Serene and sensible. The 2021 BMW X3 is a car for all seasons. BMW’s bestselling model is a compelling take on the crossover promise: more practicality, fewer compromises.
That starts with a luxurious interior. The cabin is thoughtful but not bland, with a large central touchscreen and an expansive dash. Synthetic leather is the default, but material quality is generally high, and it feels like a BMW should.
Cabin space is decent, and four adults should fit without issue. Still, rear passengers get only 36.4 inches of leg room, which is less than you’d find in a Volvo XC60 or a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. Cargo capacity is a better story – with nearly 63 cubic feet available after folding the seats, the X3 is as capacious as we can reasonably expect from a crossover this size.
Hybrid is (mostly) better. The big news for 2021 is the addition of a hybrid powertrain. For the most part, the news is good. The X3 xDrive30e takes the default turbocharged engine and adds a 12-kWh battery pack, which allows for up to 18 miles of electric range.
The range is a bonus for commuters, but we’re even more pleased with the instantaneous torque from the electric motor. The base engine is no slouch, but the X3 weighs more than 4,000 pounds in most configurations, and the hybrid’s 40-horsepower boost pays dividends.
Our only quibble is with the braking, which feels artificial when the system is storing energy in the batteries. It isn’t a deal breaker, but this is one area where BMW could take some notes from other hybrid manufacturers.
Tech everywhere. Tech was already a strong point in the BMW X3, but it gets even better this year. The infotainment system is finally compatible with Android Auto, which joins wireless Apple CarPlay functionality. Satellite radio is newly standard for 2021, with a 12-month subscription to SiriusXM rolled in.
The 10.3-inch screen is sharp, and it can be operated in several ways: by touch, by gesture, or through a controller on the console. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s pleasant to live with and easy to use.
More important to families are the standard safety features, which now include lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. Adaptive cruise control remains a costly extra, but the X3’s standard kit is among the best in the industry. It gets good crash test scores, too.
Mainstream luxury. If there’s one criticism that can be leveled at the X3, it is that it’s old news. This iteration of the X3 doesn’t take many design risks, and it lacks the bling factor of the BMW X7. All the same, the shape is reasonably attractive, and the conservative lines are unlikely to offend.
BMW doesn’t let you forget that this is a luxury purchase, especially on the options list. The X3’s starting price of around $44,000 is already on the upper end of the segment, but most models at dealerships will cost at least $50,000 after all-wheel drive and a few options.
If you want to distinguish yourself from the growing horde of crossover drivers, the X3 provides plenty of opportunities. The interior can be customized in a variety of shades and finishes, and the BMW X3 M is a formidable performer – as long as you’re prepared to pay.
Final thoughts. The 2021 BMW X3 is one of the most popular luxury crossovers on the market, and it isn’t hard to see why. It has a multitude of strengths: a comfortable cabin, excellent technology, and strong powertrains. Nothing is perfect, and we’d prefer a little more rear leg room, but the X3 deserves to keep its legions of fans.
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