BMW X3 interior
The X3’s cabin looks very upmarket it’s all very easy to use but you’ll have to hand over some extra cash if you want the latest high-tech infotainment system
The BMW X3‘s stylish cabin looks a little sportier than what you’ll find in the fairly drab Audi Q5, but it doesn’t have the same wow factor as the Mercedes GLC’s elegant swooping centre console design.
The BMW X3 runs the bulletproof Audi very close in terms of plush materials. Almost every piece of plastic trim on the dashboard and centre console feels soft and yielding and you’ll have to reach right down into the door bins before you’ll find any hard brittle plastics.
Unlike in the Mercedes GLC, even the entry-level BMW X3 SE comes with real leather seats in your choice of mocha brown and light beige. You also get six-colour mood lighting and brushed metal dashboard trims as standard.
Step up to an xLine car and you get some stainless steel sill trims and a set of more supportive leather seats than standard SE versions in a wider range of colours. Pick a BMW X3 in M Sport guise and you get polished aluminium trims with a neat hexagonal pattern across the dashboard and doors.
You can pay extra to have the X3’s seats trimmed in rather garish two-tone black and red leather or a more subdued combination of brown and white. Really push the boat out for the rather costly Premium Package and you’ll get electric seat adjustment and a huge panoramic glass roof that makes the BMW X3’s already roomy cabin feel even more spacious.
The X3’s high-tech cabin even comes with futuristic gesture controls – although swiping left through the air to dismiss a phone call isn’t quite as satisfying as an indignant button-prod hang up…
Entry-level SE and xLine cars come with a 6.5-inch infotainment display up on the dashboard. Its menus are logically laid out and its reasonably high-resolution screen is easy to read on the move.
You get a few handy shortcut buttons down on the centre console and an intuitive scroll wheel to help you click through the various menus without taking your eyes off the road for too long. It’s certainly easier to use than the systems in the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC.
Satellite navigation comes as standard across the BMW X3 range and it’s easy to input a postcode using either the on-screen keyboard or the touchpad on top of the scroll-wheel. It gives clear, easy-to-follow directions and it’s easy to add or remove waypoints from your route.
Pick a high-spec M Sport car – or pay an extra for the Professional Navigation pack – and you’ll get a larger 10.3-inch infotainment display, but only the more expensive Technology Package comes with the extra digital driver’s display. This high-resolution screen replaces conventional analogue speedo and rev-counter dials, much like the Audi Q5’s Virtual Cockpit system, and makes the BMW X3 feel far more futuristic than the relatively old-fashioned Mercedes GLC.
You can even get the BMW X3 with a high-resolution head-up-display system that’ll beam your speed, the current speed limit and upcoming sat-nav directions onto the windscreen. It’s quite expensive but it’s larger and sharper than the similar systems you can get in the Audi and Mercedes.
This Professional Navigation pack also comes with gesture controls for the stereo. Spin your finger in front of the central screen and you can raise or lower the stereo volume – to the inevitable amazement of your younger passengers. More useful is the ability to dismiss potentially awkward phone calls with a satisfying swipe of your hand – but it’s a shame the gestures aren’t consistently recognised by the system.
Even this range-topping infotainment system doesn’t come with Android Auto smartphone mirroring and you have to pay an extra for Apple CarPlay if you want to use your iPhone’s navigation and music streaming apps through the X3’s built-in screen.
The standard stereo is fairly loud and reasonably bassy but you can upgrade to either BMW’s Advanced system or (if you’re a serious audiophile) a more expensive Harman Kardon unit. The latter’s a step above BMW’s own systems in terms of sound quality but it’s still not quite as good as the optional Burmester unit you can get in the Mercedes GLC.