wheel, LED lights, SiriusXM radio, and a panoramic roof.

The X3's four distinct Tiers and other available options underscore the lack of standard equipment on what is billed and priced as a luxury car. Consider, for instance, that Apple CarPlay – which can be found standard in many compact cars costing half as much – is a $300 extra. Or that leather upholstery is a $1,700 upgrade even on the priciest Executive Tier. How about the fact that BMW charges $550 for any color not black or white? Ultimately, it means the X3 has a base price that's deceptively low. Don't expect to get a well-equipped version for anywhere under $50,000.

The Best and Worst Things

Both powertrains are top-notch – smooth, refined, and well-suited to their mission. They have more than a whiff of the old and beloved BMW that many fear was lost.

Unfortunately, while the powertrains are great, the standard equipment list is less so. Have no doubts about it, this model will nickel and dime you for every feature beyond power seats.

Right For? Wrong For?

BMW X3

The X3 makes the most sense for the modern yuppy: young, aspiring professionals for whom a 3-Series is too small or cramped for their family – or maybe just too un-hip in today's crossover frenzy.

For those who want their crossover to turn heads as well as corners, there's a number of better options out there that have the style to match their performance.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 BMW X3 is a pleasant surprise for those who pine for the BMW of yore. By offering their popular crossover with a pair of excellent powertrains and instilling it with impressive agility, the brand has resurrected the ethos that guided their beloved and now-classic sport sedans. If these traits can proliferate throughout BMW's lineup, maybe the marque can once again honestly bill itself the builder of the Ultimate Driving Machine.