The 2021 BMW X3 might look like a miniature version of the full-size X5 SUV. However, there’s no mistaking the beating heart of the Bavarian Motor Works in this athletically inclined compact crossover. The brand’s winning combination of luxury and speed (plus a flair of sophistication) packages nicely in the X3. It’s a model that can go from basic to (M)ind-blowing to plug-in hybrid and electric. It all depends on how you prefer to drive.
In this review, we’ll put numbers to the various powertrains available in the 2021 BMW X3, give you a list of the safety features you can expect to come to your aid when needed, and even show you how the X3 compares parked next to other compact SUVs on the lot. Will the 2021 BMW X3 be your ultimate driving machine?
Technically speaking, there are only two powertrains available on the 2021 BMW X3. However, both engines have a base and a stroked-out version. For example, the base 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder comes with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. In the xDrive30e model, this same engine pairs with an electric motor to make 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.
The same goes for the 3.0-liter turbo inline-six cylinder engine, which produces 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque in the X3 M40i. When you purchase the 2021 X3 M, the same engine produces 473 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Competition models up the ante to 503 horsepower with the same amount of torque.
Each of the engines above is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2021 X3 seats up to five people and can be purchased in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
BMW makes the 2021 X3 available in the following colors.
- Alpine White
- Black Sapphire Metallic
- Jet Black
- Glacier Silver Metallic
- Dark Graphite Metallic
- Mineral White Metallic
- Phytonic Blue Metallic
The 2021 M40i model is available in Carbon Black Metallic and Sunstone Metallic as well.
Trimlines and Pricing
You can also choose from the following trim levels.
Starting at $43,000, the base 2021 X3 can be purchased in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Those who choose xDrive (BMW’s term for AWD) will pay $2,000 more for the privilege. However, standard equipment on the base model includes a 10.2-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, a WiFi hotspot, keyless entry (with push-button start), leather seating, powered front seats, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, and a power liftgate. Optional equipment includes such luxury items as heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a heads-up display (HUD), and more.
This plug-in hybrid model comes with the same standard equipment as the base model, with the addition of Android Auto capabilities. The cost jumps up to $49,600.
You’ll get a taste of the M goodness with this model, which features a more powerful engine. It also has a “stiffer M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes,” according to U.S. News. There’s a panoramic sunroof, adaptive headlights, and 19-inch wheels too. This souped up version of the X3 starts at $56,00.
With a price tag of nearly $70,000, the top-tier X3 model includes plenty of power and sophistication. Technically, BMW considers their M lineup totally different models. However, all the same highlights of the X3 are here — and plenty more. The 473-horsepower engine is complemented by 20-inch wheels, heated front seats, a hands-free power liftgate, and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. This crossover is built for high performance.
The 2021 BMW X3 received 5 out of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also earned top-ranked “Good” ratings in all “Crashworthiness” categories from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Standard safety features on the 2021 X3 include lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, a rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. Pay a little more and you’ll enjoy adaptive headlights, a surround-view parking system, hands-free parallel park assist, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beams.
You might think that a powerful German SUV such as the BMW X3 wouldn’t fare well when it comes to performance at the pump. However, you might be surprised. Kelley Blue Book reports the following numbers on the 2021 X3. You can also check out the EPA guidelines for the various versions of the X3.
- The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder makes 25 city and 29 highway EPA-estimated miles-per-gallon (MPG) in rear-wheel drive format. All-wheel drive models achieve 23 city and 29 highway MPG.
- The same engine, when paired with the electric motor, achieves an estimated 60 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) combined.
- The larger 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder achieves 21 city and 27 highway MPG on the X3 M40i models. The performance oriented X3 M model sees those numbers drop to 14 city and 19 highway MPG.
The 2021 X3 does well with reviewers when compared to the competition, in terms of fuel efficiency. Keep reading to see which models are competing with the X3 for your driving interest and what some of the other reviewers are saying about it.
As much as BMW wants you to believe that it dominates the luxury SUV segment, the 2021 X3 faces stiff competition. Some of these competitors include the Audi Q5, Porsche Macan, Land Rover Velar, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Volvo XC60, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and Lincoln Corsair. More budget-friendly opponents come in the form of the Acura RDX, Lexus NX, and the Infiniti QX50, to name a few. Suffice it to say this German luxury machine still has a lot to prove.
What Others Are Saying
And prove itself it does. U.S. News notes the 2021 BMW X3 “ranks at the top of the luxury compact SUV class because of its spacious interior, easy-to-use features, strong engine performance, poised handling, and good predicted reliability.” The compliments continue with Kelley Blue Book appreciating the “variety of powertrains.” Critics at CarAndDriver found the model had “surprisingly good fuel economy results.” Like any German car worth its salt, the 2021 X3 keeps you entertained, no matter if you’re doing 20 miles an hour or three times that amount. Or four times, for you daredevils out there.
Even with a “near-perfect weight distribution,” the 2021 BMW X3 does stumble a bit. Designers might have gone for an aesthetically-pleasing exterior look. However, CarAndDriver says those “tiny exterior mirrors don’t help with blind spots.” Although BMW happily lets you have your cake, you’ll pay for it too — often to the tune of a higher price than others in the segment. If you’re adding options, expect that starting price to increase dramatically — especially if you’re looking for advanced safety equipment.
That said, the 2021 X3 keeps to tradition by bringing sophistication and strong capability to the compact SUV segment. Some lacking features might be found on competing models with similar pricing. But when you’re looking at a BMW — or any car, for that matter — it’s all about the experience. Does the BMW X offer the total package you’re looking for?
The Last Word
To help you answer this question, we recommend stopping by your local BMW dealership to test drive a brand-new X3. You’ll be able to put our research into context and give the BMW experience a chance to make a case for itself. Ultimately, there’s a reason that BMW owns such a large segment of the luxury car market. They make sturdy vehicles with enough flair and power to satisfy almost any driver who can afford to pony up for the propeller logo on the front. We hope this review has been helpful in your vehicle search. Remember to check back for updates on new models as we bring you the latest in all things automotive.