BMW’s are taut, performance-oriented driving machines. Engineered with low centers-of-gravity and sharp reflexes, they deliver a hugely satisfying experience for the enthusiast, especially when pushed hard on winding roads.
So what were they thinking of with the X3? The center of gravity of a five-passenger, four-door crossover “Sports Activity Vehicle” is higher than in a sedan, and the larger body means more mass. Conventional wisdom says this should result in more roll, dulled-down responses, and a less involving drive.
Conventional wisdom is wrong.
The dynamics of the X3 are astounding. It feels as sharp as the sedans from which it’s descended, going exactly where it’s pointed, and practically begging to be pushed harder. It might weigh just over 4,000 pounds, but the Sports Activity Vehicle moniker bestowed upon it by BMW is not misplaced. This thing is a joy to drive!
Much of the credit goes to the all-wheel drive system, standard on both X3 trims: the xDrive28i and the xDrive35i. Under normal conditions, a rear-wheel bias helps give the X3 its sporting feel, but when the surface gets treacherous, torque shifts to the wheel with the most grip. Thanks are also due to an almost 50/50 front/rear weight distribution and a host of electronic driver aids: Dynamic Brake Control, Dynamic Stability Control, and Hill Descent Control, all helping keep occupants safe while allowing the driver to tap the potential of the 3.0-liter straight six engine.
In xDrive28i trim, this engine delivers a healthy 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Married to an 8-speed automatic transmission, that’s enough to hit 60 in 6.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130 mph. The xDrive35i uses the same engine and transmission, but turbocharging raises output to 300 horses and 300 pound-feet of torque, bringing up the 60 benchmark in a blistering 5.5 seconds. Gas mileage is a respectable 19 mpg City, 25 Highway in the xDrive28i, while the xDrive35i ekes out an additional 1 mpg on the Highway for figures of 19/26.
Externally, there’s little to distinguish the two trims. Both wear the familiar kidney grille and every surface – hood, fenders, liftgate - has a wind-sculpted look. The sharp-eyed will notice the xDrive28i rides on 17-inch alloys, while the 35i gets 18-inches standard. The 35i also gets those oh-so-sexy LED corona headlight rings that make BMW’s instantly recognizable, even on the darkest of nights.
Inside, the front seats have eight-way power and adhere to the usual BMW firm-but-comfortable philosophy. Standard interior upholstery is black or beige leatherette, spruced up with touches of silver matte trim on the 28i, and “Fineline Siena Wood” on the 35i. For a more architectural look, brushed aluminum or “Fineline Wave Wood” are available at no charge, though sitting on leather adds $1,450. The leather interior is also available as part of a Premium package, which also includes a power tailgate, lumbar support, keyless entry, and other luxury features.
On the subject of money, pricing for the xDrive28i starts at $37,100 while the xDrive35i is priced from $42,700. In addition to the Premium package, other notable upgrades are the $1,550 Sport Activity package, which adds inch-larger wheels and sports seats; the $3,000 M Sport package, which gets shadowline exterior trim, high-gloss roof rails, sport seats, an M steering wheel, and bigger wheels; and the $3,200 Technology package, offering navigation, rear view camera, and park distance control.
Clearly, the BMW X3 is not an economy choice, but it is the perfect option for an investment that will last you for years. Whether it’s exhilarating performance, all-wheel drive capability, or stylish luxury, the X3 does it all, and does it well.