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 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!"
8 people out of 13 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)."
17 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By Cynthia on Saturday, August 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "joy of driving, attractive design inside and out"
Cons: "gas mileage, repair costs"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I was lucky to find a low-mileage, used X3 with an odd configuration: no bells and whistles except just what I wanted: climate package and navigation, plus roof rails for my crossbars. That's all I wanted beyond the beautifully tuned 6-cylinder classic BMW engine and the 8-speed transmission that I think make this car special. I love driving this car, especially on winding, rural roads in the places in the northeast that I visit regularly. Aside from one major repair to a steering component, there have so far been no repairs -- just routine maintenance. I do think the extended service warranty to 100,000 miles, expensive as it is, may be worth it because, when a BMW starts getting older it gets much more expensive to take care of out of warranty. I'm lucky to own one of the last 6-cylinder xDrive28i cars. It should become a classic."
8 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By dqv2000 on Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Diesel, MPG, Torque, M sport look, comfort."
Cons: "Auto start stop hesitate."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I owned a 2011 X3. I was in the market to traded in for a sporty car. I considered Fusion, Edge, Murano, VW CC, Touareg, Volvo S60, V60, XC60, Q5, GLK, and X5. I wanted to maximize Utility, Quality, Performance, and Efficiency out of my budget. In conclusion, I, again, choose 2015 X3, now with M sport look. Value: I traded in my 2011 X3 on June 2014 at 53.6% of original MSRP. I think that is not bad. Driving Dynamics: No doubt, every professional car reviewer agrees BMW has best overall driving dynamics. X3 is one good example of it. Reliability: I owned my first X3 for more than 3 years. I never paid any maintenance, fixing, etc.... Never have any problem. This is one big reason why I want BMW again. Interior : Thanks to the LCI treatment for 2015 model, I am sure BMW has the best interior material quality of the segment. Exterior: this is the part I love my car the most. I have been dreaming to get a M sport Package BMW for years. Finally, I drive one now. Quality: Some said GLK has best built quality of segment. I said X3 is not any worse than GLK. Comfort & Convenience: X3 has best cargo space of the segment, so I don't need to put further explanation. My wife love the comfortable sport seat and minimal wind noise. At 80 MPH, the wind noise is still very low. In conclusion, how to define a car of your dream? I think it is that every morning you get ready to work. You go to garage about to drive. You see your car and you feel this is going to be a wonderful day. That is how I feel. By the way, thanks to its diesel engine, I average 32.3 MPG on my entire 2500 miles. I am very happy at this result."
19 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By LWD01915 on Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "smooth drive; good mileage; powerful engine"
Cons: "not worth the value."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"My husband bought me the 2014 X3 in June of 2013 to replace my X5 which is one of the only advantages of the X3. It's a lot smaller than the X5 which I always felt as if I was driving a massive truck. The size of the X3 is much more reasonable. Clearly this car is not for me. I'm a stay-at-home mother and I put a whopping 6k miles on it in 14 months. Unlike my husband, who loves and appreciates high-end, expensive German cars, I just don't. Maybe it's a "guy" think but I just feel it's a LOT of money to spend, especially when I don't need a car of this caliber for my personal driving habits/needs. But I kind of question who really does. I know I sound ungrateful but it's just too much for me and I often feel uncomfortable in certain situations with having the BMW logo on it. To me, it can give off an air of entitlement and that might be my issue but I think the opposite can be true. Some buy this car and spend the amount of money precisely because it has the BMW logo. OK, about the car. It i IS a comfortable drive and got me through a pretty bad winter with a ton of blizzards and I never got stuck or had any problem driving up our VERY steep and long driveway or skidding, etc. so it's a safe care! I'll give it that! And it gets MUCH better gas mileage than my old X5 (but it is a lot smaller). But the number of "features" are overwhelming and made "worse" by having many accessible from both the steering wheel AND on other buttons on the dashboard, middle console, etc. The number of unncessary features along with this duplication makes me feel as if I am flying some large commercial airplane. I'm sure there are some features I'm not even aware of but one example of a "not-at-all" needed in my mind is the blinker options. You want to change lanes and you somehow "know" that you only need three "blinks" to signal the driver into whose lane you are entering? You can use the standard blinker and just flip it off when you've changed lanes BUT you can also push a small button on the steering wheel that will automatically turn off the blinker after 3 blinks AND that same feature is also on the dashboard. Honestly? It just results in a car which has a massive amount of buttons that I just can't imagine most drivers using. I feel it's more of a way to justify the expense than adding any benefit. But I'm just a Girl so what do I know? I do know that a week after I got it in June of 2013 and had 300 miles on it, a 19-year-old hit me with his old pickup in a parking lot on the passenger side of the car (don't ask why he drove perpendicularly into me). He wasn't traveling at a high speed at all so his truck didn't have a scratch but the body design of the X3 sides is one long, continuous piece from the very front to the back so the entire side of the car had to be replaced. And since I had picked a new color that was never offered before and since I had also gotten the very first shipment, there was a delay in getting the paint so my car was in the body shop for 3 weeks. I'll stop. You realize you are reading a review from a middle-age woman who considers a car more of a commodity and doesn't appreciate what some might. We own the car so I'll keep it maybe for one more winter and then I'm trading it in and choosing what I feel I need and I bet I MAKE money off the whole deal."
15 people out of 55 found this review helpful
By Rolling980 on Monday, June 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Vehicle with excellent storage space"
Cons: "second seat don't recline. my only complaint"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This vehicle is amazing. I like the fact that I was able to custom order my vehicle at no additional cost. I had to wait a month before it was delivered but it was worth it. I opted for the xdrive 35i over the 28 and I'm glad I did. This thing screams. It has on the move drive modes so I can switch between comfort and sport which I believe engages the turbo. It also changes the shift ranges of the transmission. My daily driver is a 2007 Infiniti M45. When I compare driving pleasures, I think that the X3 without question is faster on take off because you can feel the all wheel drive of the X3 pulling but the V8 of the M45 pens you to the seat. Both have the ability for burnouts. That is both from standstill and roll.But I think the M45 would take the X3 in a head to head. I also opted for the painted trim. Money if you ask me well spent."
9 people out of 15 found this review helpful