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How Well Does A BMW X3 Drive In The Snow

Snow can really become a nightmare if we are not equipped with the snow survival kit, which would be a good vehicle first and foremost when you need to travel in the snow. And after a competent vehicle, you would be needing good tires and so on so forth. We will discuss every aspect in detail. In a nutshell;

The BMW X3 performs extremely well in mild and heavy snowy conditions. Even though the AWD variants outperform the RWD one still, the RWD is still a very suitable SUV in the snow. Furthermore, owners are positive about its performance in the winter. The ground clearance of 7.2 inches may seem low for an SUV but the integrated safety features still make it a proper SUV for in the snow.

BMW insists on calling it a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) instead of a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) owing to its sporty characteristics and driving dynamics that offer a nice combination of a powerful engine with the stance of an SUV. With great power comes a great need for traction, or otherwise, the power won’t get to the ground.

Snow tires are essential for better traction in snow, and without traction, all that power will be wasted. You can check our detailed guide on how to get the right snow tires and why you need them. This article has covered everything you need to know when driving a BMW X3 in snow.

Also read: How Many Miles Can A BMW X3 Last?

Experience Of BMW X3 Owners

Like any vehicle, the numbers tell a very vague story about the vehicle’s capability to handle different terrains, and thus numbers alone mean nothing for drivers. The best way to determine whether a vehicle is a good winter-fit or not is to have an opportunity to drive it in winters and snow before drawing any conclusions.

Since BMW X3 is an SUV and, by default, it’s presumed to perform well in winters, there is nothing that can tell the story as transparently as having to experience it hands-on. So far on the internet, there have been quite a few forums where drivers have shared very positive feedback about the BMW X3.

With the snow tires on my X3, I can easily barrel through 18″ from a standing start; I know cause I have done it…


Get snow tires! All seasons are a joke in cold snowy conditions. Our X3 is great in the snow especially at -16 with 20cm of white stuff.


I’m also in Chicago. My X3 has been outstanding following last weekend’s storm. We have 3-foot drifts in front of our garage and the X3 gets through it with no fuss…but I’m using a winter wheel (narrower) and tire (blizzaks..they’re ok but way better than the all season rfts). Will get hakkas next year.


the X3 is RWD bias. If you try to hard, or intentionally push it, the backend will come loose a little bit, but the X system will help you. It is all manageable (and a little fun to drive)


Does The BMW X3 Have Snow Tires?

You get all-season Perelli P Zero run-flat tires from the factory, but when you are looking for snow tires, you must be extra careful because the front and rear tires of the BMW X3 are not of the same size. And when you are going for a replacement and want the best handling, you must put the tires of the same dimensions at both the front and the rear.

20-inch wheel package

These are the specifications of the wheels from the factory:

  • Front tire specification: 245/40 R 20 99 Y XL RSC 
  • Rear tire specification: 275/35 R 20 102 Y XL RSC

Emergency wheel for both packages: T 135/80 R 18 104 M, speed on these spare wheels should not exceed 50 mph / 80 km/h

21-inch wheel package

  • Front tire specification: 245/35 R 21 96 Y XL RSC
  • Rear tire specification: 275/30 R 21 98 Y XL RSC

Why should you go with the snow tires?

Well, snow tires have the following characteristics that make them suitable in heavy snow to black ice, and everything in between that winter has to offer.

If you live in an area where winters are harsh with lots of snow and own a X3, we advise you to replace all-season tires with a good set of snow tires. Snow tires have the following characteristics that make them suitable in heavy snow to black ice and everything in between that winter has to offer.

The Tread Rubber

Extreme cold temperatures cause the tread rubber of an all-season or summer tire to stiffen and become less able to provide sufficient traction. To combat this, the tread rubber compounds of winter tires are composed such that they remain flexible, allowing the tire to grip the road better.

Tread Depth and Patterns

Unique to snow tires are deeper tread depths and unique tread patterns. Deeper tread depths reduce snow buildup and thus provide better traction on the snow. The tread patterns, too, are designed to channel snow and slush and expel water.

Biting Edges

Snow tires have many biting edges and high densities of small slits that increase the tread surface area, thus increasing grip in wet, icy, and snowy conditions.

Where To Get Snow Tires

If you want to buy snow tires, we advise you to use Tirerack. They have a great tool that allows you to find the perfect fit for your exact model, so you won’t have to worry about fitment issues. Furthermore, they also offer free shipping on most of their orders. Check out their store here!

What Drive System Does A BMW X3 Have?

In these sports activity vehicles, we have 2 available options: rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

Rear Wheel Drive

If you want to have your end go sideways, which is good when you WANT it to go sideways, yay, drift, then go for the sDrive30i, but it won’t be the best when you DON’t want the rear end to go sideways.

As the phrase Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) suggests, the power from the engine is delivered to the rear wheels, which then pushes the vehicle forward. Compared to front-wheel drive (FWD), RWD vehicles handle curves and turns much better, but the traction is not as good, especially in wet or snowy road conditions.

With the bulk of the weight in the front because of the engine, the car’s rear is lighter hence prone to fishtailing under slippery conditions.

All Wheel Drive

If you are looking for maximum traction, you can go with the other 2 variants; viz, xDrive30i and M40i. These two variants come standard with an all-wheel drive that will be the best choice for snow driving. 

In AWD, the power is transferred to all four tires based on the weight distribution of each wheel. This results in greater stability and substantially improves car handling. Note that AWD is not the same as the 4-wheel drive (4WD), in which the engine transfers equal power to all four wheels.

What Electronics System Help The BMW X3 In The Snow?

DSC Dynamic Stability Control is deactivated

This is the system that prevents understeer and oversteer. If the software picks up the readings that your rear end is going sideways, the engine power will cut off, and the speed will be reduced, and on top of that, brakes will also be applied to individual wheels. 

The same thing will happen when the front loses traction, in other words, when the system anticipates understeer.

DTC Dynamic Traction Control is activated

This system is programmed to help keep traction to the wheels that send power to the ground and move the X3 forward; if they spin and lose traction, the DTC will kick in and keep them firm to the ground. Thus skidding won’t happen, which is exactly what we need when looking at lots of snow driving.

Anti-lock Braking System ABS

The Anti-lock Braking System is now a standard feature in all modern-day vehicles. Why is ABS so important? This system would ensure that the wheels won’t lock when you slam the brakes, in an emergency, or even in a normal situation. This feature will prevent your tires from sliding, thus increasing traction several notches.

Had it not been for the ABS, hard braking would have locked the wheels while turning and steering at the same time, and if the wheels do get locked and you happen to be turning, then that situation is a recipe for disaster.

It would be best if you never disabled ABS in any condition. If someone tells you that turning off ABS will help you in the snow, they lie. Without ABS, things will always go sideways. 

Auto Hold

Just like many other vehicles, the BMW provides the auto-hold feature in the X3. Still, unlike other vehicles, this auto-hold feature is completely automatic, and you don’t have to press a button manually. The system will automatically hold the vehicle in place whether you are stopping in traffic or standing still on a slope.

HDC Hill Descent Control

This system helps keep the X3 firm and planted to the ground even when going down a slippery slope. The driver sets the vehicle speed, and the system keeps it maintained without stepping on the brake peddle. The engine braking and ABS will handle the rest. The system will automatically turn off when the speed exceeds approximately 25 mph.

From owners manual

The speed is also maintained downhill but may not be maintained uphill if engine power is insufficient.

Weight Distribution

The curb weight is important because it impacts the performance and safety of the vehicle.

Lighter cars have better fuel economy, respond quicker to acceleration, and have better performance. Heavier cars are safer, provide better protection to the occupants when involved in a crash, and have better road traction. Also read: The Types Of Gas A BMW X3 Uses (Explained)

A more important spec is the weight distribution. It impacts several key performance parameters such as response to acceleration/deceleration, cornering stability. Ideally, while braking, the weight distribution should be equal on all four tires.

Normally, the weight distribution differs in each trim level, and on top of that can differ even among the same trim levels due to different packages and add ons.

When it comes to weight distribution, no one comes close to making a perfect 50/50 weight distribution throughout their lineups as the BMW does. No matter which BMW you pick, 50/50 weight distribution will be there. And that’s exactly BMW’s handling is considered to be on the top of the automotive industry. A lot of R&D goes into achieving that perfect 50/50 split.

2021 ModelsWeigh Distribution F/R
BMW X3 xDrive30i50/50
BMW X3 sDrive30i50/50
BMW X3 M40i50/50

Also read: The 3 Main Differences Between BMW xDrive and sDrive

Ground Clearance (in): 7.2

When deciding on buying a vehicle to drive in snow, ground clearance is an important aspect. Ground clearance is the distance between the chassis and the ground and is one of the basic dimensions of any vehicle. Lower ground clearance means more likelihood of the underbelly of the car scratching against the ground.

The low ground clearance can be a major issue if you live in an area with lots of snowfall. The higher the ground clearance, the better. We know it, and there is no way to refute this. Higher ground clearance adds to the vehicle’s winter-aptness.

A vehicle can easily knife through thick layers of snow with higher ground clearance, as that is one major point of concern for any winter driver. The sweet spot of ground clearance comes at 8 inches and above.

Vehicles do get stuck on those piles left by the plows on the sides, so make sure to steer clear from those. Drive on the tire marks left by other vehicles after the plow, and you will be all good.

Wheelbase (in): 112.8

The wheelbase is the distance between the centers of the front and the rear tires. The wheelbase dimensions affect the vehicle’s weight distribution and are a key spec in determining the balance and steering. Having a longer wheelbase means that the vehicle would be more stable at higher speeds.

This is neither great nor bad; it’s somewhat average. And of course, it won’t be as much as its elder brother, the BMW X5. The X3 is more like the Acura MDX when we look at the size comparison.

What Traction Device You Can Use On The BMW X3?

If you live in an area where a lot of snow tends to still be on the road when you’re about to drive, then you can, of course, buy snow chains to provide the car with more grip. In the owner’s manual of the most recent X3s, BMW gives a few suggestions for these ‘snow traction devices,’ as they like to call them.

BMW recommends using fine link snow chains installed only on the rear wheels. BMW further recommends the following

Do not initialize the run-flat tires after mounting snow chains, as doing so may result in incorrect readings.Do not reset the Tire Pressure Monitor TPM after mounting snow chains, as doing so may result in incorrect readings. When driving with snow chains, briefly activateDynamic Traction Control DTC to optimize the forward momentum.

Keeping in mind all of the suggestions, we would recommend using the Peerlesschain, where you can find which chain would be the one for your tires as fitment is an important aspect when searching for snow chains. Manufacturers mostly recommend s class chains, and on this site, you will be able to choose from many different options.

If you are looking for the 20-inch font wheel option, you would want to have the SZ143, which we have linked here on Amazon. And for your 20 inch rear wheel, you would want to have the Z575, which we have linked here on this link to Amazon.

Just like that, for any wheel, you can put the numbers on the Peerlesschain website, and you would be able to find the one you need.

Happy Driving.

Did you know that the BMW X3 is our top pick for first-time car owners that want a BMW SUV? Check out the article here: Are BMWs Good First Cars And Which Is Best? (Explained)