Volvo XC60 vs. BMW X3

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - February 12, 2019

Although it’s relatively new to the luxury crossover game, Volvo has pulled no punches. The Volvo XC60 goes toe to toe with some of the segment’s most established champions from all over the world. It faces particularly stiff competition in the BMW X3, one of the first luxury crossovers and still one of the best. BMW has been honing their design for more than 15 years – can the Volvo keep up?

See a side-by-side comparison of the XC60 & X3 »

What the XC60 Gets Right

The Volvo’s first advantage is value. In either front- or all-wheel-drive form, a base-spec 2019 XC60 undercuts an equivalent X3 by $1,200 – and that number is likely to inflate. BMW has a poor habit of nickel-and-diming options via stunts like charging a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay. The XC60 also compares well against other luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class or Audi Q5.

That price doesn’t mean skimping on premium features. In fact, the XC60 comes with some base features that even the X3 can’t match, like standard active lane control and real leather upholstery. That leather adds to a spacious and luxurious interior. The XC60 manages to beat out the X3 on both rear leg room and cargo capacity. Even better news? The exterior is just as stylish.

To cap it all off, the XC60 stays up to date with refined technology. The interior gets an excellent infotainment interface in the form of a portrait-oriented 9-inch touchscreen. An available plug-in hybrid powertrain offers 400 horsepower but gets 17 miles of range on electricity alone.

What the X3 Gets Right

BMW’s slogan is “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” and dynamism is where the X3 earns its stripes. The XC60 is comfortable and composed, but the X3’s excellent powertrains and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system reign supreme here.

Nowhere is this more true than the sharp X3 M40i. Powered by a 355-hp turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, the M40i will hurry to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Volvo offers two sporty powertrains (a turbo-four and the hybrid), and although the hybrid actually exceeds the BMW in power, neither can match it for speed.

All that performance doesn’t mean compromising too hard at the gas pump. The X3 is reasonably thrifty, and even AWD versions get an EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon combined. That’s a shade more than the XC60, which can only manage 23 mpg combined in AWD form.

Getting Priorities Straight

The choice here is fairly clear: if you need the fastest crossover on the block, the BMW is the ticket. If you’re after sophistication and practicality, you ought to look closely at the Volvo. But this is a compact crossover we’re talking about. It’s never going to rip racetracks or go drag racing, nor should it. If you want all-out performance, smaller (and lower) cars will still deliver more punch.

Our Verdict: XC60

Both these vehicles are strong competitors in a class filled with excellence. The BMW X3 is nothing to sneeze at, and it still does an admirable job combining luxury with utility. But in the end, the Volvo XC60 wins our hearts. It has bona fide luxury, a gorgeous design, and an admirable attention to detail. Add in stellar value, and the XC60 looks hard to refuse indeed. For now, the new kid on the block has the edge.

Take a closer look at the Volvo XC60 »

Take a closer look at the BMW X3 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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