A few weeks back we tested the latest diesel-powered BMW 3 Series sedan. And while we felt the new turbo-diesel four had a lot to offer the right buyer, we also said BMW’s fabled four-door would not be our choice for it. Well, that engine has now found its way into a much more appropriate platform, the X3 sports activity vehicle. So, let’s see if the shoe fits now.
The 2015 BMW X3 XDrive28d will not teach diehard diesel fans anything new. But, its substantial low end power, combined with notable fuel economy gains, will be a revelation for first time U.S. diesel buyers.
Even though more diesel utes and trucks are coming from Asian and even American brands, it’s still European marques that have the most options right now. That’s due to the huge popularity diesels have long enjoyed in their home markets.
The X3d’s obvious utility rivals are the Audi Q5 TDI and Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC. And, having spent a fair amount of time in all of them, the X3 28d seems somewhat old school in its delivery. There’s more of the traditional, clattery diesel noise, and despite a turbocharger, it seems a bit laggy-er in power delivery. Still a fine engine, and a way different driving experience than a gasoline powered X3, but just not quite up to Audi and Mercedes’ higher level of refinement.
About fuel economy, Government Ratings are 27-City, 34-Highway, and 30-Combined. That’s 25% better overall than the turbo-gas I4 X3 xDrive28i. We felt our average of 33.0 to be stellar for any utility. Still it only results in an average Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of oil burned on a yearly basis with CO2 emissions of 5.6-tons.
This 4-cylinder TwinPower turbo diesel engine is modest in size with only 2.0-liters of displacement. Per usual with diesels, torque rating outweighs horsepower number; here by a hefty margin with 280 lb-ft. and just 180-H-P. Despite slow-ish starts, an 8-speed automatic transmission keeps the revs low and the power coming.
Hitting ECO PRO on the Driver Experience Control switch, does just like it sounds, and is clearly designed for those more interested in hypermiling than hypersmiling. The accelerator gets ultra-stiff, requiring you to really put your foot into it to affect acceleration. Helping in that mission is a full range of BMW Efficient Dynamics hardware that includes automatic stop/start, regen braking energy recovery, and a coasting function for the transmission among other things.
At our test track, the slow and steady routine also proved to be incredibly smooth sailing. It took us 7.7-seconds to hit 60, and 16.0-seconds to finish the ¼-mile at 84 miles-per-hour.
There’s a reason BMW considers the X3 a SAV and not an SUV as it offers handling performance that few utes can hang with, though we already know the Porsche Macan offers a fresh benchmark in that area.
Between the willing chassis and the more than ample diesel torque, it makes for great fun whether darting around town or through our cone course. BMW’s intelligent, xDrive all-wheel-drive system is nicely rear biased. Brakes were equally impressive, with a firm pedal and light-cycle straight stops from 60 of only 113-feet.
The rest of the driving experience is typical BMW X3 which is to say fine, straight forward, and normal, for a BMW. The transmission is ultra-smooth in operation, though there’s no mistaking when the auto stop/start system kicks in.
There’s a good quality of materials used throughout the interior, and a compliant, generally relaxed highway ride.
The iDrive control interface is standard, and while it continues to improve, if you haven’t experienced it yet, there’s still a learning curve to overcome. Though we’re not sure if we were staring at the screen so much because of that or because of the great resolution.
There are some system wide updates for the 20-15 X3, including freshened front-end styling with new headlights; but it’s not quite enough to fully set it free from an overall slightly dumpy look.
Base price of the X3 xDrive28d is $42,850. That’s a fair price that’s less than 2-grand more than the 4-cylinder gas xDrive28i, and way less than the 6-cylinder xDrive35i. Still, add in a few pricy BMW options and you’ll be flirting with 50-grand in no time.
BMW continues to offer their own unique, and very popular take on the premium sport utility market. And, while diesel-utes are still not for everyone, we’ll always like them much more in SUVs and trucks than in sport sedans. So, we think the 2015 BMW xDrive28d is a… “d”-lightfully frugal…family truckster.
Engine: 2.0 liters
Torque: 280 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.7 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.0 seconds @ 84 mph
EPA: 27 mpg city/ 34 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.6 tons/yr