There were no turns on the mildly twisty two-lane nearby that were tight enough to trigger the DSC. The drive only proved that the new X3 is nicely controlled, and that whatever tradeoff was made in handling is worth the silky ride. The electronically assisted power steering isn't up to BMW's best steering. It increases weight at higher speeds, making it easy to keep the tall vehicle centered on the highway, though the weight feels artificial, and the steering doesn't give you much road surface information.
Switch to the Sport mode and the eight-speed's super-smooth shifts become sharp, even a bit jarring. The twin-turbo's raspy note is wonderful under hard acceleration, and if nothing else, the engine's ability to motivate the two-ton crossover will remind you of which brand you've chosen.
After BMW's misstep with the first X3, it's back on track with an X3 that combines compact crossover convenience and versatility with much of the goodness of the car that remains the brand's best model, the 3 Series.
X3 by the numbers...
BMW's $750-million expansion of its Spartanburg County factory increases production capacity from 160,000 to 240,000. While the factory in the past has built the Z3 and Z4 sports cars, and North American-market 3 Series sedans, most recently it has built just the X5 and X6 crossovers, with 70 percent of production going to export markets. In fact, BMW claims to be the biggest automotive exporter from the United States, based on the dollar value of those X models.
With the latest expansion, the Spartanburg plant's capacity is larger than BMW's factory in its hometown of Munich.
The company expects to export 70 percent of its X3 production, too. There's still more room for expansion, and BMW has hinted it will bring more new models to U.S. production. No engines, though. An American engine plant would have to have capacity for 750,000 engines per year to be economically feasible, says BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer. So BMW will have to continue to ship engines from Germany and England for installation into Spartanburg-built X models, with some 168,000 then shipped elsewhere, many of them back to Western Europe.