Our long-termer totaled $50,850. An entry-level BMW X3 starts at $37,625. What happened? In the immortal words of Mel Brooks' Yogurt, "Merchandising!" We added $13,255 worth of options and, this month, we're going to look at what we like, what we'd skip, and what we wish we'd ordered.

The most expensive item, the Premium Package ($3450), brings the expected assortment of a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming interior/exterior/rearview mirror(s), and luggage nets and straps. My favorite however is the panoramic sunroof. Three feet long and 2.4 feet wide, the glass extends from the driver seat to the second row. While only the front partition opens, the view is wonderful. The package also includes the always-welcome power lumbar support and a lighting group that adds, amongst other things, the "pool" illumination under the door handles when you unlock the car.

The Technology Package ($3200) installs a top-view camera system akin to Infiniti's Around View: Put the X3 in reverse, and you'll see a bird's eye view of the car in the nav screen. Press the iDrive button and you'll get a rear-view camera. The combination is immensely useful for parallel parking. When back in navigation mode, the interface and navigation today is easy to use and friendly, boasting real time traffic information; days of the clunky and cumbersome iDrive are behind us.

The aptly named Convenience Package ($1850) includes BMW's Comfort Access keyless entry system. All you have to do to unlock the car is wrap your hand around the door handle and pull. The front door handles have temperature sensors that, when the key is in proximity, unlock or lock when they sense your hand (don't worry about cold or hot ambient temperatures, the sensors look for a temperature change). To lock, pinch the back part of the handle and wait a beat. The power tailgate is just as friendly, boasting two buttons: one shuts it automatically, the other shuts it and locks the vehicle, which is endlessly useful when you have an armload of groceries.

The last two packages add a bit of sporty flair. The Sport Activity Package ($1550) brings silver accents that highlight the fascia and outline the windows, and on go 18-in wheels. Inside, the upgraded seats get firmer side bolstering and the new steering wheel is slightly thicker. The Dynamic Handling Package ($1400), we went over last month. The gist: Go for the package if you enjoy driving, but your mom probably doesn't need it.

Rounding out the options are the audio suite and color. We choose Premium hi-fi ($875) and a year of satellite radio ($350), and anyone who enjoys music should opt for this paring. The X3's color palette, following tradition, consists of conservative monochromatism. Vermillion Red Metallic ($550) stands out the most, and we're happy we ordered it. A deep red in person, almost a merlot, the paint regularly attracts compliments.

What are we missing? Well, heated seats come with a heated steering wheel, for another $690. Opt for the Cold Weather Package, and you'll get heated backseats too. With L.A. weather as it is, we're okay without them. The biggest absence is BMW Apps ($250). The option integrates smartphone applications, like Facebook and Pandora, into the infotainment system and can make your phone double as a portable audio device. As is, it still offers a USB input and Bluetooth audio streaming.

We're largely satisfied our X3's optional equipment. The best bit is that most of these features can be optioned independently of a set package, but depending on the equipment the package is often less expensive. All together, there may be some understandable sticker shock, but each of these packages adds worthy equipment. We'll be revisiting them later in our year of ownership to see if our feelings will change.


Our Vehicle
Months/mi in service 2/7462
Avg econ/CO2 20.4 mpg/0.95 lb/mi
Energy cons 165 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problems Throttle delay
Maintenance cost $0
Normal-wear cost $0