2018 marks the third generation of BMW’s popular X3 crossover, which paved the way for the luxury compact SUV class when it first appeared in the 2004 model year. While the X3 has surely grown softer over the years compared to the sharp-handling original, its appeal has widened in an ever-growing market.
The X3 is the middle child in BMW’s lineup, slotting above the subcompact X1 and under the coupe-like X4 in the squadron. The company calls its line of athletic crossovers “Sports Activity Vehicles” to differentiate them from the crowd of not-quite SUVs that have taken American roads by storm. The mid-size X5 is currently the largest of the pack, but a larger three-row X7 is due to arrive this year, along with a smaller X2. Two X3 models are offered for 2018: the 2.0-liter xDrive30i and the high-performance 3.0-liter M40i. We tested a well-equipped xDrive30i.