2012 BMW X3 Long Term Road Test


2012 BMW X3: Is the Nav System Any Good? Plus, Bonus Photos from the Road

August 23, 2012

After my meandering L.A.-to-Seattle honeymoon road trip in the 2012 BMW X3 (which averaged 24.2 mpg), I have no qualms about recommending it for road trip duty, no matter how far you plan to drive. I've taken many long-haul road trips now, and in my mind, nothing tops the 2006 330i that Caroline Pardilla and I once drove to Vancouver... at the time, that car was the perfect compromise of comfort, performance and out-and-out fun. The X3 errs more on the side of comfort, but I enjoyed driving it as much or more than the 528i I took to Montana last summer, and often forgot that it was a crossover and not a sedan.

One aspect of the X3 I really enjoyed over 3,200 miles was the factory navigation system. It's easy to dismiss OEM nav units as needless add-ons in the era of smartphones. But as in our 528i, this system offers a lot of features that are useful during multiple days in the car -- and if I was going to buy a BMW, I would pay extra for this system.

To start, I love the widescreen format and the map graphics -- they're as good as a topographical atlas and you can follow along as you drive. I also find it easy to move around the map and between the various menus with the current-gen iDrive controller. Early versions of iDrive were terrible, but now the interface is quite good.

And I found a new feature that I like.

We happened to program a trip from the SF Bay Area to Solvang when the fuel level was getting a bit low in the X3, and when we looked at the full route for the trip (alas, you have to go through a few too many screens to get here), we noticed the system was recommending a fuel stop along the route taking into account the vehicle's current estimated miles-to-empty countdown. Pretty neat.

One minor quibble I continue to have with this nav system is its hurry to get you to sign off on the destination. After you enter a city and a street name, it automatically preselects the "accept destination" function so it's all too easy to do that accidently before you enter the house number -- you have to remember to scroll back up to enter the number. If you make that mistake of accepting the destination too early, hitting the back button wipes out the street name and city. That's annoying and I'd like to see BMW change that.

Below are a few more photos from the trip. If you're headed to Mt Shasta, I'd always recommend a stop in McCloud, California, a bit south of the great mountain. It's not as happening or cute as the town of Mt Shasta itself, but it's quieter and more atmospheric. You can stay in one of the old rooming houses turned B&B and then have your own private view of the the mountain in the morning.

Since we went to Seattle, we had to make a side trip to Everett to touring the Boeing factory. After the tour, we paused to watch a new 787 for Air Ethiopia taxi toward the paint shop.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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