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  #1  
Old 09-23-2011, 02:12 PM
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X3 Review...

Yeah, it's Healey's opin from USAToday, but pretty even handed and well wrote, imo.
GL, mD

BMW X3 redesign brings big improvements


To flog the obvious, the BMW brand isn't for everyone. The hardware it uses, prices it charges and driving feel it offers narrow its audience.

By James Healey

Still, BMW isn't averse to baby steps toward the mainstream, even as it evolves the handling and performance that are BMW attributes. So it overhauled its X3 small crossover SUV far more than expected, leaving it roughly the same size, but creating a 2011 X3 that drives so well you easily overlook flaws and foibles.

The 2011 got: •Major overhaul. New body, interior, drivetrains, more features, better mileage and a $1,950 lower base price.
•Change of venue. It's built at Spartanburg, S.C. (albeit mainly with non-U.S. parts), not in Austria.
•Drivetrain remodeling. The base 3-liter six-cylinder engine is rated 20 fewer horsepower at 240 hp, but BMW says it accelerates quicker.
An optional ($4,300) turbocharged 3-liter six (300 hp) is new for 2011.
All models get a new eight-speed automatic transmission in place of last year's six-speed. Manual was discontinued for 2011.
•MPG boost. The optional turbo engine has the higher rating: 19 mpg in town, 26 highway, 21 combined. The base engine: 19/25/21. Those are 1 to 2 mpg better than the 2010.
•Lower base price. Down $1,950, to $37,625, despite more standard equipment.

BMW introduced the X3, which it calls a "small, premium sports-activity vehicle with all-road capability," in 2004. The 2011 redesign, on sale since December, is the second generation. The mechanically unchanged 2012 rolls out next month.

The X3 fits a segment that tally-master Autodata calls sport wagon/crossover SUVs. The segment — which includes a range of sizes and prices — accounted for 22% of new vehicles sold the first eight months this year. Too big a market to ignore.
Star of the test drive was the turbo engine. Thrilling as an illegal substance. A howling, prowling predator when spurred, yet a chummy, easygoing, stop-go buddy when eased along. It's well-mated to the new eight-speed automatic, which shifts quickly, sans stubborn pauses or jolts.

Such fun to drive, easily or ferociously, that you look for excuses to get more wheel time.
Still, as a practical matter, the X3 makes little sense. It starts at about $38,000. That's in line with rivals' base prices of about $33,000 to $40,000, but it's twice what you'd pay for, say, a Chevrolet Equinox. The Chevy has more rear legroom, more cargo space behind the back seat and totes a heavier load than the X3.

Equinox, while far from a luxury vehicle, does get good reviews and was the top dog in a USA TODAY/Cars.com SUV Shootout earlier this year.
Still, mainstream-mobiles don't offer the excitement and satisfaction that the X3 delivers. Whether it's worth a big price premium is up to you.

Other matters that could give you pause about the X3:
•Visors. They don't slide and have no auxiliary extensions. That's how cheap cars do it. BMW seems to think its visors are big enough, but a few minutes on a dawn commute, on roads that don't go arrow straight, should make clear otherwise.
•Controls. You have to tug the inside handles twice to open the doors. Very annoying. BMW says it's a safety feature that makes it tough to accidentally open the doors while underway. Phone controls aren't quite logical, though linking a Bluetooth phone is easy, and phone call sound quality is terrific through the audio system.
The iDrive central control setup is augmented with buttons and is much easier to use than earlier versions, but still complicates some simple functions. No longer a deal-breaker, though.
•Navigation. White and gray display is nearly unreadable. And it displays too few street names.
•Cargo space. More than sufficient, but BMW specifications show it's down 8% from 2010, even though the new model is wider and longer.
•All-wheel drive. BMW calls it xDrive, and nothing during the test, including heavy rain, caused concern. But it has no manual locking mode. And without snow and ice for a test, it's tough to guess how effective it is.
It has a well-balanced feel because it's biased toward rear drive (80% most of the time) and shifts power forward when wheels slip or sensors note other issues that could be solved by strongly powering all wheels.
•Whap, smack. Optional 275-40Rx19-inch tires caused a hard ride, even with optional adjustable suspension in "normal" mode, not "sport." Looked great, though.
In addition to the delightful drivetrain, these attributes counter the subversions:
Crispness, precision and overall tight and right feel that's marked most BMWs for decades. Steering is firm and quick enough, well-centered. Brakes feel firmer than on most cars (though a tad less sponginess would be welcome).

The interior is fetching. Elegant and graced with big easy-to-read gauges that use proper pointers and numbers.
Optional sport seats in the tester were firm, a bit narrow for well-fed folk, but very comfortable overall. Less-confining standard seats would suit more people.

The back seat got additional legroom and shoulder room, making it suitable for grownups. The middle rear slot is too narrow for comfort, but that's universal on vehicles this size.

Stew it all up and the X3 is a sweet-driving, handy-size, comfortable, practical crossover SUV, with some irritants, for those who can afford both the sizzle and the steak.
•What? Major redo of compact crossover SUV. Slightly bigger than the model it replaces, with new body, interior, drivetrain and pricing. Now made in Spartanburg, S.C., instead of Austria. Still is a compact, four-door, five-passenger SUV.
•When? On sale since December. Production of the 2012 model, unchanged but for some equipment shuffling, starts next month.
•How much? Base 28i xDrive starts at $37,625 with shipping. That's $1,950 less than the 2010 model it replaced. High-end 35i xDrive, new for 2011, starts at $41,925. Test 35i with many options: $53,775.
•What makes it go? The 28i uses a 3-liter in-line six-cylinder rated 240 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, 221 pounds-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm.

The 35i uses a different 3-liter in-line six cylinder with different bore and stroke, stronger block materials, direct injection and turbocharging that is rated 300 hp at 5,800 and 300 lbs.-ft at 1,300 rpm.
Both engines mated with a new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces previous six-speed. Manual no longer offered.
BMW says the 28i does 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds, 35i in 5.5 seconds. Top speed: 130-150 mph, depending on model, equipment.

•How big? About even with rival Lexus RX. X3 is 183 inches long, 74.1 in. wide, 65.4 in tall on a 110.5-in. wheelbase. Weighs 4,112 (28i) or 4,222 (35i) lbs.
Cargo space: 27.6 cubic feet behind rear seat; 63.6 cu. ft. when rear seat's folded. Rated to carry 904 lbs. of people, cargo, accessories; tows up to 3,000 lbs. Turns in 39 ft.

•How thirsty? 28i rated 19 mpg in town, 25 highway, 21 combined. 35i: 19/26/21. The 35i tester registered 17.6 mpg (5.68 gallons per 100 miles) in mixed suburban and freeway driving.
Tank holds 17.7 gallons. Premium recommended. BMW says regular is OK but performance will decline.

•Overall: On-target luxury SUV from a maker who's struggled to "get" the genre.
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  #2  
Old 11-05-2011, 12:29 PM
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The tester obviously didn't bother to read the owner's manual as he might have found out how to change some of the settings that he didn't like.
And quite was is the relevance of the Equinox? I can't imagine many prospective X3 buyers considering one of those (or even knowing what it is).
Typical newspaper test IMHO.
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  #3  
Old 11-05-2011, 01:06 PM
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I wasn't suggesting that it was The Definitive Road Test, as I noted in my prelude, and Healy is what he is. Agree on the Equinox ref, but the "didn't bother to read the owner's manual" ref is a reach, as a large portion of owners that post here, have never cracked the manual; why would a car tester? It is a newspaper road test, as it was noted.

I put it up for info purposes, and fwiw, 2 1/2 months ago...
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Old 11-05-2011, 06:19 PM
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Bottom line is BMW can't make them quick enough. BMW planned US sales were 25000 units for 2011. At end of October BMW sold 21488 units.

4 month wait for X3's?

BMW X3 | Euro NCAP - For safer cars crash test safety rating

Better reviews:
Review: 2011 BMW X3 - BusinessWeek
CNET Review: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i
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  #5  
Old 11-06-2011, 01:29 AM
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I still wouldn't have one despite all the "improvements". It lacks fizz when pushed and doesn't get my pulse racing like the old one.
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  #6  
Old 11-27-2011, 08:41 AM
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I cross shopped the X3 against the Audi Q5 and went with the Q5.
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