BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: Intro
A lot of people were surprised when BMW got into the SUV business. With the X5, its first sport utility product, BMW demonstrated all the attributes people love about sport utility vehicles could be incorporated into one that drove the way a BMW was expected to. Thus, when BMW followed the X5 with the X3 in 2004, expectations were high. Just as the X5 had been based on BMWs extraordinary 5 Series sedan, the X3 was based on BMWs 3 Series sedan, which is widely respected as the benchmark of compact sport sedans.
Unfortunately, for many reviewers the X3 was initially a disappointment. Many complained its ride was too harsh, its interior was too ordinary, its off-road capability was zero, and its styling was somewhat bland. Still though, the model was a BMW product, and people bought it. In fact, the X3 was successful enough to convince BMW’s competitors a smaller premium on-road SUV would sell.
BMWs X3 product team was listening to the complaints though, and over time, all of the flaws in that first X3 were corrected. In fact, the first generation BMW X3 was the first model in the company's history to receive a cosmetic update of some sort every year.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2004 – 2010
At the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, BMW showed a concept vehicle called the X activity. This was their way of announcing to the world the X3 was imminent. When the production vehicle debuted, it featured an all-new new four-wheel-drive system, which BMW labeled xDrive. Today, that nomenclature is applied to every all-wheel-drive BMW.
The BMW X3 debuted in two trim levels, and in typical European practice, these were tied to the displacement of the engine. In the case of the X3, the trim levels were designated 2.5i and 3.0i. The 2.5i made 184 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque from a 2.5-liter double overhead cam in-line six-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission was the standard offering, routing power to all four wheels through a center limited slip differential. The drivetrain used a mechanical center differential and incorporated Hill Descent Control.
The X3 3.0i was powered by a 225 horsepower double overhead cam 3.0-liter in-line six producing 214 foot-pounds of torque. It too, used a six-speed manual transmission as a standard offering. Its powertrain was configured identically to that of the 2.5i. Both models offered a six-speed automatic transmission as optional equipment.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buyer’s Guide: 2004
The 2004 BMW X3 2.5i used a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and a temporary spare mounted under the body. It featured intermittent wipers, a rear defogger, a rear window wiper, and a roof rack. Both the driver and front passenger seats were height adjustable, and all the seating was upholstered in vinyl. The rear seat used a split-folding architecture and featured a folding center armrest. There were remote operable power door locks, heated power mirrors, four one-touch up and down windows, and the BMW’s windows could be raised or lowered using the keyless remote.
The interior featured cupholders front and rear, storage pockets in all four doors—plus the front seat backs, and the X3 2.5i retained accessory power when the engine was shut off. There were 12v power outlets in the front passenger compartment, the rear passenger compartment, and in the cargo area. The speed proportional power steering system employed a tilt and telescopic steering wheel.
Outside air entered the 2004 BMW X3 2.5i through a filtration unit as part of its air-conditioning system. There was wood trim on the center console and on the doors and the shift knob was trimmed in leather. Front and rear floor mats were standard equipment, as was a light in the cargo area. The audio system used ten speakers, two of which were subwoofers. All of them were driven by an AM/FM–single CD player, CD controller stereo head unit.
In addition to the features above, the 2004 BMW X5 3.0i used speed sensitive rain sensing windshield wipers, six-way power seats for the driver and front passenger, and a tilting passenger-side mirror to provide a curb view when the BMW was put into reverse. There were audio and cruise control switches on the leather wrapped steering wheel, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, and incoming air was routed through an active charcoal air filter. In addition to the standard floor mats on the 2.5i, there was also a mat for the cargo area of the 3.0i.
The 2004 BMW X3 safety suite was comprised of four-wheel ABS and emergency braking assist for all four disc brakes, front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags, and a set of child seat anchors. The X3 employed rear door child safety locks, daytime running lights, an engine immobilizer, front fog lights, and its automatic dusk sensing headlamps used an auto delay off feature. The BMW also had a passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation system to prevent an airbag employment if there were no front passenger. There was a rear center three-point seatbelt and the front seatbelts incorporated pre-tensioners. The X3 also used stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2005/2006
In addition to some mild styling updates, BMWs X3 product team specified a navigation system and Bluetooth telephony as options for 2005.
BMW X3 used suv Buying Guide: 2006
The entry-level 2.5i was discontinued for 2006, leaving only the 3.0i to carry the X3’s flag. Equipment didn't really change. Option packages were designated Premium, Sport, and Cold Weather. The Premium package substituted the vinyl upholstery for leather and added an auto dimming rearview mirror. The Sport package was designed to make the X3 handle better with eighteen-inch alloy wheels and performance tires, sport seats, and a slightly lowered sport tuned suspension system. The Cold Weather Package leveraged the X3’s all-wheel-drive capability with heated front seats and heated windshield washer jets. À la Carte options included a DVD-based navigation system, adaptive HID headlights, and audible rear parking sensors.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2007
For 2007, the X3 got a number of significant updates. Still a one trim line only model, its nomenclature was redesignated BMW X3 3.0si. Revisions to the engine increased its output to 260 horsepower and 225 foot pounds of torque. The suspension system was revised to improve the X3’s ride, while maintaining its agile handling characteristics. Other new technical features included brake fade compensation, brake drying, and start off assistant.
The front and rear exterior styling was reworked, new designs were specified, a new 3 spoke steering wheel design was incorporated, the instrument panel was updated, the leather was upgraded, a panoramic moon roof was added as standard equipment, and the plastic materials used in other parts of the interior were of higher quality.
À la Carte options for 2007 included nineteen-inch tires and wheels, radar-based audible parking assistance, an upgraded audio system, 16-way power adjustable “Comfort” seats, the navigation system, and adaptive Xenon headlights.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2008/2009/2010
A Sport Activity Package was added to the options list. This was comprised of a set of eighteen-inch wheels, privacy glass, and a set of blacked out window frames to replace the chrome window trim on the standard model.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2009
For 2009, the X3’s nomenclature changed once again. This time it was called the X3 xDrive30i. And while the name changed, very little else did. There were some mild exterior appearance adjustments, as well as some cosmetic changes for the interior.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2010
The panoramic moonroof was deleted from the standard features list and ascribed to the optional features list. HD radio was introduced, and that was it for the first generation of the BMW X3.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buying Guide: 2011 – Current (2012)
Introduced in late 2010 as a 2011 model, production of the second generation BMW X3, like that of its X5 sibling was moved to Spartanburg, SC, where the BMW X6 is also produced. Larger than the first generation model it replaced, the 2011 BMW X3 was just about the same size as the original BMW X5.
While there are two different model—and therefore engine designations, both displace three liters. The xDrive28i uses a normally aspirated 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine producing 221 foot-pounds of torque. The xDrive35i also uses a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. Turbocharged, that powerplant makes 300 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque. As the xDrive nomenclature indicates, all X3 are all-wheel drive. And further, all use eight-speed automatic transmissions.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buyer’s Guide: 2011
The 2011 BMW X3 xDrive28i used a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and run-flat tires. It featured variable intermittent rain sensing windshield wipers, privacy glass, and a rear defogger. The height adjustable driver’s seat and the front passenger’s seat was power adjustable eight ways, and all seats were upholstered in BMWs leatherette (a.k.a.vinyl). The rear seat back was configured to split fold, it featured a storage center armrest, and there were ventilation ducts for rear seat passengers.
There were remote operated power door locks, heated power mirrors, four one-touch, windows, and remote window operation was possible using the key fob remote. Cruise control, front console storage, front and rear cup holders, front and rear door pockets, and front seatback storage were all standard features. The BMW retained accessory power after the engine was shut off, used speed proportional power steering, and its leather wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel featured both audio and cruise control switches.
Interior air filtration was incorporated into the climate control system, and the cargo area light was complemented by front and rear reading lights. Alloy trim enhanced the shift knob, center console, dash, and the door panels. Front and rear floor mats were standard features as were dual illuminating vanity mirrors. The new X3 also featured memorized settings for the audio system, climate control system, and seat positioning.
Prewired for a telephone, the 2011 X3 featured a Bluetooth wireless data link for hands-free phones. The audio system used 12 speakers, driven by a 205-watt amplifier. The head unit was an AM/FM single-disc CD player with CD MP3 playback capability. It also featured an auxiliary audio input and full iPod integration. A USB connection enabled other desired devices to function with the system.
Optional features included a heated steering wheel, a one-year subscription to satellite radio, full smart phone integration, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, a cargo net, rear manual side window shades, a head up display, a navigation system, and Nevada leather upholstery.
The 2011 X3’s safety suite was comprised of tire pressure monitoring, brake drying, electronic brake force distribution, emergency braking assist, emergency braking preparation, and ABS for all four disc brakes. There were front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags, a set of child seat anchors, and a remote antitheft alarm system.
Rear door child safety locks, daytime running lights, an engine immobilizer, fog lights, and dusk sensing automatic headlamps were also standard equipment. Passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation prevented an airbag deployment if no passenger was occupying the right front seat.
A rear center three-point belt and front seatbelt pre-tensioners enhanced the safety belt system. Stability control, traction control, a post collision safety system, and a passenger head restraint whiplash protection system in addition to a driver head restraint whiplash protecting system were standard as well.
Optional safety features were a rearview camera and Park Distance Control.
The X3 xDrive35i used eighteen-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, a panoramic moon roof, automatic high beams, the BMW apps suite, and roof rails finished in aluminum satin. The dual zone climate control system was automatic for both the driver and the passenger, and featured extended cabin heating and cooling. The xDrive28i’s alloy trim was complemented with wood on the 35i’s center console, dashboard, and door panels.
The options list was identical to that of the xDrive28i.
The X3 xDrive35i’s safety suite was also identical to the 28i, and was supplemented by self-leveling adaptive headlights.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buyer’s Guide: Current Model (2012)
All-new for 2011, the X3 entered the 2012 model year virtually unchanged.
BMW X3 Used SUV Buyer’s Guide: Summary
While the X3 was initially criticized rather heavily, the end of the run of the first generation had seen all legitimate X3 complaints addressed by BMW. This means the last year of the first generation of the BMW X3 is pretty much a completely different car than the first year.
Problem is, perception tends to lag reality by a few years. By the time BMW got all the flaws worked out of the X3, so many people were convinced it was a harsh riding, plastic interior-ed, pseudo-BMW, the last two years of the first generation X3—brilliant though they were—hardly sold at all.
The second-generation BMW X3 was introduced in 2010 for the 2011 model year. A complete rework of the concept, BMW got this one right straight out of the gate. For this reason, we recommend anyone considering the purchase of a pre-owned BMW X3; focus their attention on model years 2007 and forward.
Be aware however, if you're considering the purchase of a preowned BMW, maintenance can be expensive. For this reason, it is imperative to subject any preowned X3 you're considering to a very thorough pre-purchase inspection by a trusted professional mechanic—one thoroughly competent in BMW’s automobiles.
Further, you should also conduct an Internet search for BMW X3 recalls ensuring any prescribed updates were performed on the particular car you are considering. Similarly, a vehicle history report, run against your X3’s VIN, is an additional bit of insurance you should spring for.
On the subject of insurance, BMW models can be more expensive than other cars to ensure. Of course, premiums vary depending upon your age, your driving record, and your ZIP code. Before you fall in love with an X3, get an insurance quote to make sure you can afford to insure the vehicle after you buy it.