February 02, 2012
Brake brake brake. Downshift downshift. Turn in slowly, power on and, whoa, countersteer? Countersteer! Stay in it! Stay in it! Weee!
Exiting a tight corner in our new long-term 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i, we can't help but suspect that BMW is still thinking "Ultimate Driving Machine" and not "Joy." The all-new-for-2011 crossover may have an improved ride and better interior materials, but on this twisty stretch of tarmac we're hanging with a Lotus Elise, and that powerless old chap doesn't know what to do with a grocery-getter sliding around in his rearview.
During our 12-month and 20,000-mile long-term test of this 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i there will be plenty of time to test the utility, function, ride quality, fuel economy and family-friendliness; for this moment, though, we're happy to be in Sport+ in a CUV that allows the driver to make the decisions.
What We Got
There are two distinct flavors of the 2012 BMW X3: xDrive28i and xDrive35i. Both come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, Servtronic power steering, Bluetooth, iDrive, iPod adapter and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The difference, then, comes down to displacement. The xDrive28i comes with the adequate but soon-to-be-phased-out naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6. It makes 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque and we had no interest in this future collector's item.
Instead, we opted for the xDrive35i and its turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. This motor twists out 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Not only is this significantly more powerful than the non-turbo version, but it manages better fuel economy to boot, with EPA numbers of 19 city/26 highway mpg and a combined rating of 21 mpg.
Besides a power difference, there's obviously a price to pay as well. The xDrive35i starts at $42,700 — $5,600 more than the xDrive28i. From there we added the Sport Activity package for $1,750. It adds 19-inch alloy wheels, the nice supportive sport seats, anthracite headliner, a sport steering wheel with paddles and a sport automatic transmission. We balanced that with the $700 Cold Weather package that heats the steering wheel and front seats and gives a split-folding rear seat.
The Premium package was next. It weights up the sticker to the tune of $3,450 and includes a power tailgate, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors, lumbar support, storage package and ambience lighting. For $3,200 we got the Technology package, too, with its rearview camera, park distance control, navigation with real-time traffic, Bluetooth audio and BMW assist. A $550 paint color, satellite radio and BMW Apps make up the rest of the charges.
Including destination and delivery, our new 2012 BMW xDrive35i carries a sticker price of $53,845. There was no room to negotiate, however, as BMW loaned us the vehicle for the test.
Why We Got It
It took awhile for compact luxury SUVs to catch on. At first they were looked down upon as entry-level price busters that allowed less well-heeled buyers to get in a luxury brand without paying too much. But then big SUVs suddenly went out of style while small, more fuel-efficient utilities started to look like smart buys. The X3 was there to capitalize, along with the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK.
In 2011, the BMW X3 underwent a full redesign. It softened some of the previous X3's harder edges, like its overly stiff ride quality and less-than-impressive interior. The 2011 X3 managed to fix both of those problems while still straddling the line between a sporty drive and a comfortable ride.
In our first drive of the 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i, we concluded that the new made-in-the-USA X3 was more grown up, more refined and, despite being bigger, still held a valuable spot between the X1 and the X5.
The 2012 X3 promises more space, more power, better fuel economy and a better ride. But will it hold up to our expectations? Follow along on our Long-Term Road test blog for the next 12 months as we put 20,000 miles on our new X3 xDrive35i.
Current Odometer: 1,585
Best Fuel Economy: 21.5
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.0
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 20.4
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.