The Driver's Choice (Begrudgingly) - 2012 BMW X3 Long-Term Road Test

2012 BMW X3 Long Term Road Test

2012 BMW X3: The Driver's Choice (Begrudgingly)

June 01, 2012


While driving our BMW X3 last night, I came to the conclusion that I quite begrudgingly would pick it if I wanted a compact luxury SUV. This despite the fact that it has a bloated pig face, I don't like iDrive and BMW's adjustable drive settings drive me up the flippin' wall. Thinking about it just sort of bugs me.

But then the driving position with its truly brilliant seats fits me just perfectly. They even have adjustable bolsters. The steering wheel comes out just far enough, it's the perfect shape and it feels good in my hands. The pedals are placed perfectly for left-foot braking, a skill that's not only useful when on a track but also to mitigate ankle discomfort caused by constantly fanning my foot between the accelerator and brake.

Then there's the transmission's manual mode. Normally, I never use paddle shifters or the +/- gate in automatic cars, yet I do in BMWs. There's a nice resistance to the shifters themselves, but more importantly, BMW has built in just a little harshness to the shift and throttle engagement to make the process feel a little more like the real thing. You actually feel that your action directly caused a mechanical action. Even some dual-clutch automanuals don't do this.

And of course, there's also the responsive steering, (relatively) nimble handling and the turbocharged inline-6 that blows everything else in the class away. Of course, it's also the only engine in the class that possesses that sort of power and is subsequently extremely expensive relative its competitors.

In total, it's the driver's choice. And as much as I prefer the looks, COMAND, lack of adjustable drive settings and just the general Mercedesness of the GLK350, I know I'd end up siding with all those little things that make life interesting when behind the wheel. That's the X3. Damn it.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,674 miles

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