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Used Guide: 2011-2017 BMW X3 (F25)

5 tips to find a first-class example of a second-hand BMW X3

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The new-for-2011 BMW X3 (dubbed F25) hit the road in 2010 with turbocharged four and six-cylinder engine options. A 2-litre turbo four-cylinder generated 240 horsepower, and the available 3-litre turbo straight-six offered 300 hp.

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BMW X3 models called xDrive28i feature the 2-litre engine, while xDrive35i variants run the punchier turbo-six — a tempting option that achieves virtually the same combined fuel economy rating as the four-cylinder unit.

Specifically, the 300-horsepower straight six drinks 9.7 L/100 km combined, while the 240-horsepower turbo four drinks 9.5 L/100 km. Look for standard xDrive AWD and an 8-speed paddle-shiftable automatic on all models.

This five-seat luxury crossover took a place below the larger BMW X5 in the automaker’s lineup, and featured a slew of the latest connectivity and safety features, as well as no shortage of modern luxury must-haves. 

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Thorax airbags, trailer stability control, adaptive xenon lighting, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors are among the favourite features of safety-minded drivers. A surround-view parking camera system and panoramic sunroof were also available, as was a premium stereo.

Check out the related links and stories for more reviews, news, specs, and other BMW X3 related information, and read on for five tips to help make sure you find the best used X3 you can for the dollar.

2017 BMW X3
2017 BMW X3 Photo by BMW

Tip 1: Go for a 2015 or newer

Deep inside of the engine in every BMW X3 is an important component called the timing belt, which sets the mechanical heartbeat of the engine. A healthy and functional timing chain is mandatory for the healthy operation of the vehicle’s engine.

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In the early years of this generation BMW X3, numerous owners reported issues with timing chains, up to and including outright failure that can lead to extensive engine damage and enormous out-of-warranty repair bills. 

The problem, said owners in a class-action lawsuit, was that defective timing chains and related components were installed at the factory. The BMW X3 owner’s community has done an excellent job of documenting timing chain trouble. Many expert owners recommend opting for a BMW X3 from model year 2015 or newer, to benefit from the increased reliability of revised timing chain parts that were installed at the factory from that model year.

If you’re considering a 2011 to 2014 model year unit where timing chain problems are more likely, ask the seller if the engine was ever repaired or replaced due to timing chain issues, and seek proof by checking all documentation.

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During ownership, keep your BMW X3’s timing chain as healthy as possible by having all oil changes completed on time, or ahead of time, in a dealer setting using factory-approved oil and filters.

Tip 2: Tire tips

The BMW X3 you’re considering may be running on run-flat tires, meaning it doesn’t have a full-sized or temporary spare. Run flat tires can be driven at reduced speeds after a puncture for a short distance, for instance, to a nearby tire shop for a replacement. Thing is, run flat tires typically can’t be repaired after a puncture and they can turn in a rougher and harsher drive than some shoppers prefer.

A conventional tire setup with a spare tire may better match your needs than a run-flat setup. That’s because conventional tires can often be repaired after a puncture, and will include a full-sized or temporary spare, often at the expense of storage space.

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On your test-drive, check the tires and spare tire provisions in the BMW X3 you’re considering, to ensure they meet your needs.

2011 BMW X3.
2011 BMW X3. Photo by BMW

Tip 3: Lighting system check

Some BMW X3 owners have reported problems with their lighting systems, though most have not. On your test-drive, spend a few minutes getting up close and personal with the vehicle’s exterior lights — it’s best if you’ve got an assistant to help you.

Start behind the X3, and confirm that all LED segments activate as expected when the lights are turned on, when reverse gear is selected, when the brakes are applied, and when turn signals and hazards are activated. Run through these tests several times, confirming that no LED segments seem dark, seem to light up inconsistently, or flicker.

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Check the license-plate lights, as well the tailgate area LED lighting.

Some owners have reported problems with LED’s that light up intermittently (if at all), and other issues with wonky or unpredictable operation. The culprit may involve a bad solder on an internal circuit board, which some owners have successfully fixed using a little soldering. Others have had dealers install replacement lighting control modules.

Next, carefully check the headlights on the BMW X3 you’re considering. Some owners have reported the presence of unwanted moisture and condensation within the headlight housings, and while many have not reported this issue, it would likely be caused by poor weather sealing. Moisture or condensation in a headlight housing can invite an array of problems and reduce lighting system performance and reliability. If you notice any, call it into your pricing negotiations or move to another unit.

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2014 BMW X3
2014 BMW X3 Photo by BMW

Tip 4: Cheat codes

If you know how to do it, you can have the BMW X3 you’re driving perform a diagnostic check for you in about half a minute.

Start by firing up the engine, letting it come up to operating temperature, and then use the iDrive controller to click ‘VEHICLE’ and then ‘Check Status’ from the on-screen display. The X3 will present a list of faults and warnings, if any are detected.

Trouble revealed within this system is a strong signal to have the vehicle checked further by a professional before you buy it. Note that numerous problems are not revealed by this self-check, and that a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) in a dealer setting is the best way to confirm satisfactory health of the specific model you’re considering.

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BMW X3 xDrive 35i.
BMW X3 xDrive 35i. Photo by BMW

Tip 5: Winter drivers take note

The BMW X3 is a fantastic SUV for winter driving, and a few important tips can help you get the most out of your new-to-you X3 in the snow, for years to come.

First, use a quality set of winter tires when the snow flies. The X3’s advanced AWD system and supporting electronics are expert at usably extracting traction from even very slippery surfaces, and a quality set of winter tires gives those systems more grip to work with. If you’re running a BMW X3 with all-seasons on snow and ice, you’re severely limiting its performance capabilities, as well as your safety.

Second, for a long and trouble-free life from major AWD system components, regular servicing and fluid changes are vital. Many owners choose to accelerate the fluid change intervals on AWD system components — as well as engine oil changes and transmission fluid changes — for added driver confidence and component durability.

Especially when it comes to frequent use in severe cold, a few extra bucks spent on fluid changes for your X3 can go a long way towards increased peace of mind for the long run.

Final thought

These tips are designed to help test-driving shoppers more easily identify possible trouble areas reported by some owners. An attentive test drive and shopping process that focuses on the areas above can help you find a first-class example of a second-hand BMW X3.