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2012 BMW X3

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2012 BMW X3 Review

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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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."

You May Not Like This Car If...

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.

What's New for 2012

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 the X3
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.

2012 BMW X3 Details
Interior

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.

Exterior

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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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.

Optional Equipment

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.

Under the Hood

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

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2012 BMW X3 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.7
Out of 10

Based on 71 Ratings for the 2011 - 2017 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.3/10
    Quality
    9.0/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    9.3/10
  • Comfort
    8.7/10
    Styling
    8.8/10

Like my 2016 X3 35i more than my 2010 535i wagon

By on Saturday, June 18, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,800

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "A fun but practical vehicle"

Cons: "Next generation X3 arrives in 2018"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"The 35i engine is smooth, powerful and well matched to the 8-speed transmission. I have averaged almost 25 mpg during my first 2800 miles. Front seats are firm but comfortable on my long 10+ hour trips to visit family. The ride is nicely controlled despite the run flat tires. My wife much prefers the X3 brakes and handling over her previous crossover. The X3 is generally quiet at highway speeds with an authoritative rumble from the exhaust when accelerated. I like the higher seating position than that in my 535i wagon. Drive Assistant (DA) and DA+ packages are worthwhile additions for safety. Cargo space is nicely shaped to accommodate the dog crates we often carry. Back seat is good for 2, but tight for 3 adults."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

My X3 does not handle the way a BMW should.

By on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
Not Rated
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
Not Rated
Styling
Not Rated
Comfort
Not Rated

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"With any type of strong wind, my X3 is all over the road. I need two hands to grip the steering wheel. What is it going to be like on snow and ice covered roads. I've owned BMW's before. This is a huge disappointment. It's comfortable and has all the bells and whistles, but the handling is horrible."

5 people out of 17 found this review helpful

Sporty, Comfortable, Quiet

By on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "mileage, cost of fuel, build quality, sportiness"

Cons: "diesel rattles from standing start"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I was tired of filling an Acura MDX over and over with premium fuel, so I looked around for a higher mileage SUV. I just happened on this car at a Chicago dealership, with only 1,700 miles. The diesel engine is powerful and with BMW's transmission, you can have all the acceleration you want. I especially love the mileage: 30 mpg on a 30 minute commute, even with the transmission in Sport mode, and 35 mpg on long trips. Add the cost of diesel fuel, usually the same as, or less than, regular, and it's a real winner. Yes, it costs a bit more than some others, but buy CPO and you save most of the initial depreciation. Be aware that it has more of a sport suspension than most and the diesel (like any diesel) sometimes rattles a bit from a standing start. I am very pleased with this X3 diesel."

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Highly Recommend

By on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Safe. Responsive. Luxurious. Fun to drive."

Cons: "Pricey fully loaded."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Have owned BMW's for 20 years and the 2016 X3 does not disappoint! Safe, responsive, luxurious and fun to drive. What more could you want?! I test-drove all the SUVs in this class and found they just can't live up to BMW quality and performance."

10 people out of 17 found this review helpful

Love my X3

By on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "All around comfortable, great handling vehicle!"

Cons: "No compass except on Navigation"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"By far the best aspect of this sport SUV is the comfort of ride and handling. I is hard to believe that prior user was not happy with the comfort of the seats. Precisely why we decided on this vehicle. Leaning to quickly and efficiently utilize the vehicle's features took some time, however well worth it. Technology is not always intuitive to the over 50 set. Only negative is the rattle of the casing enclosing the the moon roof. So far no solution. Annoying."

Horrible seats

By on Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
1/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
1/10
Comfort
1/10

Pros: "None"

Cons: "Bad design"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"I leased the 2016 X3 3.5 X drive for my wife. First issue is very poorly designed seats. Cannot sit in the car for more that 10 or 15 minutes due to the poor seat design. I am not an unusually sized person (6'2", 225 lbs). It was supposed to be our road car. Will now be used to transport dogs and cargo locally. Cannot wait for the lease to be up. In my 50+ years I have never sat in any model of car or truck with uncomfortable front seats. If you review the BMW blogs this has been an issue for some time with the X3. I have no need to learn the highly atypical technology of the vehicle. This is not a user friendly car. You can do a lot better for a lot less money. Thank God we are blessed to have two other vehicles to choose from. I would not recommend this car. If you would like to take over a lease on a high end X3 I have a car for you. I emailed the BMW "geniuses" about this issue and have received no response."

12 people out of 28 found this review helpful

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