Throughout the 35,000 miles the X3 has accumulated, I've been annoyed with an odd hesitation and surge it exhibited while accelerating from a stop. Of course, with mere weeks remaining in the long-term test, a reader told us that BMW had released a software update for vehicles afflicted with "delayed engine response." A local dealer confirmed our X3 was eligible for the update, and, after a few days of service, I picked up the SUV eager to see if the problem was fixed.
Post-software update, acceleration from a stop proved much more aggressive, such that I had to recalibrate my right foot. Although a bit of delay remained -- most noticeably on residential streets lined with stop signs -- the throttle had taken a proper step toward linearity, delivering forward acceleration much more predictably than before. And then the X3 left our garage.
How was it? After logging more than 35,000 miles in our Vermillion Red example, I settled on the following description: The X3 is a bigger, taller 3 Series. Considering how enamored we are with that car, it's easy to see why we liked this SUV so much.
Like the 3 Series, the X3's most admirable trait is its versatility. It juggles multiple disciplines with ease. It was comfortable on long hauls, proved by the thousands of miles it logged on the numerous road trips it took (on average, it covered more than 600 miles a week). It's easy to see why, what with intuitive infotainment controls, an iPod hookup, satellite radio, comfortable seats, and an easy-to-use cruise control. A note on the seats: I spent 10 hours behind the wheel on one particularly arduous trip and emerged from the X3 without any backache or fatigue.
I'm missing the X3. It was a reliable travel partner, always comfortable and ready for another 10 hours on the road."
The X3 remained fun to drive throughout its entire stay -- as fun as a small SUV can be, at least. Our car came with the Dynamic Handling Package ($1400) that added, among other things, adjustable dampers controlled by buttons to the left of the shifter. The Sport and Sport+ settings made appreciable differences in ride quality and handling behavior, but the X3's competency in its normal mode made these options seem superfluous.
Then there were the smart little details you notice during the daily duties, like how the infotainment system starts booting up when you unlock the car, so you don't have to wait for everything to load when you're ready to go. Or how the automatic windows keep rolling up after you've shut the engine off. Or the second button on the rear hatch that not only shuts it automatically, but locks the vehicle as well. Or the unobtrusive voice command system that seldom misinterprets speech. Or the massive panoramic roof, huge rear legroom, generous cargo capacity, and on and on.
The X3 was plenty competent in its normal mode, while ride quality and handling behavior w
I quickly became a fan of BMW's iDrive infotainment system, as did others around the office. As associate online editor Karla Sanchez noted, "The screen sits at eye-level, and the dial that controls it is easy to use. I never once got distracted trying to operate it, and I was able to keep my eyes on the road while keying in information."
Throughout its 35,000-plus-mile stay, the X3 averaged 21.8 mpg, which is slightly better than the EPA's 21 mpg combined rating. (For 2013, the X3 uses a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four as its base engine, which increases the combined rating to 24 mpg). Our X3 made three scheduled stops at the dealer, and each visit offered a complimentary loaner car for 24 hours and responsive service advisors.
I'm disappointed to see the trusty red X3 leave. After a year behind its wheel, I found it to be the most all-around, best-driving compact luxury SUV on the market.
|2011 BMW X3 xDrive28i |
|Service life ||14 mo/35,029 mi |
|Base price ||$37,625 |
|Options ||Premium Package ($3450: panoramic moonroof, garage door opener, auto-dim mirrors, lumbar support, wood trim), Technology Package ($3200: rearview camera, park-distance control, navigation with traffic, BMW assist), Convenience Package ($1850: power tailgate, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry, cargo net, rear manual side window shades), Sports Activity Package ($1550: leather steering wheel, 18-in wheels, X-Line exterior trim, sports seats), Dynamic Handling Package ($1400: Dynamic Damper Control, variable steering), Premium hi-fi ($875), Vermillion Red metallic ($550), Satellite radio with 1-year subscription ($350) |
|Price as tested ||$50,850 |
|Problem areas ||None |
|Maintenance cost ||$0 (covered for 4 yrs/50,000 mi) |
|Normal-wear cost ||$0 |
|3-year residual value* ||$22,858 |
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ ||19/25/21 mpg |
|Avg fuel econ ||21.8 mpg |
|Recalls ||None |
|*Automotive Lease Guide |