This month, Thanksgiving provided a welcome road trip opportunity for the X3. My route started with quickly escaping Los Angeles, picking up my granddad in Santa Barbara, and making our way north to Sacramento to visit family. With my 86-year-old granddad riding shotgun, taking any of the gloriously curvy roads that California is known for was sadly not an option. Instead we settled on the 101, through endless farmland of the Salinas valley and to the Bay Area.

The roughly 1000 miles I covered that week has solidified my praise for the X3's comfort. Road imperfections (and those never-ending Botts' dots) don't go unnoticed, but they never jar you or create discomfort. The ride is smooth and communicative, a wonderful balance. My granddad was able to sleep peacefully while I parked the cruise control near the speedo's one o'clock position and forgot about it.

With granddad asleep, there was little else to do other than listen to the stereo, which was softly playing random tracks off my iPod. I've always liked BMW's hi-fi system upgrade ($950), but on this drive I really began to appreciate its delivery. I hear things in my favorite songs that I don't hear from other stereos; nuances in production, subtle bass rifts, synthesized ambient sounds are all present, adding new textures to familiar recordings. Later, after my granddad woke up, I threw on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." He echoed my appreciation right as "So What" got into its swing.

After dropping granddad off in Santa Barbara on the way home, I got stuck in traffic heading back into L.A. In these situations, I normally kill time by emulating Keith Moon on the steering wheel. In the middle of a particularly frenzied solo, the audio cut and a chime rang. It was the voice command prompt, something I instantly realized I hadn't played with yet.

BMW's voice control, as it turns out, is simple, intuitive, and headache-free. Its breadth of controls doesn't match that of Ford's omnipresent MyTouch system, but it doesn't have the headaches that system creates so readily. Want to enter an address in the navigation? Say "Enter address." After the prompt, you then say the street number, name, city, and state. After a few seconds, the system reads the address back and asks for confirmation (it was never wrong, in my experience), and then asks if you want to set the address as the final destination or as a waypoint. The process takes under a minute and can be done while driving. It's simple, effective, and quicker than manually hunting it down, just like voice controls should be.

Overall, the X3 averaged 22.4 mpg during the Thanksgiving festivities, which isn't too bad considering the above-average pace I tend to maintain. Next, the X3 will make the stop at the dealership we planned to do this month. And while that service will be free, thanks to BMW's Ultimate Service plan, I'm not looking forward to the body shop's estimate to fix the blue paint that's splattered along the driver's side.


Our Car
Months/miles in service 6/16,369
Avg econ/CO2 00.0 mpg/0.00 lb/mi
Energy cons 000 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problems Throttle delay
Maintenance cost $0
Normal-wear cost $0