2012 BMW X3: A Few Miles Off-Road
October 31, 2012
I recently took our longterm 2012 BMW X3 several miles up a desert wash to reach an impromptu campsite in a desert valley near Mexico. I'd not been there and was told by those in the know that it was passable by car-based SUV things.
However, the wash had become more treacherous since those in the know had seen it last, probably due to rainfall erosion in the meantime. Ruts were deeper, larger rocks more exposed. Entire hillsides had slid down, showering sections with edgy boulders.
The X3 had adequate ground clearance as long as I picked my path carefully. The real issue wasn't clearance. Rather, it was suspension travel. The X3 doesn't have much of it, and the ride over the rocky patches was, well, rough.
Another concern I had was that the X3's low-profile tires would get a pinched sidewall on the rocks, or a puncture. Granted, they're run-flats, but who wants to deal with replacing a tire in any case? As a result of this (and the X3's lack of travel), I had to slow to practically a standstill and walk the X3 over the rocky sections. My buddy in his 3rd gen 4Runner leading the way flew over the same ground at 25+ mph.
The X3 wasn't really made for this kind of stuff. It's essentially a tall wagon with AWD. With that said, it took me to the site and back without any issue. It was just slow going and some nervousness about its tires. On the freeway, the X3 was in its element once again.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor