What's New for 2010
For 2010, the BMW X3 loses one standard feature, the moonroof, but gains another in the form of HD Radio.
As the junior member of the company's SUV family, the 2010 BMW X3 has some big tire tracks to fill. As a Bimmer, it is expected to offer vigorous performance, athletic handling and a rewarding drive. But as a luxury crossover, it's also expected to offer versatility, a long list of modern conveniences and top-notch cabin materials. Happily, the X3 does the family proud.
The X3 debuted six years ago as a trailblazer in this segment. It hasn't been fully redesigned since, though, and competitors from just about every mainstream luxury automaker have recently joined the party. As a result, the X3 has gotten a little lost in all the hype and hubbub. But there's still a lot to like, including sharp handling, a free-revving inline-6 engine, ample seating space and a generous cargo hold.
However, the X3 is not without a few faults. The price to pay for the superb handling is a firm ride that may be too stiff for some folks. Also, the X3 is pricey compared to rivals such as the Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35 and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. In addition to these models, there's worthy competition in the form of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 T6. All of the above are newer designs with plenty of standout attributes. Overall, however, the 2010 BMW X3 remains a respectable choice, and it's certainly a top pick for anyone wanting more driving pleasure from an SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 BMW X3 is a small luxury crossover SUV that is offered in one trim level, the xDrive30i. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, 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 and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player, HD radio and 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 a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, ambient lighting and Bluetooth. Opting for the Sport package nets a stiffer sport suspension, sport front seats and steering wheel and body styling accents.
Other options include 19-inch alloy wheels with higher-performance tires, speed sensitive steering, a premium audio system, 16-way power front seats, a navigation system, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, adaptive xenon headlights and front and rear parking sensors.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the all-wheel-drive 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 class-exclusive six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Notably, the automatic is a no-cost option.
In our testing, a manual-transmission X3 scooted to 60 mph in 7.4 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 merits the same except for combined, where it comes in at 19 mpg.
Standard safety equipment 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 2010 BMW X3 was awarded the highest rating of "Good" for protection in both frontal-offset and side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The X3's interior is attractive and fitted with high-quality materials. The standard front seats are comfortable and firm, with sufficient support for sporty driving; there are also optional sport seats and sublimely comfortable 16-way power seats. The rear seats are quite agreeable as well, with plenty of head- and legroom for average adults.
One annoyance is that the controls for the ventilation, audio and optional navigation system can be fussy to operate. You might also be surprised that a rear entertainment system isn't available as a factory option. Rear storage is generous, measuring 30 cubic feet of space with the rear seats in use. With the 60/40-split rear seatbacks lowered, cargo capacity is upped to an impressive 71 cubes.
Among small luxury crossover SUVs, the 2010 BMW X3 xDrive30i has no equal on curvy roads, thanks to superior steering feel, sharp suspension tuning and smooth, eager performance from the inline-6 with either transmission. However, if you're looking for a comfortable family vehicle, the X3's relatively stiff ride -- especially with the optional sport suspension -- likely won't impress. High-speed stability is excellent, though, and the X3 generally imparts a sense of confidence and control. Aside from the ride quality, this BMW's driving dynamics are beyond reproach.