I was so ho-hum about the last X3, that I was completely unprepared for the drive home. Holy Toledo, Buckaroo! I think we found the oscillation overthruster. This turbocharged 6 and the other-wordly eight-speed transmission (that will make you wonder why you'd ever need a manual) make the X3 the star of BMW's whatever-utes. This X3 is a preproduction prototype, which means it's not totally ready for prime time. Plenty ready for my garage, I'd say.
- Jean Jennings
Put the X3 into Sport Plus mode, and the eight-speed transmission will snap off upshifts that are harsher than those in a Nissan GT-R. It's absolutely ludicrous. And also absolutely awesome. It makes for a dramatic personality change, particularly when you're calling the shifts from the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The gearchanges are so quick and so aggressive that they invite triple downshifts into full-throttle passes.
Put it back in Comfort mode, with the transmission choosing the gears, and the shifts are much gentler. However, there are times when the gearbox feels overactive and slightly abrupt. It's evidence that we've maybe added one too many gears to the automatic transmission, or that the calibration team need to be more willing to skip gears altogether in certain situations.
Beyond the transmission -- which leaves me with a divided opinion -- I'm really impressed with the new BMW X3. It's comfortable, spacious, and attractive. The engine offers the usual BMW goodness with imperceptible turbo lag and linear power delivery. After the new 5-series left many cold, the X3 should be a definite hit for BMW.
- Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor