The fascinating bit is that we've tested an even faster X3. It was a European-spec model (with the Euro market stop-start system) carrying a more aggressive transmission -- a product of the Sport Activity Package -- and, crucially, Pirelli P Zero tires. The U.S. spec car here wore Pirelli Cinturato P7s christened with a mud and snow rating. Better for all-weather scenarios, not so much for our test track...

As such, this X3 took an extra 17 feet to stop from 60 mph at 129 feet, still on par with the Acura ZDX and Subaru Outback. Its figure-eight result suffered as well, falling from a head-scratchingly good 26.5-second lap to a more based-in-reality 27.3. Even that time, mind you, is in the same realm as the standard Mazda3 and, again, the ZDX. And at 0.84 average lateral g, the X3 holds the road with the same tenacity as the Infiniti M56x.

Undoubtedly aiding this performance is our tester's Dynamic Handling package, a $1400 option that biases the all-wheel drive system rearwards, makes the steering ratio variable, and adds dynamic damper control. The latter is controlled by two buttons next to the shifter that allow the driver to select between three different levels of damper firmness and traction and stability intervention: Normal, Sport, and Sport+. We tested in the most aggressive setting.

On the drive home, with all the settings switched back to normal, the X3 reverts to a pleasant cross-town runabout, one with a surprising amount of legroom for all passengers. It blends in with the rest of the city traffic. There, hidden in the herd, its driver can choose when and how they'll embarrass unsuspecting victims at stoplights. Hypothetically, of course.

2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i
BASE PRICE $41,925
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door crossover
ENGINE 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4196 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 183.0 x 74.1 x 65.4 in
0-60 MPH 5.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.2 sec @ 96.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 129 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.3 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.90 lb/mile