2012 BMW X3 Long Term Road Test


2012 BMW X3: Long Day in the Desert

February 27, 2012

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This is one of the better and more established roads our 2012 BMW X3 traversed this past Saturday.

As some of you know, one of my hobbies is a geeky GPS-based activity called geocaching. A group of eleven of us piled into three vehicles and headed out into the undeveloped triangle of open desert between highway 395, highway 58 and Interstate 15 for a day of short hikes split up by miles and miles of driving on faint tracks that barely register on aerial photographs and satellite images. Our plan was to visit 300 caches.

Along the way we encountered sand, rocks, and the three w's of the desert: washboard, washouts and whoop-de-doos. But at least this area's very sparse rainfall and a tendency for high winds keeps the size of the plants in this area down to where the paint wasn't at much risk -- if I was careful.

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The roads were more like unimproved rally tracks than true off-roading, so the BMW X3 was actually more in its element than the solid axle truck-based SUVs driven by the others. The low unsprung mass of 4-wheel independent suspension allowed Team BMW to ride the bumps without any washboard fatigue, and relatively wide tires provided decent floatation when crossing brief stretches of sand. As for the X-drive system, it was entirely seamless throughout.

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Red represents and example of where we drove; blue where we hiked. I'm guessing the X3 dirtied itself over 75 miles of dirt, sand and rocks over a period of 6 hours, give or take.

Not surprisingly, that tank's mpg, which I isolated by refilling as soon as possible after returning to civilization with some 135 miles on the clock, ranks as the X3's worst so far at 15.3 mpg.

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What's the payoff aside from a day out with friends? Maybe you'll find a big ammo can. Could be a 35mm film cannister. Anything waterproof and critter-proof, really. Some are easy to find, others are pure evil. In all cases there's a log to sign. Sometimes there's swag to trade.

If nothing else geocaching is an incentive to get up off the couch and get outside, oftentimes to an out-of-the-way someplace that maybe you didn't realize you could get to before.

I'm in because there's always a car and often a hike involved, two things I enjoy. And it's sort of an outdoor multiplayer videogame that uses a handheld GPS unit or your favorite smartphone instead of a controller.

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I've got other trips planned to grab more remote caches higher up in the mountains, and for those I'll take our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. On this route, at least, the BMW X3 did just fine.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,322 miles

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