January 23, 2013
If you hear an echo while conversing within the X3, it's probably the sound of your voice reverberating within the SUV's fairly cavernous door bins. Small SUVs aren't always known for offering generous storage nooks, but the X3 bucks this trend by offering door bins that are bigger and roomier than those of many rival models.
Of course, if you're buying an X3, you probably aren't buying it for its magnificently sized door bins. But it's nice to know that they're there if you need the extra storage space.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
January 14, 2013
My wife, thankfully, is seriously considering replacing her aging VW Jetta with a new car. I've never liked her car, so seeing it go will be a happy day.
She would like to get something nicer, something bigger, more capable. We've got dogs, a possible future family, and the George Carlin "more stuff" syndrome. Mentioning she likes the looks of the current generation of the X3, I finagled the keys to our Long-Termer.
Both the wife and I immediately liked the beautiful interior, the ample power, and the feel in the steering, but it rode a little harsh for us. To soften things up I guess we wouldn't need the Sport Package. The leather is fantastic, but there is no way on God's green Earth I'd ever allow my dogs to just ride in the back seat without some kind of seat cover. Say you got those seat covers and there was a baby seat back in the second row, would you let two 60-pound dogs ride shotgun to said youth? Neither would I. Into the back with you two mangy mutts!
That's what sealed the deal for me. The dogs barely had enough room to move around and there is no way you'd also get a suitcase/anything else back there. Any additional gear would have to ride shotgun with the future child, and it'd be limited at that. I need room for my stuff while I go out and buy more stuff.
My wife was sad. So was I. This is a great car, but not as the solo family truckster. Honestly, I knew a small SUV was going to have this problem, but I had to see it with my own eyes. Gotta look to vehicles a bit bigger than this.
Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography @ 22,873 miles
January 7, 2013
We're well past the 20,000-mile mark on the X3 now and its interior is holding up very well. Its front seat — even the bolsters — show virtually no wear. Carpets in both the driver's foot well and the cargo area appear rugged and the shifter still looks new. It's what we expect in all cars at the end of a long-term test.
January 4, 2012
We lucked out with taking our 2012 BMW X3 for our Christmas road trip up north. "Score" because we were hauling three adults, all their gear, Christmas presents and my dog Mya. I could have sworn I did a dog report on this car before but turns out that was editor Scott Oldham who put his dog in the cargo area.
I usually buckle Mya in. And as you can see she's all comfy and cozy in the X3's backseat. There was some minor complaint from my brother the other backseat passenger, "She keeps kicking me" but that was the extent of it. The X3's backseat comes with all the comforts for dogs: rear vents for air, screens for privacy as well as easy-to-clean leather and lots of storage space for her gear.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
January 3, 2013
I knew the restaurant was somewhere in midtown Sacramento, I just didn't remember where. But when I plugged in the name of the restaurant in our 2012 BMW X3's nav, it couldn't find it. The nearest place resembling the name of the restaurant I was looking for was over 400 miles away. BUT when I plugged it into the Google function of our nav it found it right away. What gives?
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
December 03, 2012
It's a nice interior, right? Tightly stitched Nevada leather upholstery, minimal wood accents, brushed metal trim. Feels like it could be the lobby of a hip Chicago hotel or something. The shifter, iDrive controller and center stack all canted toward the driver. The form-fitting seats and perfect wheel heft.
You realize this is where BMW starts to earn its money. You don't have to be an enthusiast to appreciate these refinements. Sure the engines are great and the steering is benchmark. But how you feel when you slide behind the wheel of the X3 or 3 Series serves as a daily reminder of money well spent. It feels like success.
BMW obviously isn't the only automaker to understand this psychology, but they might exploit it better than most. When you can get into a 328i lease for about the price of a combined cable, internet and mobile phone bill, success suddenly looks and feels a little more immediate.
But you won't be leasing our $53,000 X3 for $339 a month like you might a 2013 328i. This kind of success might still make you wait until you get the corner office.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
November 23, 2012
Usually the front passenger gets the bum deal in that their seat doesn't get all the bells and whistles the driver does. And if there is some adjustability there, it's usually manual. But not so with our 2012 BMW X3! Case in point, driving on the 10 West toward the setting sun, when the huge visor can't block out the sun, just quickly adjust the height of the seat. And there's no ratcheting of it, it's power-adjustable.
November 13, 2012
Every now and then it happens. I think I'm driving a car with a manual transmission when it's not and I inadvertently shut off the car when it's in drive. This usually doesn't cause a problem, but rarely does it cure one.
The problem: BMW's odd gear selector that feels like an electric razor. I've never been a fan, and I'd prefer to use it as little as possible. When I mistakenly shut off our X3 while it was still in gear, it automatically put it in park. Sweet! That's one less action I have to undertake with the shifter. I still need to do a little research to make sure it doesn't hurt anything, but my guess is no, it doesn't.
Sometimes, it's the little victories you have to savor.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 19,126 miles
November 08, 2012
I like the color combo seen here in our X3. There's something very retro about the contrast between the leather and the wood. The shades of brown, the grain of the wood paneling -- very '70s. Click after the jump for a trip back in the time machine.
October 30, 2012
This past weekend we took our long-term 2012 BMW X3 to Anza-Borrego Desert in San Diego County for an overnight camping trip. I scored the back of the X3, which has a maximum cargo volume of 63.3 cubic feet, since there wasn't enough room in the two-man tent for two people AND a dog. My dog Mya's snoring usually wakes me up anyway. Here's my review.
Pros: Quiet cabin that kept out the sounds from the nearby bonfire shenanigans, rear-seat shades shielded bed from some of the morning sunlight, pockets on front-seat backs provide perfect spot for storing flashlight and smartphone for easy access, not completely fold flat but not too much of an incline, those with phobias don't feel as vulnerable to wild animals or ax murderers than they would in a tent.
Cons: Those taller than 5'6" will have to sleep at an angle, as it was I had to scooch up a bit putting the top of my head between the front seats so that my feet wouldn't hit the liftgate.
Since I'm not much of a camper, I actually preferred sleeping in the X3 to a tent. Even though the "bed" was still hard despite using a Thermarest and cushion, I was able to sleep straight through most of the night. I would definitely sleep there again.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
October 19, 2012
The BMW X3's sun visors do not extend. They should. As the photo shows, there is a significant gap between the visor and B pillar that is easily exploited by our nearest star. I imagine this is made worse by the fact I sit so far back.
At this price point, this is a disappointing missing feature.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
October 4, 2012
Sometimes I feel the BMW X3 was designed for me. Its larger sibling, the X5, is too big for me to have everything I need within reach. The petite X3 has everything in Donna size. With that said...
Despite the many ways you can configure the driver seat in the 2012 BMW X3, I can never seem to get it just right. You probably remember the time that I got my fingers stuck in the manual seat cushion lever. Well, I learned to not do that again.
It's the power controls I've been fussing with lately. They allow you to move the seat forward, back, up, down, tilt, etc. You can adjust the width of the back support separately from the lumbar support. It does so many things. BUT, I can't get the back of the seat cushion to go low enough for me so I can reach the pedals properly. I lower the seat as far as it can go and then I can only tilt it forward to make it go lower. The back of the cushion won't budge. I have to compensate by tilting the backrest further back.
I can get myself into a safe driving position but it's not as comfortable as I would like. I wish the back of the seat cushion could go a little bit lower. BMW has thought of everything except the shortness of my legs.
Nice three-level heat, though ;)
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 17,048 miles
September 12, 2012
I'm sure back seat passengers appreciate the option to block the bright sun with the the BMW X3's pull up sunshades, but as the driver, they make me crazy, especially the one on the left side.
Every time I glace over my left shoulder to change lanes, I'm startled by the appearance of the sunshade. It's not like it reduces visibility, but it always takes a millisecond for my brain to register what the heck it is.
Keep those things down, please.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,681 miles
September 10, 2012
This you've seen before. It's the side of the cargo floor that you always see in an X3 -- carpet, recessed handle, fits perfectly, etc. But wait, there's more.
September 4, 2012
BMW does a good job of making the passenger feel isolated from the road. Not much road or wind noise intrudes on your driving.
I noticed yesterday that a fire engine with flashing lights was barreling down the road toward me. I pulled over along with the other drivers on the road and let it pass. But I couldn't really hear the siren. I heard the big air horn but it wasn't until the truck was actually passing me that I heard the siren. The sound inside the X3 was muffled. I had the air conditioner going and the radio on but neither were very loud.
Have you ever had an emergency vehicle sneak up on you? Are our cars getting too insulated?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 15,282 miles
June 11, 2012
Of fortuitous coincidence, I happen to have a first-generation BMW X3 on hand. (It's my wife's car.) Since I've been driving our long-term X3, it seemed only natural to compare the two and see where the differences lie.
A little background reading on the first-generation X3, should you want it: The X3 debuted for 2004 and lasted until 2010. In reviews of the time, the X3 typically earned praise for its sharp handling (it was related to the "E46" 3 Series) but took a lot of flak for its harsh ride and disappointing interior materials. For the '07 refresh, BMW introduced a number of changes, including an upgraded interior, a retuned suspension and more power (a 260-hp 3.0-liter inline-6). You could get a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic (five-speed previous to '07), and all-wheel drive was standard.
My wife's X3 is a 2008 with 45,000 miles on it. She's owned it since December of last year as a certified pre-owned model. Major options include the Premium package (leather seating), the Sport package (firmer suspension, sport seats, full body-color exterior) and the 19-inch wheels (available only with the Sport package).
The two X3s here are pretty representative of BMW's driving dynamics path for the past half decade. I'll sum it up this way: more power, less responsiveness. There's no question that our long-term X3, with its 300 turbocharged horses, is quicker. And I really do love this engine. It's just bonkers that you can pull a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds in a small SUV. The eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters is nice, too. It shifts quicker than the older six-speed, has rev-matched downshifts and never seems intrusive. You even get better fuel economy with this powertrain: 19/26/21 for the 2012 X3, and 17/24/20 for the 2008 X3. (The '13 X3 with the new 2.0-liter turbo-4, incidentally, will get 21/28/24.)
Another new X3 advantage: ride quality. The first-gen X3 rode more comfortably after the '07 refresh, but most reviewers at the time said it was marginal. Yet my wife's '08 has not only the sport-tuned suspension but the 19-inch wheels as well. It's as stiff as the first-gen X3 got. (Yet my wife is not, as you might think, a car enthusiast. At the time of purchase, she merely liked the monochromatic exterior look of the Sport package plus the shiny 19s. Basically, she was willing to trade comfort for style.) Our '12 long-termer rides more comfortably, for sure.
But I will say this: reports of the first-gen's X3's crap ride quality are a little exaggerated in my opinion. Perhaps if all you did is drive on downtown LA or Detroit streets, you'd hate it. But even with this maximum attack X3, the ride is acceptable from a car enthusiast stand point. Plus, you get something out of it: impressively sharp handling and steering. I suppose that sounds a little silly -- if that's what you care about, why buy a SUV? -- but if you need the utility and can own only one car, it kind of works out. Around corners, the '08 X3 has more communicative steering and a more playful nature. It seems to have more grip, too, as it's currently fitted with Pirelli summer-spec tires.
Another '08 advantage: throttle response. There's no electronic adjustability here because it's just done right to start with.
Interior and Features
I like the interior of both X3s. From a quick observational standpoint, there's not a whole lot of difference. Interior room seems about the same, as does comfort and interior material quality. But there are two areas that the '12 is superior.
The first one is interior storage. There's just a lot more room to put your stuff in the '12. The '08 has just one cupholder, its door bins are small and it doesn't have a center stack cubby.
The other is electronic interfaces. The '08 has an auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth, so it's not completely stone age. But the Bluetooth microphone doesn't work very well, and I'm not sure if you can get satellite radio from the stock head unit. In contrast, the '12 has a sharp-looking display screen, an iPod interface, Bluetooth (with streaming audio), satellite radio navigation and an iDrive system that's vastly superior to what BMW was offering in '08. (My wife's X3 doesn't have navigation, thankfully. And in some ways, not having iDrive whatsoever is kind of nice.)
Summing it all up, it does seem that the 2012 X3 is superior in just about every fashion. It's certainly better thought out, with BMW's second-gen changes being nicely aimed at the majority of small luxury crossover shoppers. But my wife still seems pretty happy with her X3. And it cost a lot less than our $53,000 long-termer. I'll have some of her opinions on the subject later this week.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,100 miles
March 07, 2012
Sorry for the above blurry photo of my friend Matt and his girlfriend playing with our long-term 2012 BMW X3's center armrest. But I had to capture the moment when tech-savvy, 20-something Matt couldn't figure out that this was a mobile phone dock. I mean, he uses an iPad as his store's cash register!
July 03, 2012
The other day Mike wrote about being able to manually adjust the thigh support in our BMW X3. To comfortably fit my shorter legs, I need the seat extender tucked all the way back in.
Last night, I couldn't get the plastic handle pictured above to move. I had to get out of the car and try it from a side angle. Then it finally shot back into the seat taking two of my fingers with it. I seriously thought I broke my finger tips. I almost fell to the ground in pain. It was like slamming my fingers in the door.
After the pain quieted down, I was able to determine that I did not break my fingers. But the nails on those two fingers almost lifted off.
It hurts to type this.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
March 13, 2012
Here's a look inside the 2012 BMW X3. The leather color that I mention is officially called Nevada Chestnut.
Sorry about my weak-sounding voice.
June 07, 2012
Since I have two small children, I'm often wrestling child safety seats into various long-term vehicles. This month's test: our BMW X3. How does our petite Bavarian handle the latest supersized safety seats?
BMW versus Britax, read on.
First up was the easy test, the Recaro booster pictured above. It fits in just about every back seat just fine. Other than having to move the head restraint up a little for clearance (which is very normal), there certainly weren't any issues here.
February 03, 2012
Photo by Kurt Niebuhr
In general, I'm pretty boring when it comes to car interiors. I like basic black, which may explain why I gravitate towards Audi cabins. Our new long-term BMW X3, however, is pretty far from basic.
Red leather. To me, red leather belongs in a silver roadster; preferably a vintage Porsche of some sort. But in an SUV?
May 09, 2012
With all due respect to the esteemed editor, I disagree with his disagreement with our X3's interior color. In this world where every car comes in four shades of gray, two whites, two blacks, a beige and maybe a token dark red you'll never find on a dealer lot, it's refreshing any time there's a pop of color on display.
Just the other day I was driving a BMW 650i Convertible with an all black interior. It was dour and felt in no way special despite its elevated price point. Contrast that with our BMW X3 King Ranch interior, which feels richer due to its mix of colors, textures and materials. The color is distinctive, I love the contrast stitching and the Chestnut Red, which is actually darker than the picture above shows, is much less gaudy than the brighter Imola Red of our old M3.
Frankly, I'm for anything in a car these days that brings in some color. Even a Furious Fuchsia Challenger is looking good right about now. Having said all that, however, I must also say that I'm not a big fan of our exterior/interior color combination. Brown with canyon red is just a little too, well, King Ranch for my tastes. I don't think it works. So brown good, red good, but not so much together.
Still, I'd rather have it than be like every old Joe on the street with gray out, black in.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
June 19, 2012
This isn't the first time our X3's flimsy cell phone holder has been called out and it probably won't be the last. I say this mainly because the nearly useless holder (you need an adapter for your particular phone to actually make it work) is constantly in the way when you're trying to either store something in the console or plug in an adapter.
Sure, I get the fact that BMW was looking to create something a little more substantial for storing your cellphone while driving, but even if I had the adapter I doubt I would bother using it. There's also the fact that it's a cheap-feeling plastic lid is anything but sturdy. A definite misfire in an otherwise well thought out interior.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line
July 02, 2012
Over the past couple of weeks, in roughly four trips, I've put some 1,100 miles on our 2012 BMW X3 and the (manually) adjustable thigh support made it is relaxing and pleasant as possible.
Too many cars today have annoyingly short seats that make you feel like you're sitting on a step after about 20 minutes behind the wheel. This solution probably doesn't cost a ton (compared with electronic ones), but is worth every penny.
March 14, 2012
adavis2493 asked about the rear cupholders in the BMW X3. When you lower the center console in the rear seat, you can access two pop-up cupholders. There are no cupholders in the back of the front center console. So, if you have a third passenger who is sitting in the middle, you are out of luck.
April 09, 2012
This weekend we drove the long-term 2012 BMW X3 up to Mammoth Lakes in Central California. Editor JayKav did all of the driving so I'll leave those impressions, plus trip fuel economy, to him. But here's what a front-seat and backseat passenger think of the compact SUV over 600 miles.
Front-seat passenger (me): In terms of seat comfort, honestly I didn't find it especially comfortable. The taut seat leather doesn't have much give so it's kind of hard to sit on for a long period of time. And the side bolsters get in the way of relaxing arms, as they do in most cars equipped with them. Maybe it was just problematic for someone of my stature where the bolsters fall just so, pushing the upper arms forward. And naturally, this is fine for a driver who has both hands on the steering wheel, but for someone who just wants to lie back, it wasn't the best as I kept trying to find a comfortable way to sit.
I did like the fact that as a passenger, I can plug in destinations into the nav system even while the car is moving. Especially crucial when there's no phone signal to access Yelp and you need to find the nearest rest stop.
And since the driver and I tend to disagree on what's a comfortable temperature, dual climate controls were greatly appreciated.
Overall the ride was smooth and quiet.
Backseat passenger: My friend Esther shared the backseat with a couple of snowboards poking in from the cargo area but had nothing but nice things to say about her experience back there. "The seatback is at the right angle to be comfortable. Usually backseats that don't adjust tend to be too upright for me," she said. And since she's 5'4" she enjoyed plenty of legroom and even stuck her big purse in the footwell.
Having rear controls was also nice as she could adjust fan speed and temperature via the handy dandy dials located behind the front center console.
But she ended up storing her small water bottle in the door bin instead of the fold-down armrest with the cupholders, for more elbow room.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 6,355 miles
May 08, 2012
The interior of our X3 is is hard to fault in terms of its ergonomics, ease of use and overall build quality. I looked, and looked again, and couldn't find any signs of cost cutting. Yeah, I know, an SUV that costs this much shouldn't have signs of cost cutting, but some do.
These seats are as good as the ones in our A8 that costs twice as much, and note the thickness of that steering wheel. It feels great in your hands even if the steering isn't quite as direct as a 3 Series sedan.
About the only thing that would make this interior better is a pair of black seats. Who ordered those anyway? Oh, the boss, that's right. Maybe they're not so bad.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line