BMW X3 In Snow & Winter Driving? (Solved & Explained) - Engine Patrol (2023)

The BMW X3 has been creeping its way up BMW’s sales charts.

The third-generation X3 has actually been BMW’s best-selling model for the last couple of years and it’s quite easy to understand why.

It’s got great build quality, is filled with lots of modern technology, looks good, and has plenty of space for hauling people and cargo.

But can this small luxury SUV withstand the cold and perform well in winter driving conditions?

Read on to find out…

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BMW X3 In Snow & Winter Driving? (Solved & Explained) - Engine Patrol (1)

Here is the short answer to whether the BMW X3 is good for snow and winter driving:

The X3 is very capable when it comes to driving in snow due to its xDrive AWD and 8-inch ground clearance. X3 models come with Active Guard driving assistance and collision avoidance technologies as well as ABS, Traction Control and Stability Control all of which add to a safe winter driving experience.

Is the BMW X3 Good in the Snow?

The BMW X3 is subject to endurance tests before release, and this includes extensive testing on frozen lakes and snowy roads in North Sweden to prove that they are able to withstand cold, ice and snow – so you can rest assured you won’t have any issues when winter comes around.

The BMW X3 can easily be driven through deep snow and slippery ice-covered roads – although it will need to be fitted with proper snow tires to get the best possible performance.

It has enough ground clearance at 8 inches to drive through unplowed roads and not get stuck or high centered.

X3s equipped with BMW’s xDrive AWD system are even better as daily drivers in the winter because it will give you better traction when driving through really tricky terrain.

SinceAWDpowers four wheels instead of just two, there’s more available grip, and when driving on slick surfaces such as onsnowand ice, you can acceleratebetter, with minimal tire slippage.

It may not be the best vehicle for extreme snow excursions and off-road driving, but it will get you up snowy mountain roads and around town during winters quite easily and comfortably.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Even though most BMW X3s won’t spend much time away from the pavement, BMW still equipped it with many features to improve performance off-road and on very slippery terrain.

Let’s take a closer look at the most important features and how they make the X3 a very capable winter daily driver.

xDrive All-Wheel Drive

People who plan to take the X3 to places with long and harsh winters will want the optional xDrive AWD system.

The X3’s AWD system normally sends 60% power to the rear and 40% to the front. It’s always active so you’ll get good traction everywhere even if it’s extremely slippery.

The system can also send up to 100% power to either the front or the rear whenever its computers decide it’s necessary.

When one of your wheels starts to spin excessively, xDrive will apply the brakes on that wheel and send power to the other wheel on the opposite side.

It makes the X3 more reliable even on uneven ground and really slippery roads.

Related: 8 Most Common BMW X3 Problems (Explained)

Traction Control (TC)

Traction Control is standard on the X3 and in the winter it has two main advantages:

  • When starting a vehicle from a dead stop on snow/ice, tires may spin relentlessly due to lack of friction – this is not an issue on the X3 as the TC system would limit the spinning of the wheels without grip and allow the wheels with grip to move the vehicle.
  • When driving on snow-covered roads where the tires hit a thick patch of slush and lose grip, which causes the vehicle to slow down or slide. TC would apply the brakes to correct the vehicle’s trajectory.

The X3 also has a dedicated button to turn off the Traction Control system which is labeled as Dynamic Traction Control (DTC).

Turning on DTC gives you more wheelspin which can be useful in situations such as

  • Driving through slush or really deep snow
  • Driving on snow chains
  • Getting the vehicle unstuck
  • Going up slippery inclines

DTC will let you use all the power and wheelspin you’ll need and won’t cut engine power abruptly which makes you lose forward momentum.

Dynamic Stability Control

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is a computerized system that can detect skidding/loss of traction – it then aims to bring stability and correct vehicle trajectory by:

  • Sending power from the front to rear
  • Applying brakes to individual wheels
  • Adjusting engine timing
  • Limiting the flow of fuel to the engine

This helps guide the vehicle in its intended direction of travel and reduces the likelihood of the driver losing control of their vehicle.

Here are just some of the sensors it uses:

  • Steering angle
  • Yaw angle (where the car is headed)
  • Wheelspin
  • Vehicle speed

Hill Descent Control

X3s equipped with xDrive will also come with Hill Descent Control (HDC).

When switched on, the HDC will automatically control the gas and brakes so you can go downhill at a more controlled pace.

Going down steep inclines in the winter is more difficult because you need to be really gentle with the gas and brakes.

HDC makes all this less of a chore and less treacherous which is a huge help for less experienced drivers.

Anti-Lock Braking System

All BMW X3s come standard with an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS).

It keeps you from sliding when you’re braking by automatically pulsing the brakes on and off when it detects that the wheels are about to lock up.

It’s really easy to lock up your wheels in the winter even if you’re not slamming on the brakes because the tires have significantly less traction.

Electronic Brake Force Distribution

Along with the ABS, the X3 also has Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) which automatically adjusts how much braking power is sent to the front and rear wheels.

It helps dramatically reduce braking distances by sending more brake pressure to the wheels and tires that have more grip.

The X3 also comes with Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) which helps you bring the vehicle to a stop by adding more brake pressure when it senses that you’re trying to stop quickly.

DBC ensures that the car will come to a complete stop even if you let go of the brakes too early or don’t step on it hard enough.

Heated Side Mirrors, Seats and Steering Wheel

Heated side mirrors come standard in all BMW X3s.

It improves visibility by keeping your mirrors from frosting up — allowing you to see what’s going on in the back.

Heated seats and steering wheels can also be added as options or through the Cold Weather package.

This package also adds retractable headlight washers so they don’t completely freeze up.

BMW Active Guard and Active Driving Assistant

All new BMW X3s come standard with Active Guard which is a collection of modern driver safety aids and includes things such as:

  • Front collision warning
  • Automatic low-speed braking
  • Speed limit information

On top of the standard Active Guard, you can also add the BMW Active Driving Assistant to the X3 as an option. It adds even more safety aids such as:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Active cruise control

All these can be very useful when the roads are extremely slippery in the winter because they give you more time to react.

It keeps you from suddenly slamming on the brakes or turning the steering wheel too aggressively because you were caught unaware.

Does the BMW X3 Have a Snow Mode?

The BMW X3 does not have a dedicated Snow Mode. Although this setting can be found in the newer X5s as part of its xDrive system, as well as in other modern SUVs.

Since Snow Mode just makes the throttle less sensitive to prevent you from spinning your wheels, you can just be a little more gentle on the gas to get the same effect.


Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on the X3?

The BMW X3 is a very popular vehicle so there’s going to be a lot of options when it comes to snow and winter accessories for it.

Here are just some of the extra snow gear you can equip your X3 with to make it a better winter vehicle.

  • Tow hooks
  • Snow tire
  • Snow chains
  • Snow socks
  • Roof racks
  • All-weather floor mats

These accessories make the X3 better prepared for extreme conditions where you can easily get stuck.

How Much Snow Can a BMW X3 Handle?

The BMW X3’s ground clearance stands at about 8 inches – so we wouldn’t advise driving through snow any deeper than 7 inches.

The clearance should be more than enough for light to moderate winters, and even through deeper sections of snow.

It’s much higher than a sedan so it shouldn’t get stuck or high centered as easily when driving through unplowed roads.

Couple this with BMW’s xDrive AWD and you’ve got an extremely capable winter vehicle that can take you up snowy mountains and even through some light off road tracks.

How Does the BMW X3 Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

The BMW X3 is extremely well-engineered and well-built and has undergone rigorous winter testing in sub-zero temperatures in North Sweden.

We can safely say its a very reliable vehicle even when temperatures drop to below zero.

It’s engine computer will automatically adjust its settings when the climate and air density changes so that it’s always running optimally.

What really makes a huge impact on the X3’s daily reliability is it’s battery.

Cold weather makes your car battery lose its charge quickly and leave you stranded in the cold.

So make sure to hook it up to a battery tender at night to keep it charged or have a jump pack in the car to make sure you can start the car even if it goes flat when you leave it parked outside for a long time.


Can a BMW X3 Drive on Ice?

The BMW X3 is just heavy enough to give it good traction in really slippery ice.

However, it’s still quite easy to bring to a complete stop — unlike much bigger trucks and SUVs that are prone to skidding during braking.

It’s also got good car-like handling so it’s very maneuverable even when there’s a high chance of sliding on ice.

It’s quite nimble so it won’t feel like you’re driving a tall and heavy truck.

What About Older X3 Models And Winter Driving?

The X3 is a fairly new model so even older first generation X3s are not too far behind when it comes to technology and features.

The X3 has always had an AWD option, and many of them were sold, so it’s easy to find an example with this essential winter feature.

Older versions of the X3 also came with Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control as standard, so they’re not too difficult to drive when things start getting slippery.

If you find a cheap one in good condition, they can be really good winter beaters, especially if you mount snow tires on them.

Do BMW X3s Need Snow Tires?

To get the most out of the X3 in the snow, you’ll definitely need snow tires.

Snow tires are proven to significantly improve handling and stopping distances in winter driving conditions.

  • The compound is made to grip the road better in lower temperatures as it remains soft and flexible in cold weather.
  • The tread pattern is designed to push the snow out from underneath the tire.

Can You Mount A Snow Plow on a BMW X3?

Although there are kits that will allow you to mount a snow plow on the X3, we don’t recommend using the BMW to plow snow.

Real snow plows need to be mounted directly to a vehicle’s frame because it can support a lot of weight and force.

The X3 uses a unibody design which means the body and frame are integrated together.

If you damage one part, it’s going to affect the integrity of the rest of the X3s frame.

You’ll also likely damage some bodywork and put a lot of strain on the X3s drivetrain if you use it to plow through deep snow for more than a couple of minutes.

Related: How Long Do BMW X3 Last?



What mode should I drive my BMW in snow? ›

In most BMWs, the best mode for snow will be “Dynamic Traction Control,” which is similar to “Dynamic Stability Control,” but prioritizes forward momentum. When activated, DTC will provide maximum traction, allowing you to better navigate snow-covered roads.

Is the BMW X3 good in snow and ice? ›

That's ok, because at low speeds on ice and snow, this X3 M40i is unstoppable. No wheel spin, never a hairy moment. I'd dare you to find a better car that can handle so well on-road, and make you as confident off it.

Does BMW X3 have a snow mode? ›

It's called "Traction" mode on these cars. You enable it by pressing (not holding) the traction "off" button to the left of the gear lever.

What drive mode is best for snow? ›

All-wheel-drive systems deliver power to all four wheels at the same time, or they automatically engage torque to all four wheels when needed. That's why all-wheel drive is best for driving on snowy and icy roads.

What 4 wheel drive mode to use in snow? ›

With 4H, you gain more traction on icy, snowy, muddy, and rocky roads. For instance, you might want to shift into 4H if you're driving on a snow-covered road that leads to a ski resort. Typically, you'll switch to 4H mode more often than 4L mode.

Should dynamic traction control be on or off in snow? ›

Yes, it is better to turn off traction control in snow. This system prevents wheelspin, which will give you better control over the car in winter. Turning off the traction control is useful when the car is stuck in snow, as it will just dig the tires into the snowbank even more and will cause more trouble.

Should I use snow mode on ice? ›

When Should You Activate the Snow Mode? We'd tell you to turn it on as soon as there's snow or ice on the road (it can also be effective in mud), but not all vehicles were created equal and not all drivers are looking for the same sensations. The amount of snow and how slippery the road is can also have an impact.

Can you turn on snow mode while driving? ›

When to use Snow Mode. Anytime you're driving in snowy or slick road conditions or on other slippery surfaces, like mud, Snow Mode can be used to help you maintain traction and control.

What is the disadvantage of BMW X3? ›

X3 timing chains are made of metal, while the guides are made of plastic. Because guides are made of plastic, they're prone to breaking, which can throw off the engine timing. Some owners have reported that their X3 engine stalls or quits while driving.

What is the cold weather package on X3? ›

The BMW X3 is an SUV equipped with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system. The X3 is available with an optional cold weather package which includes a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and retractable headlight washers.

How do I know if my BMW X3 is AWD? ›

To figure out which one it is, pop the hood and locate the engine. If your engine is transversely mounted, which means it sits sideways under your hood, this means your vehicle is AWD, not 4WD.

Is a BMW X3 always in 4 wheel drive? ›

Unfortunately, not all BMW X3s come with AWD. However, you can add it to any X3 model for an additional $2,000, regardless of trim. The BMW AWD system is known as xDrive and is designed to transmit power to each wheel as needed.

What is the DTC button in snow BMW? ›

Dynamic Traction Control (DTC)

Sometimes, when driving in the snow and up a hill, you will need a little or a lot of wheel spin to help you. This is where DTC, or Dynamic Traction Control, can be your best friend. BMW describes DTC as a sub-function of DSC which allows more wheel spin.

Is AWD the same as 4WD in snow? ›

That surprises people who assume that AWD and four-wheel drive (often referred to as 4WD or 4X4) systems are essentially the same things. They're not. In contrast to AWD systems' adaptable nature, 4WD systems send power to all four wheels equally, regardless of their traction.

Which is better in snow AWD or FWD? ›

AWD vs. FWD, Which Is Better In Ice and Snow? All-wheel-drive is usually better in ice and snow because it engages all four wheels to get started and to keep you moving. With modern traction and stability controls, an all-wheel-drive vehicle can handle most snow and ice conditions.

Do you really need AWD in the snow? ›

All-wheel drive is far better than two-wheel drive when it comes to driving on slick surfaces where you need serious traction to get going, such as a snowy uphill driveway. But our tests found that all-wheel drive by itself won't help if you're heading too fast toward a sudden sharp curve on a snowy night.

Which is better AWD or 4WD? ›

Neither of the two options is specifically “better” than the other; it depends on what you need AWD or 4WD for. AWD and 4WD provide better handling, but you'd want AWD if you ride on rough roads during harsh weather, while 4WD is better for those who have heavy hauls on the job site or spend time off the pavement.

Do you use 4H or 4L for snow and ice? ›

4L is best when you're on icy roads, climbing rocks, crossing water, or powering through deep mud. 4H is more commonly used than 4L, and this setting is beneficial because it allows you to drive up to 55 mph while transferring torque to all four wheels. This setting comes in handy when you need additional traction.

Is 4WD lock or low better for snow? ›

Without an Auto setting, 4WD High is what you'd use in any situation that's low-traction but relatively high-speed—a dirt road or snowy paved road. 4WD Low is strictly for slow off-roading or places where torque multiplication would really help you out (like deep sand).

Should DTC be on or off in snow BMW? ›

Any vehicle that is stuck in mud, snow or ice must have the traction control shut off to spin the wheels and gain momentum.

When should I use DTC on BMW? ›

Dynamic Traction Control (DTC):When your system detects a loss of traction, DTC automatically begins stabilization measures, curbing engine output and minimizing wheel slip. This system is particularly useful on snowy or slick roads, which allows your wheels to slightly spin for better traction.

Should I leave traction control on all the time? ›

When turned off, you may notice that your vehicle handles differently than you are used to when driving on slippery surfaces. This is why you should leave your traction control on at all times.

Can I use snow mode on the highway? ›

Snow mode is meant solely for driving on roads and highways and is not meant for off-road scenarios. We recommend using the Off-Road All-Terrain drive mode for snowy off-road adventures.

Is it better to drive fast or slow on ice? ›

Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice. Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don't try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight.

Are snow tires better on ice than all season? ›

All-season rubber compounds literally skate on ice. But winter tires are made with softer rubber compounds and added silica to give them more flexibility and grip on ice. And the special tread removes more water from the ice. The test results show that winter tires outperform all-season tires on ice, too.

Should you drive eco mode in snow? ›

Use the ECO MODE Setting

Eco modes can make your car safer to drive in winter too. By reducing the power to the motor, the vehicle accelerates slower, which reduces the possibility of wheel spin on ice or snow-covered roads.

How do you not slide in snow while driving? ›

Avoid Skids

Avoid sudden stops, abrupt downward gear shifts and quick direction changes. Brake gently to avoid skidding or sliding. If the wheels lock up, ease off the brakes. Know what to do before you go into a skid.

How fast can you drive on snow mode? ›

Toyota hasn't set a limit on how fast you drive while using snow mode. However, because you are driving on snowy roads, you should always reduce your speed and drive with caution.

Why is BMW X3 popular? ›

Overview. The X3 is BMW's best-selling vehicle, hot off a midcycle refresh for the 2022 model year. The venerable small luxury SUV is plenty sporty and fun to drive, and it offers reasonable storage and fuel economy as a five-seater, two-row vehicle.

Is BMW X3 good for long drive? ›

This X3 leans toward comfort

(The optional 20- or 21-inch wheels are fancier but have shorter tire sidewalls, so there's less cushion.) This combo easily smooths out ruts and bumps on the road. And there's not much wind noise or tire noise. That combo makes our X3 a pleasing companion on a long drive."

How many miles will a BMW X3 last? ›

The BMW X3 can last for 150,000 to 200,000 miles when properly maintained. The average driver travels for around 14,263 miles a year. This means that a brand-new BMW X3 should last a driver for at least 10 years.

What is sport mode in BMW x3? ›

With BMW Sport Mode, traction control means about the same as it does in Comfort Mode. You'll still have Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) activated, to keep you from sliding all over the road. That also means that even in BMW Sport Mode, wheel spin can be hard to come by.

Can I preheat my BMW X3? ›

If you don't feel like scraping ice off the windows in winter and would like to get into a warm car, you can set the temperature of your BMW ahead of time with the BMW Remote App. In the “Climate” menu you can turn on the auxiliary heating* or even the auxiliary ventilation**.

Why is my BMW X3 not blowing cold air? ›

The most common reasons a BMW X3 ac isn't working are a refrigerant leak, an electrical climate control issue, or a problem with the air conditioning compressor. You may not realize there's a refrigerant leak until the air conditioner stops blowing cold.

What does BMW winter package include? ›

BMW Approved Cold Weather Wheel Packages combine high-traction, Star Approved Tires with stylish, precision-crafted alloy wheels to maximize safety and performance on wet, snowy, and icy roads. That way, you can drive safely, securely, and confidently wherever the colder roads of the season may lead.

Is BMW xDrive always in AWD? ›

What Is BMW xDRIVE Technology? BMW xDRIVE technology is an advanced, permanent all-wheel drive system that ensures your BMW has the best possible traction at all times. This helps to keep you safe in inclement weather and in imperfect driving conditions, and helps provide smooth, sporty performance.

Is BMW xDrive always on? ›

The xDrive system is active all the time but only steps in when it detects a potential hazard due to low grip and uneven surfaces or a sharp change in direction. The system optimizes traction, improves agility, and works to keep a vehicle safely in its lane.

What is the difference between X3 xDrive and X3 sDrive? ›

Simply put, the two terms are BMW's way of saying whether the car is two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. sDrive models are two-wheel drive, whereas xDrive cars are able to send engine power to all four wheels.

Is xDrive better than Quattro? ›

The biggest difference between xDrive® and quattro® is the axle balance. BMW gives their cars a standard rear-balance BMW feel with 40% of torque in the front axle and 60% in the rear. That distribution is automatically adjusted on the fly as the system detects wheels slipping.

How do you turn off the 4x4 in a BMW X3? ›

How do I turn off the 4x4 on a BMW X3?
  1. Turn on Sport Mode. Sport Mode automatically turns off four-wheel drive and disables your electronic stability control systems.
  2. Turn on the Off-Road option. This will keep the stability control systems online but takes a little longer to turn the four-wheel drive off.
Jan 5, 2022

How do I know if my BMW is all-wheel drive? ›

Check between the front and rear wheels. Whichever set of tires has an axle shaft between the two wheels is the one with the drive wheels. If you notice both a front and rear axle, then you either have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle.

What mode is best for snow BMW? ›

In most BMWs, the best mode for snow will be “Dynamic Traction Control,” which is similar to “Dynamic Stability Control,” but prioritizes forward momentum. When activated, DTC will provide maximum traction, allowing you to better navigate snow-covered roads.

What is the snowflake symbol in BMW? ›

Yellow Triangle with Snowflake - Frost warning indicator. Red Car Symbol - This indicates a potential collision indicator warning.

What does the snow symbol mean on BMW? ›

Yellow Triangle with Snowflake - Frost warning indicator. Red Car Symbol - This indicates a potential collision indicator warning.

What is snow mode button? ›

More specifically, it reduces the engine's power and the accelerator's responsiveness to help prevent skidding, adjusts the transmission's settings to keep the engine speed down, and modifies torque distribution to avoid overloading the wheels that lose traction.

Should you turn off traction control when driving in snow? ›

Yes, it is better to turn off traction control in snow. This system prevents wheelspin, which will give you better control over the car in winter. Turning off the traction control is useful when the car is stuck in snow, as it will just dig the tires into the snowbank even more and will cause more trouble.

Is it best to turn off traction control in the snow? ›

When To Turn Off Traction Control. It's important to keep traction control on 99% of the time when you're driving. However, there are some cases where the safety feature could do more harm than good. For example, it's better to keep it off if you get stuck in the mud, sand, or even snow.

Should traction control be on or off? ›

When turned off, you may notice that your vehicle handles differently than you are used to when driving on slippery surfaces. This is why you should leave your traction control on at all times.

When should you drive with traction control on or off? ›

Traction control is a fundamental safety feature that can keep your car from slipping and sliding in wet driving conditions. Turn it on when you know the road is slippery, but be sure it's off if you're tackling an icy hill or stuck in sand or mud.

What does the snowflake dash light mean? ›

Frost or Cold Warning or Snow Mode Indicator Symbols

As a Frost or Freeze warning indicator, the snowflake or ice crystal symbol will come on in yellow/amber when the outside temperature drops to within a few degrees of freezing (about 40°F). At freezing or below, the symbol may turn red.

What is the symbol on snow tires? ›

You can identify winter tires by the symbols on the sidewall. These are the M+S symbol and the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, and both are industry standards.

Does snow mode help in snow? ›

Snow mode makes driving in snowy, slushy or icy on-road conditions easier by softening the way your R1 speeds up and slows down.

What is the difference between 4WD and AWD? ›

AWD uses a variable connection that your vehicle can adjust on the fly, at any speed, to shift power where it's needed. 4WD connects your front and rear wheels through a transfer case that splits power evenly, and it's meant to be used at lower speeds and in challenging terrain.


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