Upgrading the BMW X3 - All you need to know

Bianka Rommel
Oct 20, 2020

The X3 Series is one of the most popular BMW models in the US, and that is no different with the second-generation BMW F25. Yet, as the third-generation X3 entered the worldwide market in 2018, its predecessor started to feel a bit outdated with regard to the latest in-car technology.

So what are your options to modernize it? Is upgrading to the latest BMW X3 G01 your only way to do it, or is there still a chance to stick with your F25 for a bit longer?

We want to help you make that decision and this is why we have gathered a set of detailed information concerning the BMW F25 - how is it to own and how to effectively revitalise it. Fortunately, BimmerTech provides a range of BMW X3 retrofit options, including Apple CarPlay, 6WB Digital Cluster, navigation retrofit and car audio upgrades, so you shouldn’t have any problems in finding something suitable for your vehicle.

upgrading the BMW X3

Which BMW is the X3?

BMW and its overlapping terms - BMW F25, SUV F25, BMW X3 - may confuse many people. So, in order to piece the naming conventions together, let’s start from the beginning. The BMW X3 is a family of compact luxury crossover SUV vehicles produced by BMW since 2003. It is the big brother of the smaller X1 and X2 but slots below the larger X5 and X6.

The name F25 however, regards the internal model code created specifically for the second-generation X3 SUV, manufactured between 2011–2017. The model code helps to differentiate the second-generation X3 from two other BMW generations - the older one E83 produced in the years 2003-2010, and the younger G01 manufactured from 2018 to the present day.   

In terms of the engines, BMW X3 models have both diesel and petrol variations, such as xDrive30i, sDrive30ixDrive28i, xDrive35i or xDrive35d.

What is the difference between BMW X5 and the X3

When getting ready to buy a new BMW SUV, many people wonder what is the biggest difference between X5 and X3, and which model would suit them best. So, to get things clear, BMW X5 is a mid-size crossover with sizable cargo capacity and seven seats. Whereas the X3 is more of a senior compact crossover, great for everyday utility. The first one wins on space and power — even the entry-level xDrive 40i has a turbocharged six-cylinder engine producing 335 hp and is able to contain up to 33.9 cube feet of cargo. The latter, the X3, is more of a manageable size (28.7 cubic feet), and as the xDrive 30i has a four-cylinder engine producing 248 hp. 

Therefore, if you’re looking for a family-friendly car, the X5 is a perfect choice for you. If you prioritize everyday versatility, X3 would definitely be a better option. Importantly, both models are full of abundant features and stand out in terms of luxury interiors.

What is the technology package on BMW X3

Despite the fact that the newer BMW X3 (G01) gets to be more equipped with advanced in-car technology than the previous generation, Technology Packages for X3: Convenience, Premium and Executive will pack your car with a chosen set of innovations. Thus, if having multiple tech upgrades matters to you greatly, these combinations are something definitely worth your attention:  

The Technology Packages include among others:

  • Remote Services: Lock and unlock your doors, activate the horn and more remotely from your smartphone.
  • Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information: Get traffic updates through the iDrive navigation system, helping you avoid jams.
  • Navigation system: The full BMW navigation system with a modern interface.
  • BMW Apps & BMW Online: Access Facebook, Twitter, news and other online content through your iDrive.
  • Head-up display: See vital driving information projected onto the bottom part of the windshield for easier viewing.
  • Instrument cluster with extended contents: The 6WB digital cluster, featuring a digital panel with vehicle information.

Something that is not included in the Technology Package but can be provided as a standalone option is Enhanced Bluetooth (S6NSA). Designed for smartphone integration, it lets you use BMW's Mobile Office feature to check your emails, texts and calendar events on the iDrive screen, as well as browse your phone's music library over Bluetooth and pair two phones.

Do you own a BMW, which wasn't produced with this option in the factory? BimmerTech’s remote coding will make it possible for you to activate Enhanced Bluetooth in your BMW F25. For more information contact us or check yourself what BMW Enhanced Bluetooth does.

BMW X3 key fob

Modern BMW models are generally compatible with different types of remote key fobs, which come already pre-programmed by BMW factories. This is very convenient for the owners, as they do not have to bother with any additional programming. All you've got to remember when you purchase a new key fob is to follow a few easy instructions to get it activated.

How to change X3 key battery

Do you own an F25 without Comfort Access? Remember that the battery of a standard key fob is non-rechargeable and lasts up to three years, so you might want to change it after that period of time. If you’ve noticed your key fob has entirely stopped working or its remote range has gotten worse, replace it even sooner.

Learn  how to take apart BMW X3 key fob and replace its battery in this video.

Replacing the battery is a piece of cake :) First take out the internal key blade - underneath you’ll find a small hole behind the plastic back plate of the fob. Then just pry off the back plate with a key blade and done! Easy access to the CR 2450 battery.

How to get a new BMW key

In case changing your battery doesn’t help at all, it may mean that the problem is with the key fob itself. So what should you do in that situation? Your only option is to get a new original BMW key fob.

Check how to replace you BMW remote key fob

BMW programs all F25 key fobs for security reasons. That way the original key fob is an exact match for your vehicle and can’t be replaced with a second-hand one. It was vital for BMW to introduce that process for their cars, as it largely prevents thieves from gaining unauthorised access to your vehicle. You can find an original BMW F25 replacement key fob in our BimmerTech store - we guarantee its quality and proper functioning. Fobs are available with or without the laser cut key blade.

How to program BMW X3 key fob

When you receive your F25 key fob the next step is to activate it before pairing it with your BMW. 

Doing so is very simple. After unlocking your vehicle with your existing key, set the key down away from your car, hold the new fob against the key markings on the side of the steering column and hold the start/stop button until the 'no key' warning light disappears. Pressing the start/stop button again will confirm the pairing worked.

How to close BMW windows with remote

What’s great about BMW F25 key fob? It can do much more than locking and unlocking doors. With it you can also remotely control windows and the sunroof; to do it just press and hold the lock and unlock buttons on your key fob to roll the windows up and down.

The remote closing feature may not however be available in your country, so if you can’t close your vehicle’s windows by pressing the key fob’s button you’ll have to activate this option through BimmerTech’s coding.

BMW X3 retrofit

If your car lacks the latest technology you’d love to have in your vehicle, we are going to show you how you can add them to your BMW. Below you’ll see how to improve your X3 with Apple CarPlay, a Digital Cluster, an upgraded Sound System, a Backup Camera and a Navigation retrofit.

BMW X3 coding

BimmerTech’s coding is not limited to remote window control of your F25. It also lets you upgrade certain aspects of your iDrive, making your car more suitable to your needs.  

How to code your BMW X3

The easiest way to code your BMW X3 is through iDrive Coding. At BimmerTech we offer over 40 different coding options you can get through two coding methods, which depend on your car; coding via cable or via USB. 

For vehicles without high-end technology or navigation options coding via cable is the most suitable option. If you want to start this procedure you’ll have to connect your laptop to the BMW’s OBD port with an ENET cable. This way our BimmerTech technician will be able to conduct a remote coding session for your F25.  

But, if you own a BMW F25 manufactured between 2013–2016, it’s supported by an NBT, NBT Evo ID4 or NBT Evo ID5/ID6 head unit, and this means coding via USB is the most convenient option for your car. The biggest benefit of USB coding is the easy and fast programming process - all you have to do is plug a thumb drive into your vehicle's USB port and code your car within minutes.

Get to know  more about BimmerTech’s Easy iDrive Coding for BMWs

Whatever method you choose you’ll be able to update BMW X3 software from home at the most suitable time.

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What things can you code on a BMW X3?

You have many options to choose from when coding your F25. The popular ones include:

  • Video in Motion: Keep your passengers entertained on a long trip and let them watch movies while you’re driving (learn more about Video in Motion for BMW).
  • Legal Disclaimer Deactivation: Switch off the safety warning that appears after starting your vehicle.
  • Enhanced Bluetooth: Improve the connection between your smartphone and F25 (learn more about Enhanced Bluetooth for BMW).
  • RDC Safety: Take a quick look at your tire pressure displayed on the iDrive screen.
  • Battery Registration: Register your new car battery and maintain your BMW’s longevity (learn more about Battery registration).

Which coding options are available to you? It largely depends on your exact vehicle configuration and iDrive head unit version. Enter a VIN number on BimmerTech’s BMW iDrive coding page and check the full list of available options.

BMW X3 Apple CarPlay

If you’ve already changed your iDrive settings and you wish to do more on the iDrive screen, you can use coding to unlock third-party services, like SiriusXM satellite radio for BMW or BMW’s wireless Apple CarPlay.  Many of you probably wouldn’t even consider purchasing a new car without CarPlay - that’s why a BMW F25 CarPlay retrofit is such a great way to add a modern twist to your older vehicle. 

How to add CarPlay to BMW X3

There are 3 ways you can add Apple CarPlay to your vehicle: through BMW-original Apple CarPlay activation, our CarPlay MMI Retrofit or a Head Unit Upgrade.

Option 1: Activating your factory BMW Wireless CarPlay in X3

When it comes to BMW Apple CarPlay in F25 — you can activate it only if your car was built after 2016 with the Navigation Professional option. At that time F25s started to feature NBT Evo ID5/6 head units, which are from the start prepared for CarPlay, just as any other car with the CarPlay Preparation (S6CPA) option. 

Apple CarPlay activation is in that case an effortless coding process. You may only need to attach a WiFi antenna to your BMW in order to enable the connection between your iPhone and your car. Without making any physical alterations to your vehicle, all of the popular navigation maps, music and messaging apps will be accessible to you on your iDrive screen. Plus, the coding process will take you no more than an hour.

Option 2: Retrofitting Carplay with BimmerTech's CarPlay MMI Prime

If your F25 won't let you activate the BMW-original CarPlay, the other option is to add a compatible product from BimmerTech — CarPlay MMI Prime retrofit. It’s a hardware upgrade developed specifically to extend the support for CarPlay and Android Auto. In contrast to factory CarPlay, CarPlay MMI Prime can connect to your iPhone through a built-in antenna or with the use of Apple white cable, thus doesn’t require a factory-original WiFi antenna. Additionally, CarPlay MMI Prime’s interface is displayed differently from factory CarPlay. The first one is full-screen by default and the latter displays in split-screen. 

With CarPlay MMI Prime you can also add Android Auto to your BMW — it’s a perfect option for those who use Android phones.

Check how to retrofit CarPlay in an older BMW

Option 3: Retrofitting CarPlay with a Head Unit Upgrade

If your BMW was built before 2016 but you still want to enjoy both the full original CarPlay experience as well as all technological bells and whistles you will have to upgrade your iDrive head unit to NBT Evo ID5/ID6. This highly advanced retrofit comes with a bunch of benefits, like an iDrive Touch controller, HD screen upgrade, CarPlay & BMW Apps pre-installed, and of course full coding provided by BimmerTech. 

However, if you just want to add CarPlay to your BMW, you most likely won’t have to upgrade the entire head unit. If your F25 comes from before 2016 and is equipped with NBT Evo ID4, you will only need two parts —  the aftermarket head unit and possibly the ATM module. F25s made between 04/2013–03/2016 feature regular NBT, which requires a different head unit upgrade but already has the required 8.8” HD screen and touch controller. Whereas F25s from 2010–2013 with CIC head unit need a complex upgrade — in this case the whole NBT Evo ID5/ID6 set has to be retrofitted. 

BMW X3 Backup Camera retrofit

Car owners nowadays have high expectations concerning rear view cameras helping them out in the hardest parking conditions. It is not surprising then that they've become standard addons to all new vehicles in the US and Canada. But, in case your car isn’t equipped with one, you can buy an aftermarket BMW X3 rear view camera retrofit from BimmerTech.

There are three options for F25 you have to choose from when deciding which model will suit your car best - MMI, OEM Integration and OEM. All of them mount the camera discreetly in the trunk handle and use the factory dashboard screen to display the image from the camera.

  MMI OEM Integration OEM
Manufacturer BimmerTech BimmerTech BMW OEM
Camera mode Full screen Native (with PDC view)* Native (with PDC view)
Requirements Factory screen Navigation Professional Navigation Professional + PDC
Coding Not required Required Required
Installation time 3-4 hours 3-4 hours 3-4 hours
Compatible add-ons SmartView HD AT3/ATV4, SmartView HD Flex, Front View Camera, PDC PDC Obstacle marking (included), Trailer hitch mode (included), Surround view

*PDC is not included as part of the kit.

There are many reasons to have a backup camera, yet in case you still don’t know which camera is the right one for your X3 enter your VIN on our BMW Rear View Camera retrofit page and you’ll get to see which options are compatible with your vehicle. 

Want to see how the MMI Prime looks when installed in the X3? Check out our latest highlight video on the MMI Prime backup camera.

BMW X3 navigation retrofit

If you would like to upgrade your iDrive even more, you still can implement a few hardware and software changes to match your F25 to the newest BMWs.

How to update BMW iDrive navigation

One of the best places to start a retrofit journey in your BMW is the iDrive head unit. Just by replacing  your older or more basic iDrive version with up-to-date hardware you can instantly gain novel features and a modern interface for your F25.

Learn more about upgrading your BMW iDrive

What to do before beginning your upgrade? First of all it’s good to find out which BMW iDrive version you have, and look at the extra features of NBT Evo ID6 - the latest head unit for BMW F25. 

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F25s produced between 2010–2013 tended to have CIC head units as a premium option. The model year of 2016 however, brought a series of head unit upgrades for X3 - NBT, NBT Evo ID4 and NBT Evo ID5 / ID6. So how can you upgrade to NBT Evo ID6? It largely depends on which iDrive head unit you already have in your F25.

To retrofit an NBT Evo ID5/6 head unit in your BMW or find out more about the possible upgrade process, leave us a message

How to update BMW X3 navigation maps

A full-on iDrive retrofit process seems a bit too much for you? No worries, the other simple way to modernize your X3 is through updating the BMW navigation maps. It’s a regular procedure for BMW to add many new roads and points of interest every 6 months, so that drivers could enjoy the highest driving comfort and choose the fastest routes.

Updating is easy; all you have to do is upload the latest map data to your vehicle through the USB port and enter an authorization code from BMW. You can find map data and the activation code in BimmerTech’s  BMW Navigation Maps Update.

Retrofit 6WB Digital Cluster in X3 

If you want to jump to the next level of comfort and upgrade the looks of your F25 even more, without a doubt you can with a 6WB OEM digital cluster. This fully digitalized instrument panel features a digital speedometer, tachometer, navigation directions, oil temperature display and other gauges. 

Despite being very showy, the panel is also great in terms of providing important information while driving. You can customize it for your own needs, so that it displays the data you're most interested in. What’s more, it has an illuminated screen, thanks to which you can easily see all of the information at any time of the day.

So, want to know your speed in the blink of an eye? Give up the needle dial for a numeric display and immediately see how fast you’re driving

Get to know more about BMW's 6WB digital cluster.

With BimmerTech it won’t be a complicated task to retrofit a 6WB digital cluster in your BMW X3. Check out the tutorial and learn how fast you can install it at home.

BMW X3 sound system upgrade

If you’re eager to invest in a retrofit project that will help you achieve the ultimate audio experience, upgrading your BMW F25 stereo by replacing older speakers or an aftermarket amplifier is definitely worth your consideration. With a spot-on car audio retrofit you can get a hypnotic sound, which is considered even better than the premium Harman Kardon sound systems found in many BMWs. What’s more, installation of this product is a quick and easy DIY procedure. 

BMW X3 audio upgrade

BimmerTech built its significant position in the field of car audio with the superb Premium Audio System, the world’s first drop-in replacement for the factory BMW amplifier to feature a powerful 64-bit DSP. It differs from the factory BMW amp with its greater power and clarity.

If you are an owner of an F25 with the base or HiFi stereo options you can quickly add the amplifier to your car using BimmerTech’s harness and bracket designed specially for BMW vehicles.

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BMW X3 speaker upgrade

Even the best quality amp is nothing without its perfectly matched speakers, which is why BimmerTech decided to introduce Alpha One Speakers — an ideal complement to both the Premium Audio System and the factory amplifier. 

As standard, X3s are equipped with one of these speaker options: Base, HiFi (S676A), Top HiFi (S677A) or Harman Kardon (S688A). Yet, although the last two are considered premium options, the Alpha One Speakers significantly surpass them in sound quality and power handling. 

Check which system you have by going on a free BMW VIN decoder tool and finding your audio option in the list of vehicle options. 

The installation of the speakers is also an easy DIY project. With BimmerTech’s tweeters, midranges and woofers all designed to ideally fit the current housing of your BMW you can do it within one or two hours. Take a look at the installation procedure: 

Check out which product you should try out first

At BimmerTech we always say that new cars are not the only ones deserving the latest in-car technology. So for those of you who want to keep driving an older-generation model we’ve prepared a bunch of F25 compatible retrofits bringing a breath of fresh air to your vehicle. If you need any more help upgrading your car, please get in touch with our team.

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