In this article, we will try to address one of the major concerns of any car buyer who shops for luxury vehicle brands. The one we have at hand is the BMW X3. A compact luxury crossover that offers excellent drivability and reliability for the owners. The question at hand is about the best fuel type that suits the BMW X3. We will dive deeper to find more about this.
The 2.0 liter inline 4 of the BMW X3 can be categorized as a high output engine, it is safer to use RON 95. As there are higher grade fuels available in North America, one may argue in favor of using RON 96-98. The thing is that the benefits one may expect from the premium grade fuel might not be as anticipated. BMW also recommends the higher grade RON 96-98 in the owner’s manual.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Below we’ve outlined the types of gas a BMW X3 can use in great detail for every generation. Furthermore, we’ll talk about specific forms of gas that are and aren’t recommended. Finally, we’ll talk about the gas mileage of the X3. Read on!
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2017 to Present
The current BMW X3 comes with three engine configurations. The basic one is a 2.0-liter inline-four engine that produces 248 HP. For this engine, BMW recommends a minimum of RON 94-95 as the minimum requirement. From experience, we can comfortably say that the RON 94-95 is an adequate fuel type that will serve pretty well.
Apart from the base variant, the X3 M40i and X3 M are packed with a 3.0-liter BMW M TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 382 HP and 473 HP respectively. Owing to the higher power output, BMW recommends AKI 93, the equivalent of RON 98. The performance models of the X3 produce more horsepower, and thus the use of RON 98 is well justified.
2010 to 2017
The Gen 2 of X3 codenamed F25 was offered with four engine types. The base variant was a 2.0 L inline four-cylinder engine that produced 181 horsepower. This was the engine that the base model xDrive and sDrive 20i were introduced with. As per the owner’s manual, the recommended minimum was to use RON 95 or AKI 89.
The second variant was a 3.0 L inline six-cylinder fitted in the 28i, later replaced with a turbocharged 2.0 L inline four-cylinder. For both of these engines, the minimum recommended fuel was RON 95 or AKI 89. Although the 2.0 L inline-four was slightly more powerful, it was not enough to justify a RON 98-98 recommendation.
The third variant was the 3.0 L inline six-cylinder engine, turbocharged to crank out a whopping 302 HP. BMW recommended a minimum RON 95 or AKI 89 for this engine as well. The RON 98-99 wasn’t suggested as per the BMW X3 owner’s manual.
Among petrol engines, BMW X3 was also available as a diesel variant the xDrive28d, a 2.0 L inline-four turbocharged engine producing 180 HP. Although the BMW X3 manual doesn’t state clearly which type to use, a standard formula is that one may use Number 1 (temperatures below 10 degrees) for colder regions and others use Number 2.
2003 to 2010
The X3 was introduced in 2003 with a base variant with a 2.0 L inline-four cylinders producing 148 HP. Although it was not a high compression engine, BMW still recommended premium-grade fuel for this engine. In the owner’s manual for the X3 2.0i, BMW recommends using an AKI 91, which is the equivalent of RON 96-98 fuel.
The 2.5i variant was packed with a 2.5 L Inline 6 engine that produced 189 HP from 2004 till 2006. This was later replaced with a 2.5 L Inline 6 that made 215 HP and stayed around from 2007 till 2010. BMW recommends the use of RON 98-98 for this engine as well.
The 3.0i was introduced with a 3.0 L inline four-cylinder engine that produced 228 horsepower. This engine stayed around from 2004 till 2006. In 2007 BMW replaced the 3.0i with the 3.0si with a 3.0 L inline-six engine producing 268 horsepower. For these engines, BMW recommended a minimum of AKI 87, which equates to RON 91-92. Still, BMW felt the need to urge buyers to use AKI 91 or RON 96-98 fuel.
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)
In addition to regular types of gasoline, a variety of other types are on sale today. To observe the suitability of such fuels for the BMW X3, let’s continue reading.
Reformulated Gasoline is a type of gasoline that burns cleaner and greener than conventional gasoline. The RFG is designed to reduce smog-formation and has less toxic pollutants. RFG is used mainly in areas with bad air quality.
BMW only recommends the use of high-octane fuels for their cars. Although drivers may voluntarily use RFG, this has a probability of voiding the warranty in some cases. The best way to go is to follow what BMW recommends for its vehicles.
A lot of fuel suppliers provide oxygenated blends of gasoline. E-85 is a popular type which is a mixture of 85 % ethanol with 15 % regular gasoline. This type is mainly used for cars with low MPG with high power output figures.
BMW doesn’t recommend using E-85 fuels for their cars. The effect is a big dent on the MPG figures for E-85 driven vehicles. Instead, BMW says that fuels with a maximum of 10% ethanol may be used for their cars. The ethanol used in such fuels should also meet a minimum quality standard as well.
The quality standards referred to in BMW Owner’s Manuals are:
- US: ASTM 4806–xx
- CAN: CGSB-3.511–xx
- xx: comply with the current standard in each case.
It can either be in a badge or an E-85 mark on the fuel cap clearly stating the vehicle compatibility with E-85 fuel. Usually, the manufacturers leave marks indicating whether a vehicle is E-85 compatible or not. In BMW’s case, their owner manuals clearly state a maximum of 10% Ethanol. Alternatively, you can choose either 15% MTBE or 3% methanol plus; you might also use any equivalent mixture in fuel for the BMW X3.
Ideally if one opts for the E-85 fuel type, there are a few precautions to be observed to add different types of materials that can benefit the driver in terms of engine cleaning, life longevity, etc. These additives are mostly detergents, anti-corrosion, and other agents. BMW does not recommend such fuel types on its owner’s manuals.
BMW is known for its technological prowess and is usually longer-lasting than other manufacturers. They try not to recommend fuels with additives but offer recommendations for better grades of octane gasoline types such as RON 96 – 98 for better engine life.
Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) is a gasoline octane enhancer which, according to the US EPA Website, is allowed in US Gasoline up to 1/32 grams per gallon of manganese.
BMW recommends using gasoline without MMT for all generations of the X3. It also should be noted that MMT levels are not indicated on fuel pumps most of the time. A good idea is to ask the MMT Supplier or the gas station.
Biodiesel is a biodegradable alternative fuel that is mainly sourced from soybean oil. In some cases, it is also made from other renewable sources, such as yellow grease or canola. BMW doesn’t transparently recommend using biodiesel for their engines. But since most diesel engines can safely use biodiesel, it may be concluded that BMW engines may also be okay with the use of biodiesel.
B2, B5, and B20 are the ones among the most commonly used types of biodiesel fuels. Ideally, B5 and below is the safe zone. Anything between B6 – B20 will squeeze the service intervals since anything above B5 will likely cause more harm than benefit for your engine.
Hearing knocking sounds is nothing new for seasoned car drivers. But what causes knocking from the engine is a question we should address first. The use of low octane fuels is the primary cause of engine knocking and can be severely damaging to the engine if the fuel quality is considerably lower than the recommended fuels.
BMW recommends at least a RON 91 – 92 for use in their vehicles. With RON 91 – 92, BMW states that the engine may produce knocking sounds if the vehicle is started at high external temperature. This does not affect the engine life as per the BMW owner’s manual for the X3.
The first generation of the BMW X3 (2004-2010) had five variants, including different engines which also meant 5 different price variations depending on where you looked. The most fuel-efficient was the 2.0i variant that could achieve 31 mpg combined on a good day. The worst one was the 3.0i that could reach a combined high of 23.35 due to more power output drivers put to great use.
|Lowest Combined MPG
|Highest Combined MPG
The second generation of BMW X3 (2011-2017) was offered in 4 variants, but the xDrive28i received an engine upgrade from 3.0 L inline 4 to a 2.0 L inline 4 Turbo. The most fuel-efficient variant was the xDrive35i, offering a 33 MPG combined. The worst variant on fuel efficiency was the xDrive28i 3.0L achieving a meager 21 MPG.
|Lowest Combined MPG
|Highest Combined MPG
|xDrive28i (3.0 L)
|xDrive28i (2.0 L Turbo)
The third generation of BMW X3 (2018-present) is being offered in 5 variants. The most efficient is the xDrive30e, a hybrid using an electric motor and an engine. This has been rated at 60 eMPG, the cumulative total of both the gasoline engine and electric motor. The worst is the X3 M achieving 19 MPG with its 500+ HP motor.
|Lowest Combined MPG
|Highest Combined MPG
|60 (Electric + Gasoline)
The gas tank size for the third generation BMW X3 (2017-Present) is 17.2 gallons or 65 liters. The second-generation BMW X3 (2011-2017) had a tank capacity of 17.7 gallons or 67 liters of fuel. The first generation of the BMW X3 (2004-2010) had the same capacity as the second generation, 17.7 gallons or 67 liters.
The most expensive state is California, where one gallon of gasoline is $4.388—moving to the cheapest form, Mississippi. Here the cost for one gallon of gas is $2.816. Texas also has the same price of $2.816.
If you were to fill up the tank of the third-generation BMW X3, it would cost you $75.47 in California at the time this article is written. In the cheapest state, you would have to pay $49.84.
Overall, you will be spending somewhere between $50-$75 for a full tank. The price varies depending on your location and the model year you have.
- Owner Manual BMW X3 2004
- Owner Manual BMW X3 2011
- Owner Manual BMW X3 2016
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!