BMWBLOG Exclusive: Driving Impressions of the New BMW X3

Featured Posts, Test Drives | October 16th, 2010 by 28
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Painted Rock Farm, outside of Atlanta, GA – BMW is introducing the new X3 to the world’s motoring press at an off road facility known …

Painted Rock Farm, outside of Atlanta, GA – BMW is introducing the new X3 to the world’s motoring press at an off road facility known as Painted Rock Farm over the next few days. The new X3 is considered an all-road, all-weather vehicle and what better way to determine whether or not it’s still a BMW then to subject to twisty streets, gravel roads,
and rutted tracks. And the verdict is . . .

First impressions formed from the passenger seat on the drive from the Fulton County Airport to Painted Rock Farm is one of quiet comfort. The optional sports seat with power adjustments should be familiar to any BMW owner. The interior is significantly more upscale that the previous X3’s and could tempt shoppers of competitors’ vehicles into looking at the new X3.

The new X3 is immediately recognizable as a BMW from the inside. There is the common theme of gauge placement, fonts on gauges, and location of controls. This commonality of design aesthetic and ergonomics from one vehicle to another (from the top to bottom of BMW’s lineup) helps focus the brand’s image.

bmw x3 review 655x435The new X3 comes with iDrive standard (the navigation system is optional). A heads-up display is optional and the test vehicles were equipped with it. However, Steve Chupnick, my partner for the drive and new father of twins (here’s to Mrs Chupnick and Michael and Mira!), was unable to see it wearing polarized sun glasses.

The back seat is comfortable with additional leg room versus the previous X3. And the rear cargo area is quite spacious at 26 plus cubic feet. In addition there is a useful rail system to help secure cargo. With the rear seats folded down the cargo capacity is over 55 cubic feet. There is a lot of useful space in the interior and enhanced cubby holes in the door panels for larger objects. BMW has listened to their customers. The space available is utilized well.

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Behind the wheel the first thing that is noticeable is the tight/stiff chassis. This is a very stiff platform and has allowed the suspension engineers to focus on controlling wheel travel and not body flex. It is much more difficult to make a large box stiff and BMW has shown its engineering and production prowess in pulling this off. The new X3 feels great (and rides very well), even on rutted gravel roads.

“The new X3 shows off sophisticated suspension engineering.”

The new X3 shows off sophisticated suspension engineering. It utilizes a proven five link rear rear suspension and front suspension component mounting techniques that provides excellent feedback without noticeable harshness In addition the multi-link rear suspension improves interior space in the rear cargo area.

The electric power steering provides decent feedback (much better than prior implementations from other manufacturers). And, thanks to the tuning of the suspension geometry, when the right side wheels were purposely steered into a deep rut that ran parallel to the road, there was no kickback in the steering wheel.

The test cars were all X3 xDive35i models. As expected, acceleration is very good with the 3 liter gas turbo engine (the familiar N55B30). That engine coupled to the standard eight speed automatic returns a 5.5 second 0-60 mph time according to BMW. There is no optional transmission available, only the eight speed auto. The US will get the xDrive35i initially with an xDrive28i to follow. The world market gets an xDrive20d (and we saw pallets of those great little diesels sitting on the factory floor – please bring the diesel model to the US market BMW!).

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From a practical perspective, owners that intend to do a lot of driving at altitude will want to opt for the xDrive35i variant. Otherwise, the xDrive28i and should return better fuel economy and still deliver a 0-60 mph time of 6.7 seconds according to BMW. If you have to own a really fast sport utility, BMW would be happy to sell you an X5 M or X6 M.

“The electric power steering provides decent feedback…”

BMW purposely supplied cars with the Start/Stop feature installed for the US press to sample. The new X3 is the first implementation of Start/Stop functionality on an inline six cylinder and an automatic transmission. It stops the engine when sitting for several seconds at a traffic light, for example. If you lift off the brake, or turn the steering wheel, the engine restarts. It was a bit disconcerting at first, not so much when the engine stopped, but when it restarted. Prius owners are used to this, but since the Prius utilizes the electric motor to start off from a stop and then re-fires the gas engine as needed, BMW’s Start/Stop feels a bit different. If there is any anxiety about the Start/Stop functionality it can be disabled (there is a button to the left side of the Start/Stop button to accomplish that). While Start/Stop does take some getting used to, it could be a significant fuel saver, especially if you travel urban surface streets routinely.

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“More luxurious, better ride and handling, great engines and a wonderfully smooth eight speed automatic transmission.”

So what is the verdict? It’s a good one and a significantly better vehicle than the previous X3. More luxurious, better ride and handling, great engines and a wonderfully smooth eight speed automatic transmission. BMW has delivered a driver’s SAV with the space, driving feel, and luxury that will delight its driver and coddle its passengers regardless of road quality or weather.

The X3 xDrive35i will be the first model in US showrooms with a base price, including handling and destination, of $41, 925. That comes with a long list of standard features. The X3 xDrive28i arrives in showrooms sometime after teh xDrive35i and has a base price of $37,625. Look for more info and a longer review on BMWBLOG in the near future.

28 responses to “BMWBLOG Exclusive: Driving Impressions of the New BMW X3”

  1. Giom says:

    Nice article Huge… thanks!

    I must say, what I take away from this is that the new X3 is a true upmarket SAV worthy to rival Q5 and the others. My only gripe with the car is in its design – tho I must admit, these gripes usually dissapates after seeing it in the flesh.

    But still, the headlight design – it seems over simplyfied. If any of you get to interview the designer, please get some specifics on the headlight cluster. Audi, in particualar, is making beautifull headlights, and, in a sence, the headlights are the window to the cars soul. I’m sorely missing life in these units – I’d like to think there is a reason behind it.

  2. Clinton says:

    just drove the new X3 at the event in Performance Center Spartenburg, SC. They brought along the GLK350, Q5 2.0t and 3.2, and also Lexus RX.

    The X3 out accelerates, out brakes and out corners all of them. The X3 gives the driver a lot more confidence around the track than the others, much easier to drive faster. The next fastest car (GLK) to 60mph is nearly a whole second slower. One excercise, where the X3 can get up to 75mph before you have to brake, the others are maxed at 60 or so mph. You can really appreciate the value of a 50/50 weight distribution in these exercises. Can’t put a price tag on it.

    The brakes are linear, where the MB’s feel heavy and little feedback, Audi’s are nice, and Lexus’s is too mushy.

    Lexus’s ABS and stability comes on early, indicating that the car reaches its limits early. Infact, the Lexus is the least impressive to drive, tremendous nose dive on braking, excessive body roll in the turns.

    Audi’s 2.0t feels as quick as the 3.2, but with turbo lag. Versus the X3’s is barely detectable.

    There were no X3 2.8 available to drive, but I bet the 2.8 can easily stand up to these competitors.

    One major improvement is the new Xdrive. 100% torque split on either axel. Proactive electronically control diff. Is a shame that BMW does not advertise the fact that it has a superior all wheel drive system. 4matic and Quattro are reactive and mechanically control, plus the torque split does not reach 100%. The Lexus is essentially a front wheel drive, slip and grip system.

    • Hugo Becker says:

      Clinton – that’s really good info. It’s nice to read your impressions of the lot and your comment is quite valuable. Thanks!

      I wonder if the Lexus might have higher handling limits but maybe Toyota programs the nannies to intervene sooner because that what their owner base expects? (“I paid for the dam traction control, it better work early and often!”, Lexus owner ;-)

    • Giom says:

      Yes! I agree with Hugo. Good info. Thanks for posting!

    • Lekkousa says:

      You are right regarding the drive system. Abenteuer Auto a German car TV show recently tested the X3 vs Audi Q5, because of the infamous youTube video, and they preferred the X3. One of the main reasons was the electronic AWD system vs the mechanical system in the Audi. The models they tested were both diesels and the BMW got much better fuel economy as well!

  3. Anthony Pantaleone says:

    This car is awesome. One thing can’t understand is why no dual exhausts? This is an awesome look and sound. Others in class have it.

  4. Jill says:

    I agree …BMW needs to add a diesel option to the US.

  5. paul says:

    i still cant get over the panel gap on the engine cover…and the best thing is bmw cant either. if u check the new x3 catalogue u will notice they photoshoped the gap and made it smaller LOL Shame on u bmw…and the electric steering…once again BIG NO NO

  6. Wow, this new bmw is much cooler than before. It is equipped with much nicer features and equipment.

  7. Wow, this new bmw is much cooler than before. It is equipped with much nicer features and equipment.

  8. Wow……..It is amazing car. I am very happy to study and view some different types of pictures of your article. Yes! I am fully agree with Hugo.Really you give me great information through different types of pictures.

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