Wall Street Journal just published their review of the 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i. The top-model sold in the US has been taken through an intensive review by WSJ and receives a less appealing grade. The write, Dan Neil expresses from the beginning his lack of love for “this of automobile which takes the virtues of an athletic German sedan and pointlessly jacks them up in the air a half-foot, so Missy or Kelly can see the road better”.
With this caveat out of the way, let’s find out more:
“I kind of dread the creeping commodification of the BMW brand, the loss of cachet and exclusivity. I find it slightly appalling that, in order to court calorically enhanced U.S. customers, BMW has been obliged to make its compact soft-roader longer, wider, taller. Why not just put in an elastic waistband?
Here’s the situation: The big three German luxury-car companies are in a pitched battle over profitability. BMW, the world’s biggest luxury car maker, takes less profit per vehicle than either Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Audi enjoys the cost-sharing advantage of being part of the mighty VW Group. Mercedes is a special case, being able to charge a premium for the three-pointed star. The executive leadership of BMW has decreed that the company needs to sell a lot more cars, more profitably, and so Munich is busy coloring in any white space in global markets with new products. Enter the redesigned X3. Built in Spartanburg, S.C., the new X3 is 4 inches longer and about 1 inch wider than the outgoing model. The bigger X3 thus makes room for BMW’s genuinely small crossover, the X1, also due in American showrooms early next year. Keeping score? BMW will soon have the X1, X3, and X5, as well as the X6 “sport-activity coupe,” and the 5-series Gran Turismo, with more to come.
In the roulette of the premium-crossover marketplace, BMW is covering the table.
I still don’t love the X3 xDrive35i (BMW’s nomenclature department needs a good beating, by the way). The exterior styling is better than before—with a crisp accent line peeling up the fuselage from the front wheel openings—but that’s faint praise. It still looks snouty and unbalanced in the front, with a clumsy front-axle-to-dash ratio; and even with 18-inch wheels, the “dead-cat holes” in the wheel wells look like they could really accommodate a dead cat. Everything that’s good about the car from a driving dynamics point of view would be better with a half-foot less Z-axis. Can I interest you in an awesome 3-series?
I admit it: I’m a hostile witness.
But this is well-struck BMW coin, a fast, techy, serious machine, worthy of the badge. That’s anything but routine.”
In our opinion, Neil is an enthusiast, and just like many others before, they saw a dilution of the brand with all the new X-vehicles, 5 GT and more niche cars to come. But one should ask the question: how can an automaker be sustainable, profitable and gain new customer, other than by extending their reach? In this case, the automobile offerings….