First Drive: 2011 BMW X3

Matt Phenix
#BMW, #X3

The situation under the hood is a whole lot more interesting. BMW has again split the X3 into two models (as it was when the car arrived in 2004). The X3 xDrive28i is the value leader. Like the base 3-series, it employs BMW's normally aspirated 3.0-liter in-line six, good for 240 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. The 28i was notably absent during our test drive of the new X3, but joyful experience with BMW's sweet N52 engine in other models bodes well for it. The top-drawer X3 xDrive35i packs BMW's new N55 3.0-liter straight six that produces a round 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.

The TwinPower label on the engine cover no longer refers to two turbos, but instead to a single, dual-scroll turbocharger. Moving this 4222-pound vehicle, the sonorous turbo engine is a delight. Both engines use a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. The manual transmission is gone, but with a much broader ratio spread, the eight-speed makes the new X3 both quicker off the line and more fuel-efficient on the interstate. According to BMW, 60 mph arrives in a scant 5.5 seconds (compared with 6.7 for the new 28i and 7.1 seconds for the outgoing X3 30i with the six-speed automatic). Top speed for both models is electronically limited to 130 mph, although the 35i's optional sport package raises its terminal velocity to 150 mph.

BMW's fine xDrive all-wheel-drive system is standard; rear-wheel drive is not available -- a missed opportunity, perhaps, considering that a not-insignificant 40 percent of Mercedes-Benz GLK350s are rear-wheel drive. That said, xDrive is exceptionally easy to live with, rain or shine, with a sporty 40/60-percent fore/aft torque split under normal driving that can shift to 100 percent aft when the time is right -- providing some carefully controlled tail-happiness when powering out of a bend, for instance.

Where is the diesel version?

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