Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
With gas prices rising out of control, consumers are now turning to more fuel-efficient engine alternatives such as diesels, hybrids, and now fully electric cars. We're not surprised that sales of diesel cars have skyrocketed in the past decade, as technological advances have made diesels cleaner, quieter, and more fuel-efficient than ever before. Enter the X3. Introduced back in 2010, the BMW X3 has always been a versatile compact SUV with a big trunk and several engine options to choose from: the four-cylinder 28i, and the six-cylinder 35i. But we're here to talk about the 28d, X3's turbocharged inline-four diesel engine. You all know how much I loved the inline-six in the BMW 535d we tested a few months back, and how I praised about the advantages of owning a diesel vehicle. Turning our attention back to the X3, would I choose the diesel over the 28i and 35i variants? Yes, I would. Here's why I love the diesel X3, and why I think it's better than its confused cousin, the BMW X4.
The 28d starts at $45,000 and brings 181 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque to the table, while the less expensive gasoline variant, the 28i, starts at $43,300, dishes out 60 more horsepower but is outgunned by 22 lb-ft. That's not to say the 28d is underpowered, that extra torque gives it a whip-lashing boost at low revs, but becomes lethargic once past 3000 rpm. You'll have the most fun with the 28d when playing between 1750 and 2750 rpm.
Grip and traction with BMW's xDrive was excellent as always. Tight turns and slippy situations were easily managed (it rained every time we drove the X3) with a nicely weighted wheel and a brilliant suspension that delivered a soft, but not overly supple ride. We love keeping our cars in SPORT mode but with the X3, the ride becomes too edgy and doesn't soak up the bumps as much as we'd like. Hence, we mainly kept it in COMFORT. Don't even bother with ECO PRO mode - a numb throttle response and a languid excuse for acceleration - it gets dangerous on the highways when you want to overtake but can't figure out why the right pedal seems anesthetized.
The main turn-off that makes car guys go limp is the noise that diesel engines make. We've had people tell us it sounds like a traction trailer, a lawn mower, a washing machine, and the list is endless. I will admit, BMW's turbo-four diesel emits an ear-full of diesel clatter, and it is definitely not as refined as the quieter turbo-six diesel in the 535d we tested (maybe that's why we liked it so much). But BMW has already added sound deadening materials to the engine bay to keep it hush hush throughout the cabin and exterior. I guess this is one instance where we wouldn't mind BMW pumping some fake sounds through the speakers like their M cars, but the X3 doesn't get this treatment. It's a tradeoff that we've started to appreciate: tractor noise for a nice boost in torque and less dollars spent on fuel. Regardless, we drowned our ears into the Harmon Kardon speakers. For all we know, that turbo-four diesel is singing Sam Smith.
So exactly how much fuel did we really save? BMW's numbers goes like this: 8.6 City, 6.9 Highway, 7.9 Combined. Over a few days with the X3, we managed an average of 7.5 L/100km, which isn't bad at all - an entire fill-up will cost you around $50-60. The 28i on the other hand gets a combined rating of 9.9 L/100km, while the more powerful 35i gets 10.8 L/100km, each demanding at least $70-80 for a full tank with premium fuel. The diesel X3 also nets better fuel ratings than the Audi Q5 3.0 TDI and Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec, but speaking fairly, that's because the 28d offers less power and torque than the latter two. My brother-in-law recently leased a 2014 BMW 328d Touring (has the same engine as our diesel X3) and is managing a consistent 6.5 L/100km. He says he has no regrets, "it's hard to go back to gasoline when you're getting numbers like this."
Now onto the question, an X3 or the "Sports Activity Coupe" X4? If you're in the market for a brand new compact SUV that is made in Germany, your choices might dwindle down to these two. We went in-depth about the X4 in our full review that you can read here, but after test driving both vehicles, we've come to grasp which one we think is more practical, more attractive, and an overall better package. However, one downfall of the X4 is that there is no diesel engine option in Canada, but head south of the border and the X4 gets to choose from three diesel variants, a 20d, 30d, and 35d. We have no such luck here, so while we're comparing these two compact SUVs, we decided not to look at performance or fuel ratings.
The BMW X4 is essentially a sportier X3. It sits 36mm lower and the driving position is 20mm lower as well. The X4 also has a different suspension setup that makes it stiffer and sportier with a longer steering ratio - 16.4:1 compared to the X3's 17.8:1. Even though this makes the X4 feel more athletic, the X3 is smoother and handles bumps and potholes more gracefully. The X3's higher driving position also means it has better visibility. The hunchback rear styling of the X4 gives the driver an extremely limited view out the rear and side windows, reminiscent of driving the big-brother X6. Vertically gifted passengers might have a few complaints of headroom in the rear of the X4 as well. In my opinion, the X3 looks better too. Though sharing the same boxy LEGO headlights with the X4, it doesn't look like it's having an identity crisis of whether it wants be a coupe or an SUV.
Cargo space is another field where the X3 wins my vote. Behind the second row of seats, the X3 houses 50 L more than the X4, and with all the seats folded down, that advantage stretches up to 200 L. The X3 even wins over the 328d Touring in terms of trunk space, 60 L more behind the second row and 100 L more folded down. The differences aren't mind-blowing, but I like the comfort and certainty of knowing that I'll be able to stuff an extra suitcase or two when the time comes.
The interiors of both vehicles are fairly similar, something that can be said with all BMW interiors actually. The X3 and X4 are both equipped with all the baubles and features you'd expect from a luxury SUV. In fact, the quality comes so close to an X5 that it's hard to justify upgrading to one unless you want a bigger boot and that potent 50i V8 engine. The fit and finish in these two vehicles are excellent. Soft materials linger amid the plasticy panels, but it feels structured and durable. I'm not a fan of the leatherette in the X3, it's gritty and feels like touching the skin of an alligator. I would definitely recommend upgrading to full leather if that is within your price range.
Our X3 was loaded up with many options: The Premium Package ($6000) is recommended, it includes Comfort Access, a Rear View Camera, Auto Dimming Exterior Mirrors, Park Distance Control, a Panorama Sunroof, Satin Aluminum Roof Rails, Lights Package, LED Foglights, Navigation, Sirius XM Radio, and a Harmon Kardon Sound System. We also had a Technology Package ($1600) equipped that included a High-Beam Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, and Lane Departure and Collision Warnings, all of which aren't necessary unless you're extremely doubtful of your skills and want the reassurance of a guardian angel. Also equipped was the ConnectedDrive Services with ARTTI Package ($500) that should only be purchased if you lack a smartphone. There are also some pampering touches such as the Manual Side Sunshades for the rear seats ($350) and a Storage Compartment ($300) that adds lashing rails and hooks in the trunk.
If I were to purchase an SUV, there would be three things I would look for: cargo space, comfort, and fuel-efficiency. The X3 ticks off every box, but the X4 leaves the page blank. A cramped rear seat and inferior cargo room puts the favour to the X3. Furthermore, with the lack of a diesel engine in Canada, the X4's engine options are limited. If you're in the market for a spacious, durable, and fuel-efficient German SUV, look no further than the X3 diesel. It's incredible value at $45k. Spec it out lightly and you can even keep the tag below $50k.
型号 Model: 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d
顏色 Paint Type: Alpine White
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $45,000
試車售價 Price as Tested: $53,750
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2810
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4657 / 1881 / 1678
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1919
引擎 Engine: TwinPower Turbo inline-four diesel
最大馬力 Horsepower: 181 hp @ 4000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 280 @ 1750-2750 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 8.6 / 6.9 / 7.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 245/50R18