What's New for 2009
The 2009 BMW X3 returns with a new name -- the X3 xDrive30i -- and only minor exterior and interior treatments.
Any BMW wearing a "3" badge has a lot of expectations to meet. As the quintessential entry-level luxury car, the 3 Series defines the category. The 3's SUV equivalent, however, the 2009 BMW X3, makes the family proud. Its sporty handling and steering, powerful engine, added utility and fun-to-drive nature are all BMW hallmarks.
The X3 also fulfills the brand's reputation for modern luxury with a long list of conveniences, exquisite comfort, premium interior materials and near-flawless build quality. Add to that the X3's generous seating space (even for taller adults) and spacious cargo area, and you have an accomplished crossover SUV that's well suited for the chores of daily life as well as twisty roads.
This isn't to say that the X3 is faultless. One by-product of the superb handling is a less-than-luxurious ride quality. For those who prefer something softer, something like a Lexus RX 350 would likely work out better. The added features and prestige of the BMW brand also make the X3 more expensive than similarly sporty entry-level luxury SUVs like the Infiniti EX35 and Acura RDX. There are also a couple new choices to consider this year: the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, both of which follow the same entry-level luxury SUV formula. Overall, however, the 2009 BMW X3 remains one of our favorites, and it's certainly a top pick for anyone hoping for more driving pleasure from an SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 BMW X3 is a small luxury crossover SUV that is offered in one trim level, the xDrive30i. Included as standard features are 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, automatic climate control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way-adjustable power front seats with driver memory settings, full power accessories, keyless entry and a 10-speaker CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack.
Options are largely grouped into packages. The sport activity package includes 18-inch wheels, running boards, a sport steering wheel and rear privacy glass. The premium package includes leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, ambient lighting and Bluetooth. This package can also be had with upgraded 16-way power front seats. A cold weather package includes heated front and rear seats. Finally, there's the sport package, which comes with a stiffer sport suspension, sport front seats and steering wheel, and body styling accents.
Stand-alone options are also available and include 19-inch alloy wheels with higher-performance tires, a premium audio system, HD radio, a navigation system, a heated steering wheel, adaptive xenon headlights and front and rear parking sensors.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the BMW X3 xDrive30i is a 3.0-liter inline-6 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. All-wheel drive is standard. In our testing, we managed to accelerate a manual-transmission X3 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. EPA estimated fuel ratings for the automatic transmission are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. The manual transmission comes in at 1 fewer mpg across the board.
Standard safety equipment for the X3 includes antilock disc brakes, automatic brake drying, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints, stability control and hill descent control. Rear-seat side airbags are available as an option. In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 was awarded the highest rating of "Good" for protection in both frontal offset and side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 X3's interior is attractive and fitted with top-notch materials. The front seats are comfortable and firm, with sufficient support for sporty driving. One annoyance is that the controls for the ventilation, audio and optional navigation can be fussy to operate. You might also be surprised that a rear entertainment system isn't available as a factory option. Rear storage offers up 30 cubic feet of space, and with the 60/40-split rear seats stowed, capacity is upped to a roomy 71 cubes.
The 2009 BMW X3 xDrive30i excels when it comes to handling. Among small luxury crossover SUVs, the X3 has no equal when it comes to arcing along a curvy road, thanks to the superior steering feel, ideal suspension tuning and eager engine power output. However, if what you're looking for is a family vehicle to haul the clan cross-country in maximum comfort, the X3's sometimes stiff ride quality is a detriment. The X3's straight-6 delivers spirited power over the majority of its rpm range, while the automatic transmission's gearchanges are caffeinated in their eagerness.