By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
BMW's introduction of the X3 SUV in 2004 effectively launched a segment, the first of what would later seem an invasion of luxury crossovers from Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Mercedes. And while the concept – combining a traditional BMW dynamic with upright utility – seemed ideal, BMW's execution didn't go quite far enough; the first X3 was a tad ragged around the edges. Any shortcomings of BMW's first Sport Activity Vehicle (forgetting BMW's first M1) have been fully resolved with its second generation, introduced in 2011. The X3 SUV received new technologies, which go a long way in enhancing agility, efficiency and comfort. At its intro BMW's smallish crossover launched "Sport Activity Vehicle" as a moniker; in its current iteration it becomes a mantra.
If you enjoy the connectivity supplied by BMW's platform team, but need, in your daily commute or weekend driving, a measure of utility, the 2012 BMW X3 SUV appropriately fills the bill. Its upright architecture and (relatively) generous greenhouse can stow or tow, while a choice of two responsive sixes and a dynamic platform inject some "sport" into any "activity."
With its all-wheel drive (AWD) built on RWD architecture, this isn't the best cargo carrier on a compact footprint. And when compared to alternatives – notably, Subaru's Forester and Acura's RDX – BMW prospects pay a premium for a German car assembled in South Carolina. Finally, the lack of an optional manual transmission might be an issue for the True B(MW)elievers.
With an all-new X3 in 2011, the changes for the 2012 BMW X3 are little more than tweaks to an already well-received SUV redesign.
Driving Impressions The X3 SUV's raison d'etre is simple: Combine the best attributes of a BMW chassis and powertrain with a more practical and accommodating passenger compartment. At that the X3 succeeds...wonderfully, with a truly planted dynamic and a cut-and-thrust capability fully in tune with today's urban driving. And when you're ready to get out of town, the 2012 BMW X3 satisfies with instant acceleration, adequate ground clearance and reasonable efficiency. We think BMW did an outstanding job in providing road feel in its Servotronic power steering, and the all-independent suspension strikes a careful balance between composure and comfort. And while we wish BMW had elected to provide a manual transmission in the base X3, its substitute – an 8-speed automatic – provides responsive performance, along with Sport and Manual modes. Finally, a claimed 0-60 time of less than seven seconds (xDrive28i) is nicely balanced by an EPA Highway rating of 25 mpg.
xDrive Intelligent All-Wheel Drive
Now in its third generation, BMW's xDrive utilizes technology to facilitate both performance and traction. Normally torque is split 40/60 front/rear, but that can vary based on actual road conditions. BMW claims a dynamic ability "unparalleled" by other all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems, and committed BMW enthusiasts (probably) would agree.
Production at the BMW Spartanburg Plant
As a recent Chrysler advertisement claims, "What we make, makes us." And production of BMW's 2012 SUV offerings (X3, X5 and X6) for worldwide markets in Spartanburg should be a point of pride well beyond the South Carolina border. Add to that production the ability to pick up your ordered BMW at the plant, and the chance to visit a neat, albeit small, museum display within the plant campus, and you have compelling reasons (all other factors being equal) to make the X3 your next SUV.
With a base price of almost $38,000 for the X3 xDrive28i, can you say "leatherette?" Regrettably, you must; that is the standard upholstery in the base, albeit expensive, X3 SUV. We won't fault leatherette for its durability and easy-to-clean surface, but would hope the carmaker might at least offer a durable cloth as an alternative (both aesthetically and functionally) to vinyl. Beyond that shortcoming, we like what BMW calls "a generous and versatile spatial concept...with a modern, premium ambience and intelligent functionality." Highlights include supportive front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat (40/20/40-split is available) and tasteful Silver Matte trim. Automatic climate control is a win, while we're not sure why BMW insists on mandating its iDrive control system or reinventing the (automatic) transmission lever.
Having lingered a full seven years without significant revision, BMW's design team might have gone to great lengths to differentiate the second-generation X3 from the first. And while the X3 SUV was showing its age, BMW did a credible job in providing an updated, fully contemporary shape while retaining the X3's unmistakable profile. We like the more organic flow of the new sheet metal, the athletic stance afforded by a wide track and short overhangs, and what appears to be a generous greenhouse. Regrettably, outward vision is marginalized by a D-pillar – that structure between the rearmost window and the hatch – which is too large. Not a worry if you've left traffic fully behind you, but a rather dominant concern when traffic's all around you.
Perhaps most notable in the 2012 BMW X3 SUV's standard package is all-wheel drive (AWD), as numerous competitors, even Jeep, often provide 2WD variants for the U.S. Sunbelt (or for those in the Northeast who simply head to Florida between October and April). Beyond xDrive, the inclusion of Hill Descent Control suggests an off-road capability few owners will utilize, while Dynamic Stability Control can come in handy on the daily commute. Inside, the aforementioned iDrive, Bluetooth wireless technology and an audio system boasting 12 speakers and 205 watts should put the "Beethoven" back in BMW.
As the BMW marketing team might suggest, "go for it," as the X3 option list is as long as France's Maginot Line. The biggest bump, of course, is opting for the xDrive35i over the more rational xDrive28i. The "35" gets you a turbocharged in-line six, providing an oh-so-symmetrical 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Of course, navigation, premium audio, leather and a panoramic moonroof are typical optional fare. More noteworthy is your chance to build your BMW from a select choice of options, monitor its build via video clips and photographs, and then take personal delivery at BMW's Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
BMW's 2012 X3 lineup offers two variants of the same 3.0-liter in-line 6 cylinder. In the xDrive28i a normally aspirated 6 cylinder delivers 240 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. Check the 35i box and you'll enjoy a turbocharged 6 cylinder providing 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Both powertrains are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. We think 240 horsepower is more than adequate for the X3 SUV's "sport activity" mission, but those driving at high elevations will benefit from turbocharging, as it "levels" the playing field in the thin air of high-altitude environments.
3.0-liter in-line 6
240 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750-4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25
3.0-liter in-line 6 Twin-Turbocharged
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26
By Bring on the snow on Tuesday, December 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Feels like a swiss vault when it shuts"
Cons: "Need better noise dampener at high speed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Rock solid vehicle. It has amazing power and acceleration thanks to the silky smooth eight speed transmission. The car feels solid and stable around curvy rounds even going 90 mph, something I would never have done in my other vehicle and though I do not recommend this for others. However, I was very impressed how this vehicle navigated those sweepy curves. I also drove this vehicle on an interstate during a snow storm with the standard all season tires that came with it. It handled like a well trained athlete. I was the only car driving through the snow in the left lane. I am not sure that the vehicle was better than others but it certainly game me confidence that the vehicle could deal with the snow. I also love the look of the vehicle's exterior and interior. The aesthetics is understated elegance, not over the top. It does not call attention to itself other than through the blue and white Rondell. The discreet aesthetic is another reason why I like the BMW. If I could got rid of the Rondell or the indentifiers that announce that it is a BMW, I would love it even more because I drive this car not for its status but because of how solidly it drives and perform. The 48mos/50K miles warranty also comes in handy because repairing this Ultimate Driving Machine can be costly. I love this vehicle more than I enjoyed my 2007 328i."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Jovelle on Tuesday, December 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,650overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, good looking car"
Cons: "GPS need upgrade, cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This was assembled in Germany/Austria and was shipped to me as a gift from my husband. I love the Flamenco color, so far I've only seen 2 of these in N. California. I Love the moon roof, you can open it halfway or all the way. This is a really good car for me but maintenance is quite expensive.The GPS,I did an upgrade but not quite impressed for a BMW car. Car has parking assist, steering wheel can be tilted,has fog lights,intermittent wipers and more. Car paint is still in very good condition, car has been garaged most of the time. I just drive it to and from work."
By Harvest on Tuesday, December 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Driving as Life is too short. Control knob"
Cons: "Rough riding."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"Fun driving. Quality exterior and interior. Zips easily around town and drives great on the freeway. Has leased it for over a year with no problems. Master Control knob next to the gear shift is the ultimate in convenience and safety. Many other vehicle's controls are on the dash, having to push the glass screen, making it more difficult to control the radio, navigation etc. Comparing the exterior design of other luxury and mid-level SUV models, the X3 is far superior. The only downside is the ride which is not as smooth and not as quiet as other models which I would prefer. Secondly, having discussed BMW's with mechanics and other previous BMW owners, the major issue and concern is the future reliability and repair expense as the vehicle passes it's free 4 year BMW maintenance period. Just about all recommend not owning a BMW because it will be in the shop frequently at very high expense. As a result, I plan on buying either a Toyota Highlander or Lexus RX for reliability and smoothness and quietness of ride. The prices with all the options are within the same price range. Or being spoiled by it's drivability and control knob, I will lease a new X3 or X5 for the rest of my driving life...but never buying one."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By dragon99 on Monday, November 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Cons: "When the hybrid will be out for X3? or i3 is sub."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"Pros: on 8 speed, it loves conserving gas. I drive alot on freeway, so that works. Internal parts, go to the bmw blogs bimmer.com to find facts and figures to get the right parts. Nice stereo system. Once you know how to change change oil and the filters is 2nd nature. Let the mechanic do the rest. Buy the extended warranty at the dealer up front when bargin a deal. It will cost more if you do it later. Your google and youtube is your resource to the manual. Other than that drive it like a regular car. Cons: At low speed on city street, and red light can drain the gas. Takes awhile to learn all the functions. Need some special tools if you want to do your own maintenance. Dealership is a pain and drain you if you do not know about BMW vehicles. German cars: word of wisdom: Get a used one is to save a buck around 30 - 40k miles and sell it near 100k miles. You do not want to know what will happen after 100k miles. Have to deal for a 2nd key fob. I say average MPG is 24 city/ freeway is 28. The navigator is useless. Just use your iphone connect it on bluetoth or usb. The tire computer gauge is annoying when one of the tires is low on run flat tires. There is no spare tires on new cars."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Jim on Thursday, October 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, runs like a scolded dog."
Cons: "no sunglass holder, no spare tire"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car is a blast to drive. Handling is excellent, performance is near the top of the pack for this catagory, gas milage is good (average about 22 mpg). It sits high enough that my wife and I, in our 60's can get in and out easily. Outstanding transmission. Might replace the run flat tires with regular tires for improved ride, which is a bit on the firm side. Only criticism is the AC which could be a bit stronger. Plenty of back seat room and rear storage is good. Has the best headlights of any car I have ever owned; will burn the paint off stop signs. Not a car for someone who wants a posh ride like a Lexus or Cadillac, but made for the driving enthusists. We picked the car up at the factory in South Carolina and the factory gave us the VIP treatment, spending a day showing us the capabilities of the car. So far no problems with this car. Would buy it again!"
14 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By EF on Wednesday, September 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quick, Fuel efficient, and comfortable"
Cons: "None so far"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Traded in a 2013 Ford Edge Ecoboost for the 2015 X3, same horsepower numbers, entirely different driving experience. Ordered the vehicle from my local BMW dealer and got it exactly the way I wanted (M Sport package, Premium package, Nav system, driver's assistance package, Harmon Kardon audio), had to wait almost 3 months, due to ordering right when the 2015 became available. First impressions are very good, have had the vehicle for slightly over 3 months. Handling is great for a near mid-size SUV, it corners like a 3 series sedan. Acceleration is very good in Sport mode (acceptable in Comfort mode as well and it saves on fuel), no discernible turbo lag, the 4 cylinder is a great engine. Have taken it on a long family trip and returned an average of 25-28 mpg (this is with a full cargo hold of luggage). Cargo space was more that adequate for 3 people and their luggage (along with all the stuff a 4 year old drags with). The M Sport seats are worth their weight in gold, no fatigue even from 12 hour stints in the vehicle. This is my first luxury brand car (not my first German vehicle) and I am very pleased with it. Depending on how this vehicle holds up reliability wise, I may become a BMW buyer from here on out. (Side note: I am a female, but a car nerd, and horsepower and handling matter more to me than the amount of cup holders or vanity mirrors)."
18 people out of 24 found this review helpful