2011 BMW X3 SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2011 BMW X3 SUV

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BMW X3 Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.0 L Inline 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 8-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 240 hp @ 6600 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 19/25 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2011 BMW X3

  • The 2011 BMW X3 is a fine, if pricey, choice for drivers seeking sport sedan dynamics in a crossover SUV.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Potent turbocharged engine; high-quality cabin; crisp handling; comfortable rear seat.

  • Cons

    Abrupt power delivery; priced higher than many competitors.

  • What's New for 2011

    The 2011 BMW X3 has been fully redesigned. Highlights include an optional turbocharged engine, a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, crisper exterior styling, revised suspension tuning and an updated interior design with the latest iDrive electronics interface.

Full 2011 BMW X3 Review

What's New for 2011

The 2011 BMW X3 has been fully redesigned. Highlights include an optional turbocharged engine, a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, crisper exterior styling, revised suspension tuning and an updated interior design with the latest iDrive electronics interface.


When it debuted seven years ago, the BMW X3 seemed like a natural follow-up to its larger linemate, the X5. But burdened with mediocre power, a jarring ride and subpar interior, the X3 almost seemed more like a corporate afterthought than a fully realized small crossover SUV. Thankfully, BMW softened the suspension and upped the power in successive years. And still blessed with BMW's typical handling excellence, the X3 found an audience among those seeking a sharp handler over road and trail but also a ride large enough to ferry a couple of golden Labs to the bark park.

With the 2011 X3, BMW is hoping to fully make amends. This redesigned X3 is about the same size as the first-generation model but features notable mechanical revisions. Under the more dynamic looking sheet metal is a redesigned suspension that softens the stiff ride of its predecessor. The X3 is still plenty taut and inspired in corners, aided by all-wheel drive, but now provides a more compliant ride. An optional adaptive suspension allows the driver to select from three different modes calibrating suspension, throttle, transmission and stability control settings.

This year also brings a second trim level to the lineup. The xDrive28i ostensibly replaces last year's xDrive30i, and offers slightly less power, but also a slimmer entry fee. The xDrive35i, with its turbocharged, 300-horsepower six-cylinder engine, is the target to which to aspire. Both models get a new eight-speed transmission, which rows through gears in a quiet fury to reach cruising speed. And when you need maximum acceleration in an instant, the transmission can drop from 8th to 2nd gear in a single direct snap, bypassing the gears in between.

Overall, BMW's refinements make the X3 a prime contender in the small luxury crossover SUV segment. But it's not without peer. The Infiniti EX35, for instance, drives with similar power and agility. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is less athletic, but feels more solid. The 2011 Audi Q5 is smoother around the edges, while the 2011 Volvo XC60 is more family-friendly. As you've probably gathered, each of these others offers a slightly different take on what a luxury crossover should be. But if you want one with performance leanings, the 2011 BMW X3 is a fine pick.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2011 BMW X3 is a five-passenger compact luxury crossover SUV available in two trim levels: the xDrive28i and the xDrive35i.

Standard features on the 28i include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, eight-way power front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, automatic climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, BMW's iDrive electronics interface and a 12-speaker audio system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod interface.

The 35i is similar but has 18-inch alloy wheels and adaptive xenon headlights. Options are largely grouped into packages, but several of the items are available separately. The Sport Activity package varies slightly for each model, but includes 18-inch wheels, sport front seats, roof rails and a sport transmission with paddle shifters. The Premium package adds a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and leather upholstery.

The Technology package offers a rearview camera with top view, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth streaming audio and a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice commands and real-time traffic. Opting for the Dynamic Handling package gets you adaptive suspension dampers, variable-ratio steering and three driver-selectable drive modes. A Cold Weather package adds heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel.

Additional stand-alone options include 19-inch wheels. a rearview camera, a head-up display, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a power liftgate, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, satellite radio and a premium audio system.

Powertrains and Performance

A 3.0-liter inline-6 engine powers both 2011 BMW X3 models. The engine in the xDrive28i makes 240 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque, while direct injection and turbocharging increase power in the xDrive35i to 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. A new eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is standard on both models, as is AWD.

In Edmunds testing, an xDrive35i accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, a very quick time for this segment. BMW estimates the x35i's fuel economy at 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway.


Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, automatic brake drying (useful in rainy weather), front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints, stability control, and hill descent control. In Edmunds testing, the xDrive35i stopped from 60 mph in a short 116 feet.

Interior Design and Special Features

About an inch wider than its predecessor, the 2011 BMW X3 offers the driver a little more elbow room between the door and the front seat passenger. While still considered a compact crossover, the X3 has swelled to proportions similar to the previous-generation X5. Rear legroom is likewise generous.

The additional room is welcomed, allowing occupants to feel cocooned within the high-quality materials covering the seats, consoles and dash. The fourth generation of BMW's iDrive -- the system that controls settings, information, navigation and entertainment -- now offers better intuitive control, although the hybrid dial/joystick selector still requires some practice and patience. Thankfully, it falls to hand easily next to the gearshift, like a television remote.

Driving Impressions

With its weight distributed almost equally over its front and rear axles, the 2011 BMW X3 is an adept handler. The chassis feels light and the speed-sensitive steering gives the X3 a nimble quality that makes you want to swing it around. The Dynamic Handling package adds different driving modes, though we've found these to be an overly complicated solution to a problem that never existed in the first place. In particular, throttle response can be annoyingly slow, especially in the base, "Normal" mode. And when your foot's request is finally approved by the electronic governors, the engine catapults you through the transmission's eight gears. It's slightly unsettling, and only somewhat mitigated by selecting Sport mode. Once at cruising or highway speeds, acceleration is swift and effortless.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Another "like it but"

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive28i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 8A)

Comfortable, largely well-handling and a great value vs. our previous series of Jeep Cherokees. BUT, despite three "re-programs", acceleration after slowing is tortoise speed (a full three second delay before the trans kicks down) making high speed merges a gamble. Also hate the electronic parking brake which eliminates the safety of a manual parking brake backup. It is either on...or off.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

I like it but...

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 8A)

2011 X3 35I is my first BMW, I am a Honda Accord 3.0 6 cylinder regular. X3 is a beautiful, fun to drive small SUV. Its quick at high speed. It has roomy interior, front and rear. Good sound system as well as the blue tooth phone interface. This vehicle is really for luxury and not an economical alternative.

Poor handling

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive28i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 8A)

Has anyone experienced this issue and was there a resolution to this SUV's poor handling stability? I used to own a 2008 X3 which had the traditional great performing stiff hydraulic power steering, now this X3 comes with some kind of "electric" assist on steering which may or may not be the cause for an unstable ride when driving on uneven pavement (especially wheel gutters from nordic states spring thaw). The car is simply unstable in its direction, it feels like you constantly need to fight the direction with oposition move on steering wheel to prevent it from swaying to right or left. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Please help, this car is great otherwise.

8 of 28 people found this review helpful


by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive28i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl 8A)

I just don't even know where to begin with this hunk of [non-permissible content removed]!! First I'll start by agreeing with every negative comment I've read on this review board. Just purchased this junk on wheels less than one year ago and its already going back to BMW for service for the fifth time! I had to bring the car in for its first service owning it for three days. Little did I know this was just the beginning. PLEASE PLEASE listen to all the reviews on this board. Consider something else!!!

Best suv in the market.

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 8A)

I have owned this car for 11 months and put on 14200 miles on it. I have driven all four seasons now and can say that this is the best SUV I have driven. Performance is Awesome. I would say that BMW has built this like a mirror of your mood. If you slam on the gas it is the fastest with accurate handling control with (17mpg). My friends say that they could see a big difference in my driving style. If you drive it slow you get the best possible mileage (31 mpg). I drove 270 miles non stop and I looked fresh as I started to drive. Get the Premium Audio and it is one of the best&Every Penny is worth it. If you get this car from a reputed dealer it will not disappoint you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

I got a lemon.

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 8A)

I bought a brand new 2011 BMW X3 XDrive 35i from Autorgemana in Medellin, Colombia and I got a lemon. 1) The sunroof didnít work. It took 6 months to replace everything and still makes a clunking noise when it opens. 2) when you step on the brakes the car shakes. It was at the dealer 3 times and they couldnít give us a correct solution. They replaced all 4 disc brakes, pads and sensors. 3) The headlights fog up inside even if it doesnít rain. They havenít been able to figure out why this happens so they said it is normal and a year later still happens. 4) The steering system was broken. It went to the shop 3 times and it took 8 months to replace it. As i write this, my car is 14 months old, it has 14.800 kms and it is in the shop for the twelfth time. I named it St. Joseph because it goes from the shop to the house and the house to the shop.

Talk About The 2011 X3

2011 BMW X3 Discussions See all Started By

The upcoming 2011 BMW X3 has been revised from the ground up and represents a substantially improved and refined vehicle. Not only have the power and handling been improved but the level of quality o...

I really need some advice here. I leased my X3 35i in 2011, was a high mileage lease, 30k miles per year, costing 850$/mo. Now at the end of 3 years, it has 85K miles. So far zero problems except for ...

An X3 iDrive35 has a 10.2/1 compression ratio (lower), yet premium fuel is still recommended... Have any of the readers run regular unleaded fuel in your X3? Did you get engine knocking? or other bad...

Read more about the 2011 BMW X3

Gas Mileage


  • 19
  • cty
  • 25
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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