By KBB.com Editors
BMW's X3 "Sport Activity Vehicle" debuted in 2003 and has undergone a steady series of improvements year after year. Equipped with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the X3 offers all the safety and security of the larger X5 in a smaller, more nimble package. Like the X5, the 2009 BMW X3's claim to fame is successfully wedding SUV attributes (aggressive tall-wagon look, utility, all-weather security, "command" seating position) to BMW attributes of performance and fun-to-drive handing agility.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
The 2009 BMW X3 is less powerful and more expensive than others in its class and its ride and handling balance leans toward smooth-road handling. You may be happier with something more powerful, softer-riding and/or more affordable.What's New for 2009
Changes for the 2009 BMW X3 are mostly visual, with new 17- and 18-inch wheel designs, new interior trim and fabric options and new color choices.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2009 BMW X3 is sort of a tall 3 Series wagon and will entertain enthusiast drivers accordingly. Even without the available Sport Package, it stops, steers and corners like a BMW should. Its 260 horsepower is less than that of most rivals, and its ride is slightly stiff-legged, though recent suspension tweaks create a somewhat softer ride than in previous models. We found our automatic-equipped test vehicle's throttle response a little jerky at times during routine driving, and the single-cupholder console is lacking in places to put things. There is a covered bin at dash-top center, however, and a second pull-out cupholder at the far right of the dash. We averaged roughly 19 miles per gallon around town and 21 mpg at highway speeds.Favorite Features
xDrive Full-Time All-Wheel Drive
With limited ground clearance and all-season tires, the X3 has few off-road aspirations but one of the best all-weather all-wheel-drive systems on the market. It electronically varies front-to-rear torque and traction control to optimize grip.
Optional Xenon Adaptive Headlamps
Automatically leveled and steered in response to steering angle, vehicle speed and turning rate, they light more of the road through curves and dips and are encircled by luminous rings that serve as parking and (if desired) daytime running lights. This option also adds a cornering light feature to the fog lamps.
The X3's interior has fold-flat second-row seats and tasteful wood trim on its instrument panel and center stack. This wood also decorates gracefully sculpted front door pulls that angle front-to-rear between twin door-storage pockets at their lower ends. The steering wheel has multi-function controls, and a convenient covered storage bin sits above twin air outlets at dash-top center. Non-fans of BMW's iDrive multi-system controller will be pleased that the X3 makes use of previous-generation 3 Series controls. Second-row head and shoulder room are good, but foot and legroom can be tight with the front seats adjusted for tall front-seat occupants.Exterior
The 2009 BMW X3 retains the slab-sided BMW look in a tall wagon shape. Its signature twin-kidney grilles, smaller than the X5's, sit above a blacked-out over-bumper air intake. Below the bumper, its black lower fascia houses additional air intakes for radiator and brake cooling. Quad round headlamps above round outboard fog lamps are covered by wrap-around clear lenses. In back, a functional roof spoiler houses the high-mounted brake lamp, and twin round exhausts protrude from the left side of the lower fascia. One clear differentiator from the larger X5 is its kicked-up window behind the rear door on each side.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 BMW X3's standard features include a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission, xDrive full-time all-wheel drive, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering, all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a dual-panel panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, rear-window wiper and washer, halogen headlamps with automatic control, leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable eight-way power front seats with memory, leatherette upholstery, one-touch power windows, power heated outside mirrors, keyless entry with multi-function remote control, automatic climate control and AM/FM/CD/MP3 eight-speaker audio with auxiliary input jack. Standard safety equipment includes Dynamic Stability Control, electronic brake proportioning, anti-lock brakes, Dynamic Brake Control, Hill Descent Control and six airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
The X3 offers Cold Weather, Premium, Sport Activity and Sport packages, the latter adding 18-inch wheels and sport suspension, seats, steering wheel and exterior trim. Stand-alone options include a selection of optional wheels and tires, xenon adaptive headlamps with auto leveling, front and rear Park Distance Control, heated front seats and steering wheel, navigation system, dual power lumbar seat adjusters, premium audio system, leather upholstery, HD Radio, privacy glass, rear side-impact airbags and BMW Assist Safety Services.Under the Hood
The 2009 BMW X3 is powered by a 260-horsepower dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) 24-valve 3.0-liter in-line six with lightweight magnesium/aluminum construction. Like BMW's V8 engines, it features Valvetronic electronic valve actuation and Double VANOS variable valve timing for better-than-expected fuel efficiency.
3.0-liter in-line 6
260 horsepower at 6600 rpm
225 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 (manual), 17/24 (automatic)
Alone in its class with an in-line six and standard manual transmission, the 2009 BMW X3's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $40,500 and tops out around $52,500 fully loaded. Fair Purchase Prices that represent prices that consumers are actually paying at any moment can differ substantially, so click on the Fair Purchase Prices to compare. The X3's pricing compares favorably to the Lexus RX 350, Lincoln MKX and Mercedes-Benz ML350, all with V6s and standard automatics. The X3 rules in resale, however, with higher five-year residual values than the Lincoln or Mercedes-Benz, but just slightly lower than the Lexus.