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BMW X3 (2012): a great all-round 4×4

The capable 4x4 that feels like a saloon. Expert car reviewer Andrew Frankel explains why

BMW X3 xDrive 20d SE

This model from £31,485

While BMW’s X3 is not a hardcore off-roader, nor does it deserve to be thought of as one of those quasi-SUVs that merely look the part and leave you hardly any better off in bad weather than a conventional car. All bar the entry level X3 come not merely with four-wheel drive as standard but BMW’s xDrive system, one of the cleverest and fastest-reacting on the market. If there’s grip to be found, it’ll find it – and, thanks to decent ground clearance, keep it through deep water or snow, too.

The real benefit, however, is that all this ability is packaged into a car that, the rest of the time, doesn’t feel like an SUV but something closer to a rather more airy 3-series – complete with agile and engaging handling, a class-leading blend of performance and fuel consumption, and close-to-perfect driving position. We’ve taken a small liberty with the price – the cheapest four-wheel drive X3 costs £31,485 but according to the authoritative What Car? website, a sub-£30k price should be achievable with only a little haggling.


  • Engine: 1995cc, 184bhp
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • 0-60mph acceleration: 8.5sec


  • Claimed economy: 50.4mpg
  • Insurance Group: 28 (1=low, 50=high)

RAC Drive Verdict

4 / 5
3 / 5
5 / 5
3 / 5