The previous X3 suffered from two major flaws: a cut-rate interior and a punishing ride. Both have been addressed with this latest X3. The new, high-quality interior looks and feels much like that in any other BMW. Of course, iDrive — BMW’s multifunction controller — is present. As for ride quality, it has improved and can be fine-tuned to the driver’s preference with the optional Driving Dynamics Control selector and Electronic Damping Control. The Driving Dynamics Control system also varies steering effort, accelerator responsiveness, transmission shift mapping, and stability control programming. We’ve found that calling up either of the sport modes makes for hyperaggressive throttle response and frenetic shifts from the eight-speed automatic; the normal mode is just fine. There’s certainly no need to artificially amp up the energy level of the X3’s powertrain. The turbo engine is potent enough to launch the X3 to 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds; even the base 240-hp six can reach 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Both versions are more economical than the old X3. Strangely, the more powerful, turbocharged model actually gets slightly better EPA highway ratings than the standard X3; both get the same mileage in town. Although you wouldn’t choose the 28i to save gasoline, you might do it to save money, as it’s some $4000 less expensive than the 35i. Either model can quickly get pricey when loaded with items from BMW’s mile-long list of options. In fact, it’s not hard to push the X3 into X5 territory.

Drive: 4-wheel
Trim levels: xDrive28i, xDrive35i
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engines: 3.0L I-6, 240 hp, 221 lb-ft
3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 88.0 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 3000 lb; cargo (rear seats
up/down) 27.6/63.6 cu ft

Originally launched in 2004, the X3 underwent its first major redesign last year. The X3 is now larger and looks more like an X5 inside and out. The previous version had a single engine, a 260-hp straight six, and a choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions. The current X3 has one transmission, an eight-speed automatic, but a choice of engines. A 240-hp six powers the xDrive28i, and a 300-hp turbo six is found under the hood of the xDrive35i.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; hill-descent control; and ABS with panic brake assist are standard. Xenon adaptive headlamps are included on the 35i and are optional on the 28i. Rearview and sideview cameras are available, as is a lane-departure warning system. BMW Assist, with automated crash response, is optional.

All: 19 mpg city/25-26mpg highway

  • Sporty handling
  • Very quick (xDrive35i)
  • Much improved ride quality
  • Abrupt transmission
  • Can get pricey
  • Manual tranny is gone

BMW’s junior SUV is now much closer to the X5.

  • Audi Q5
  • Cadillac SRX
  • Infiniti EX35
  • Mercedes-Benz ML
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