2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d first drive review: It’s diesel, it’s cool, and you’re not

2014 BMW X3 xDrive28d

2014 BMW X3 xDrive28d

The 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d marks yet another step into diesel for BMW in the U.S. It’s not the first Bimmer diesel here, of course. Those with long memories will remember the 5-Series diesel BMW brought to the America in 1985-86, an experiment BMW would rather be forgotten. More recently, however, BMW has had much more success with oil burners, including the 2014 BMW 535d and 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35d.

And that’s where the new X3 xDrive28d comes in. The 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d, as it name suggests, gets a diesel engine. Specifically it gets a two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged diesel. Not surprisingly, the turbo is BMW “TwinPower” turbocharger, a single unit with two inlets for faster spool-up for quicker response. The engine is rated at a rather mild 180 horsepower but a diesel-like 280 lb-ft of torque starting at 1750 rpm.

2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d

The 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d is identified by a badge on each front door. (click to enlarge)

BMW’s new eight-speed automatic transmission is also standard with the diesel engine. Its configuration allows the transmission’s torque converter to be locked-up most of the time, and the gears designed for minimal power loss. The eight gear ratios allows two overdrive for lower engine speeds at cruise and light throttle, while maintaining the “acceleration ratios” for no loss in performance. Additionally, the layout of the transmission allows direct shifting, for example changing from eighth to second directly with no intermediate steps, eliminating the usual pause while the transmission sorts things out. The transmission transmits power immediately instead of just mailing it.

The X3 xDrive28d, as per BMW nomenclature, comes with all-wheel drive. On the other hand, for the first time, rear-wheel drive is offered in the X3 for Californians and such with the 2015 BMW X3 sDrive28i, powered by BMW’s two-liter gasoline engine. The gas TwinPower engine is rated at 260 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The X3 xDrive35i returns for 2015 with the familiar 300-horse three-liter turbocharged inline six that makes 300 lb-ft of torque spread over 1200 through 500 rpm. All engines, as in all other BMWs, are mounted longitudinally, the six like the diesel available only with all-wheel drive.

The all-wheel drive system, by the way, is nominally rear wheel drive but sending power to all wheels most of the time with a 40 percent front and 60 percent rear split. Transfer from rear drive to all-wheel is via an electronically-controlled multi-disc clutch that can be fully open or fully engaged, or anywhere in between.

More than just go-in-snow capability, the all-wheel drive is linked into the stability control system and can be enlisted to help keep the X3 xDrive on the road, for example, by sending more power to the front to counteract oversteer.

In a straight line, performance varies by engine and power output of course, and as should be expected, 2015 BMW X3 xDrive35i comes in first in a drag race, getting from zero to sixty in about 5.3 seconds, ahead of the 6.2 seconds for the X3 xDrive28i. The diesel-powered 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d, however, takes almost eight seconds to get to 60 mph, putting in on par with economy sedans at the stoplight grand prix. Choose your opponents wisely.

The advantage, however, goes diesel when the topic turns to fuel economy. The 2015 BMW xDrive28d recorded an EPA test standards 27/34 mpg city/highway, while the sDrive28i manages a still respectable 21/28 mpg and the xDrive35i returning the to gas pump first with a 19/26 mpg rating. All run on premium fuel except the diesel, naturally enough.

Available on all 2015 BMW X3 models, however, is a new suite of technology. A touchpad controller, as used in one of BMW’s crosstown rivals whose name begins with “A,” allows spelling commands with a finger on the pad, such as a destination while using the navigation system. Other features include a full-color head-up display, auto-parking, lane departure and frontal collision warning, pedestrian warning and city collision mitigation.

2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d

2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d (click to enlarge)

Anyone who knows the BMW X3 will notice the new face of the 2015 X3. The front headlight clusters, instead of rectangular, taper wider as they go towards the sides of the vehicle. Towards the center, the headlight cover abuts against the surround of the twin kidney grille, which itself has been, says BMW, “more strikingly presented,” though we can’t see it.

The least expensive way to get into a 2015 BMW X3 is the sDrive28i at $39,325. The xDrive28i has a list price of $40,725. Next up for the petrol-burners is the six-cylinder xDrive35i tagged at $46,025, while the 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d has a price of $42,825. The destination fee of $925 is included in those prices.

Hang onto your hat, however, when choosing options and upgrades, including an xLine luxury trim package and the sporty M Sport package with includes aerodynamic trim, sports steering and suspension along with assorted trim flourishes. LED headlights are a new option for X3 models.

Our brief drive of the 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d confirmed per our posterial accelerometer BMW’s 0-60 mph estimate, but we didn’t have an opportunity to experience its élan on a winding road, at sustained highway speeds or the fuel pump. The diesel was quiet around suburban roads with satisfying diesel engine sounds when accelerating. At idle from outside, it’s just loud enough to let others know that, yes, you’re cool enough to be driving a BMW diesel and they’re not.

We’re looking forward to driving one for an extended period to tally up some real world fuel economy numbers. We’ll report when we do.

Specifications not available at publication. See 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i CarBuzzard review for comparison.

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