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 Johnny on Sunday, February 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,990overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, spacious"
Cons: "tailgate doesn't close with key"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car is great for families on the go! The car drives great and I can always rely on it to take me where I want to go! If you need a luxury midsize SUV, this is the one!"
By Steve on Friday, February 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Screaming fast. Zero to 60, in 5.6 seconds"
Cons: "Lame clock, Nav, electronics, and power steering"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Screamingly fast 5.6 0-60, love it! Great leather and interior build, 20k miles with no mechanical issues at all. Feels safe and secure. Love the little LEDs that light up the curbs when you open the doors, the HID headlights are great. There was a creaking sound in the sunroof, that they fixed for free way past the "adjustments period" you hear about this issue a lot. Still creaks/rattles a little, but much better. Good handling, but the electric steering is a continuing disappointment (my wife's mini handles so much better, at half the price). Lots of software driven features are well intended, but a bit lame. Navigation is better than nothing, but not as good as if you glued an iPhone over the screen. The real time traffic on this 2011 is worthless, it only shows highway repairs, not real traffic. The internet lookup is so slow it seems broken. Even the salesman could not get the voice recognition to work, a very pale comparison to Siri in my phone. When you ask it what time it is, it lists the menu items on the screen at that moment. What I really would like, is a bmw app on my iphone for tire pressure readings, and alerts, and the rest of the time have that display show what is on my iPhone screen. BMW can't compete with apple/android, they shouldn't try. The AM radio is strange, it falls out of HD when the broadcaster's antenna is in line of sight, and sounds weird when out of HD. My sequoia's radio is much much better. The lock/unlock remote control works a long distance, but the beep is too quiet to hear in city noise, and what is worse, it will only beep/flash the first time you lock it. So I find myself unlocking and relocking, if I didn't hear the beep. Kind of lame. Dumbest design mistake: They sell this car to 40+ year old customers, but the clock is too small to read comfortably with out reading glasses, and what's worse, is that they dim it,and use a less contrasting color, at night, making it useless (the clock was fine on my previous 528i). I leave a mechanical analog clock meant for a motorcycle on tray under where the ash tray would have been -- gets lit up by a LED in the car at night. This may sound stupid, but hate the decorative crease on the drivers door -- it is supposed to look like wind coming over a wing, but with the car at a stop it looks like a limp human body part -- not the image they were shooting for! It really shows up in silver and gray, but less so in black and white paint. Overall car is great, and I'd buy it again. It is the right size. The X5 is bigger without any more passenger room, and slower with the same turbo 6 engine, but it looks a little better. The Audi Q5 looks better all around, but had a weak engine, it was sluggish when the seats were full with passengers."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Rob McMillan on Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice Driving Car, Good Mileage"
Cons: "No Dipstick, unreliable oil measurement system"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have the 4-cyl version of this vehicle with the EcoDrive feature that cuts the car off at the stop lights. Save gas and engine fumes. The AWD capability easily moves this car through snow and it climbs a steep snow covered driveway at my mountain cottage without snow chains. The car is fun and zippy to drive. It is also easy to park.....compared to the X5 I had before, the X3 is like a sports car compared to a truck. Unfortunately, I will never purchase another BMW....and had I known about this single shortcoming before purchase, I would have walked out of the dealership. BMW, in their infinite wisdom decided to save about $5 by eliminating the dip stick. Even worse, their electronic oil measuring system is unreliable. What self respecting car enthusiast wants a car in which you cannot measure the oil? I was on a long cross country trip when my car kept telling me to add quarts of oil. Had I not been suspect, I would have ruined the engine by overfilling the crankcase up to the valve cover. To this day, 1/11/2014, I still don't know how much oil is in my engine. No more BMW's for my family until they put the dipstick back."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Boomer on Sunday, December 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice car to drive."
Cons: "Victim of technology and continuous battery drain."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Fun car to drive. I have a 2012 x35i (bought new) with just 16,000 miles so far. But it's cold in Minnesota, and I use the car for many short trips. Now i'm finding that, with the battery 'way out back in what amounts to an ice box, I get continuing messages to "Charge Battery" all the time. The dealer says this is normal and that the battery will not charge when it's ice cold. The solution: Put the car on a 10A battery charger every night if it's going to be below freezing. Huh?? Yes, raise the hood and connect a battery charger. So I do, while I'm shopping for another, more user friendly car. Also have had continuing problems with tire (Pirellis) rim leaks, with no help forthcoming from the dealer. So my morning routine now includes starting my garage compressor, pumping up one or two tires, disconnecting my battery charger, and closing the hood."
17 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By bill on Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "mileage, quality,ride, and comfort"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"purchased 28i a month ago. We recently took on a trip and got 27mpg, better than rx400h we traded in. Was nervous about 4 cyl engine but it is very powerful. Quality is first rate.Got many options including navigation,xenons, and upgraded stereo. No regrets!"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By P.C. on Saturday, October 12, 2013
I want this caroverall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, practical, great mpg, powerful,"
Cons: "expensive for a CUV"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Got the car in June 2013, and since we got it, this car is wonderful. We got the 35i and in ECO PRO mode, got 30 MPG highway! Quality is good on the car. Plenty fun to drive. Nav system works great. Oyster leather looks great with Black metallic exterior. This car is a pretty penny, and if your willing to spend the money, get the X3"