Why you should buy a BMW X3 over the 3 Series

3 Series, BMW X3, News | July 6th, 2018 by 20
2017 BMW X3 xDrive20d test drive review 69 830x553

For decades, the BMW 3 Series has been the sedan to get if you were looking for something premium but sporty. Not only has it been the sedan, but it was the car, period. Yet, this current generation of 3 Series has lacked that specialness, the perfect balance of sport and comfort. So it might not be the sedan in the segment to get anymore. In fact, it might not even be the BMW to get anymore. That’s because the new BMW X3 exists and it could be the better car.

A few years ago, that comment may have been laughable. A tall-riding, mid-size SUV being a better car than the 3 Series? Yet here we are and I genuinely believe that it is. Before you tune me out, though, let’s check them out on paper.

BMW 3er Facelift 2015 330i F30 LCI Glacier Silber 05 750x497

I went on BMWUSA’s configurator and configured both the BMW 33oi xDrive and the BMW X3 xDrive30i in two well-optioned specs that were as similar as I could get them. So both had M Sport packages, because that was the only package both cars offered, and both were the Premium trims with no other options. So both cars had the same engines, both had automatic gearboxes, both were all-wheel drive and both were spec’d about exactly the same. The 3 Series came out to $49,900 and the X3 came out to $52,000 on the nose.

So for two thousand dollars extra, the X3 provides a newer chassis, far more interior and cargo space, newer technology and better luxury, though the latter is really just due to being part of BMW’s newer models. So it’s clear that the BMW X3 is better value, as only a few grand more gets you so much more car.

Now, the enthusiasts might think this is still a no-brainer and that the 3 Series is the obvious choice for one reason and one reason only — handling. Typically, the 3 Series has been BMW’s best driving car, with the optimum balance of chassis dynamics, comfort and performance. However, this new X3 is even better. That’s right, don’t adjust your TV sets, folks, I’m telling you that the BMW X3 drives better than the 3 Series. It may not beat it on a skidpad or in any objective performance metrics. But from a feel and driver feedback perspective, the BMW X3 is better.

2017 BMW X3 xDrive20d test drive review 27 830x553


After having driven the new X3 for five minutes, I wanted to pull over, get out and make sure I was, in fact, driving a BMW X3 and not a 3 Series. So it baffled me, too. There was just this delicacy, a fluidity that I hadn’t felt in a normal, non-M BMW since the E46 3 Series. That’s the exact car it reminded me of when I first started chucking it through corners. While it still isn’t as good as an E46, obviously, there are hints of that car in the new X3, signs of the BMW we used to know and love in its DNA. You can feel it immediately. And it’s odd but it’s true.

I remember thinking to myself, “I’d rather drive this than the 3 Series”. And that’s when it hit me that the best ‘3’-badged BMW was actually an X3.

That might change, admittedly. The upcoming G20 3 Series’ arrival is immanent and it’s set to be a massive upgrade over the car it replaces. Not only is it going to be newer, faster and more high-tech but it’s going to be built on an entirely new chassis, the very same one that underpins this new X3. So we’re expecting big things from it and hoping that it takes the little bit of magic the X3 has brought back and amplifies it. Until then, though, the 3 Series is not longer the daily-driving Bavarian to buy. It’s the BMW X3.

20 responses to “Why you should buy a BMW X3 over the 3 Series”

  1. JoeTheMusician says:

    Just went through this exact decision making process – a 330xi touring vs the X3. I favored the wagon but my better half liked the X3 because it “drove the same” as the wagon and she liked the higher stance when surrounded by the masses of cuvs, suvs, trucks, and vans on the highway. So I suppose we’re now part of the problem?

    • expat says:

      Well said! Those women again……..

      • JoeTheMusician says:

        Oh I hope I didn’t give that impression. This is replacing the car she drove the most, so clearly she should choose her next ride too. Both are great cars.

        • disqus_NdrthOMZ62 says:

          The “problem” is demographics, Jeeps & SUVs were popular long before crossovers. All the boomers who made sports, pony & muscle cars popular in the ‘sixties now have families & stuff to carry, plus we need ride height for access & visibility. Chrysler started the move away from wagons & hatchbacks in the ‘eighties with the Magic Wagon, now minivans are fading. BMW saw tall unibody wagons as the next wave, why Spartanburg is #1 American exporter today. They are trying to stay ahead of the curve with GTs, still tall. Or buy a Europa & watch out for 18 wheelers!

      • disqus_NdrthOMZ62 says:

        If the take rate for crossovers is due to women? They do control the purse strings. Could be a good thing.

  2. maxnix says:

    The upcoming G20 3 Series’ arrival is immanent (sic) …

    Sure the arrival is not imminent?

  3. Anon says:

    Why you should -lease- an X3.

    Then trade it in for the new 3 series later.

  4. Eddie says:

    I was always a sedan/coupe type of guy. With kids and more stuff, SUV’s have come in my picture recently. Today, they handle more like a car, do not feel top heavy, and are more attached to the road instead of driving on ice type of experience.

  5. Marcel Lukačić-Marca says:

    So for extra 2,000 you get: uglier looks, worse reliability, less fun, bad off-road abilities and so on. If you want a proper SUV, buy the Range Rover, if you want a premium, spacious, fun sedan, buy the 3 series. X3 is not the best mix of those two.

    • Bad reliability? The X3 has been on sale 5 minutes, where are you getting this information from? Less fun? Not true, it’s actually more fun to drive.

      • disqus_NdrthOMZ62 says:

        His comment also overlooks that the bulk of the market have moved away from both SUVs and sedans, crossovers are the sweet spot. As for his cross-shopping, isn’t a Range Rover twice the price of an X3? With this new generation, BMW will have sold 2 million X3 – whole lotta worse reliability, less fun, bad off-road abilities and so on.

      • Marcel Lukačić-Marca says:

        I’m sorry, X3 is only new BMW that had recalls. It’s even on your website… XD

    • Anon says:

      All new models of cars get recalls or service actions.

      The ones for the X3 are to check for/correct minor manufacturing errors, not reliability.

    • HKfan says:

      The X3 hasnt been out a few months yet you claim it has bad reliability, and at the same time recommend a Range Rover? Your statement shows your ignorance.

  6. CDspeed says:

    One reason I’ve favored SUVs that you might not normally think of, ground clearance, and the ability to go through water. I live in a hurricane prone region, and have experienced water knee deep just getting my mail. SUVs not only have great cargo versatility, they also have extreme weather versatility. I’ve also had a few opportunities where a little off-road capability helped out nicely. I got stuck on a curved highway ramp once entering the highway in a BMW X5. There was a fatality accident on the highway, and after sitting for 45 minutes two pickup trucks in front of me turned down the embankment, and up out of the drainage ditch on to the west bound road. I followed suit easily while a sedan, coupe, or sports car would just have to be patient, it took 6 hours to clear that accident but I made it home.

  7. Patrick Yiu says:

    I don’t see how X3 can go against the law of physics, body roll on the X3 must be higher than the 3 series.

    • disqus_NdrthOMZ62 says:

      Electronics on vehicles started defying physics early in the century, noticed when I slammed the brakes on a rental Cadillac & still made it safely through a wet turn, previously it would have just slid through. Ditto BMW X, active roll bars have defied weight, physics, centre of gravity since @ least 1st X6 M. Any vehicle, how fast can you go through a curve on public roads? Have seen minivans rolled over on local offramps, Jeeps rolled over on traffic islands, ditto Cadillacs. Tire pressure can be as much of an issue as centre of gravity. Check video of BMW X on Nurburgring.

      • Patrick Yiu says:

        I know SUV are able to make corners at high speed, but not without the cost of hard rock suspension, that greatly affect the ride quality, the balance can never be as good as a sport sedan.

        • disqus_NdrthOMZ62 says:

          Suspensions are active, electronic. Not “hard rock”. Like comparing fuel injection to carburetor.

  8. Guillaume Perret says:

    You forgot the higher cost of ownership for the X3 … (bigger tires, lower mileage, etc…)
    I have a 3er Touring, I looked at the new X3, its nice, but way more expensive for not so much space inside.

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