BMW X3 Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
2012 CUV Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks
Women auto writers should probably not smirk at this. But we always seem to get a kick from the huffing, puffing blow-your-house-down demeanor from some road stallions known for their macho test drives. Something intrinsic must kick in behind the wheel to override most judgments beyond the pure grunt power of the automotive marvel at hand, with torque ratings, zero to 60 times, drag coefficient and other such stats spewing for yards. Too bad. We pay attention to those factors too. But there are some nice points, and a few quirks, about the 2012 BMW X3 we think should also be considered.
This five-seater CUV, redesigned a year ago, isn't the designation given by BMW. They classify the X3 as a Sports Activity Vehicle, a term off the beaten path enough to separate it from the pack. Certainly, like other fabled BMWs, this has a point and shoot character that can only be called awesome. It is taut and controlled, with energy just itching to get out thanks to its 3.0-liter powerplant and three-way, eight-speed automatic transmission added during the redesign that feels like an athlete coiled for the starting gun.
Beyond expected performance dynamics that carry over, there are modest updates for the 2012 model year. Among changes are the panoramic moonroof now standard in 35i models. Where the Convenience Package gets incorporated into the Premium Package and Sports Activity Package has 19-inch Double Spoke wheels. The 28i changes include standard black high gloss interior while heated rear seats and headlight washers become part of the Cold Weather Package upgrade.
BMW lists the current 35i base price at $42,400. All the premium, technology and sport activity package goodies on our test model bumped that about $10,000 higher. Anything BMW these days can take ones breath away, with worry about the bouncing, uncertain monetary exchange rate between the U.S. and our dollar and its German (think in Euros) homeland.
Get past sticker shock and the need for premium fuel, and there's a lot to like. Like kicking the skids out of the competition for road space. (OK, we do it too.) That capability comes from the X3 xDrive 35i's 300-HP, inline six powerplant. (The X3 xDrive 28i kicks out 240 horses. Both have intelligent all-wheel drive for superior handling dynamics.)
Outside, now a smidgen longer following the redesign, the X3's keenly sculpted body, distinctive, crisp character lines and double scoop nostrils retain signature attitude. The plush leather interior space gains breathing room, and riding comfort is enhanced. Then there's something that quickly became our favorite: the satellite-generated map, part of the premium audio/entertainment/technology system that even shows coastline water depth shadings.
The X3 retains it superior safety systems, with panic brake assist, hill-descent control (but no manual transmission), and head protection. The rear view camera provides backup information and departure warning can be added. The rear camera, toggled to overhead view, displays hidden objects that otherwise might be missed.
And if a BMW X3 ever got stolen, we'd be pretty surprised. We quickly learned not to leave a key on the rear seat then close that door. Once there and locked, the X3 defies you to prove you are not trying to break in. And an accidental touch of the center console's immobilizer button (part of the audio control dials that's annoyingly located where we set some things down), renders the X3 immobile. We had a few anxious moments trying to get it moving one day where it blocked a traffic lane. That was momentarily bad for nerves. But insurance companies are probably going to love it.
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