Like Eric, I was taken aback by the rapidity of the eight-speed auto's upshifts, and I wasn't even using the shift paddles; I just had it in Drive. This X3 has quite the powertrain. I remember not so long ago when we heard that BMW was going to implement turbocharging widely across its powertrain lineup, and many of us were put off by this news, because we'd driven so many turbo engines over the past fifteen or twenty years that were peaky and had lag and sounded like crap. BMW, the car company with the word "motor" in its name, was going go down that same road? It didn't sound good, but our fears were unfounded, and now we've come to expect and accept that BMW's turbocharged engines are absolutely top-notch.
The X3 as a whole appears to be pretty top-notch, also, with the predictable crisp exterior styling, smartly turned-out cabin, and premium features that we expect from a modern BMW. Compared with the first-generation X3, the biggest improvements are the cabin, as the last one was subpar; and so too was the ride quality, as the first-generation X3 rode like a farm wagon, especially when it was equipped with the sport package.
With the arrival of the X3, we now have four solidly capable and competitive compact luxury crossovers from Europe: the BMW; the Audi Q5, newly available with an efficient yet powerful turbo four-cylinder; the Mercedes-Benz GLK, which is, arguably, the least pretty of the group; and the Volvo XC60. Comparison-shop them all.
- Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor