2012 BMW X3 Long Term Road Test

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2012 BMW X3: The Rise of the Compact SUV

January 22, 2013

2012 BMW X3

The sales numbers are in for 2012 and things look pretty good for the compact SUV segment.

As usual, the list is dominated by brawny trucks, practical midsize sedans and frugal compact four-doors. But this year, the lineup sees a growing number of small SUVs, with both the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape logging strong sales. It's a development that shows just how popular compact SUVs are becoming with the average American car buyer.

Of course, from its striking red leather interior to its atypically brisk acceleration, our sharp X3 is a cut above these more mundane choices (and no, the X3 isn't in the top 10). It's also, of course, a lot pricier. But it boasts many of the traits that make this segment so appealing: versatility, decent cargo capacity and a pleasantly tall seating position, all contained within a footprint that's small enough to ensure easy maneuverability.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Tire Wear

January 8, 2013

2012 BMW X3

After more than 22,000 miles, the X3's tires — front and rear — have plenty of life remaining. There's ample rubber standing proud of the wear indicators. And the fact that we tested this SUV seems lost on these tires despite their very reasonable grip.

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2012 BMW X3: Wearing Well

January 7, 2013

2012 BMW X3

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.

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2012 BMW X3: Power To Please

December 28, 2012

2012 BMW X3

Man, there's just no replacement for the kind of punch that our 2012 BMW X3 delivers when you're dealing with moronic holiday freeway traffic. I took the X3 from Los Angeles to Sacramento and back and was so glad I didn't take something pokier. Sure, on I-5 there were the usual "left-lane trains," but this time there were scads and scads brain-dead motorists just crawling along in the left lane without a clue in the world that it's a passing lane. It was like a zombie slalom out there, and the X3's sheer thrust helped make a crummy drive a little more bearable.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Hauls a 12-ft. Christmas Tree

December 24, 2012

2012 BMW X3

My plan was to haul home the Oldham family Christmas tree on the roof of our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National. I'm rebellious that way, and I knew such a jerk move would fire up the haters and firing up the haters has become a hobby of mine lately.

But I reconsidered. Strapping a 12-foot tall and very heavy Christmas tree to the original paint of our pristine 25-year old Buick would not be cool. So I used our long-term 2012 BMW X3, which has become a favorite of mine since it joined our fleet 11 months ago.

It was a smart move. The X3 handled the job without any drama, despite the large size of the tree and my children insisting that they help strap it to the roof. Thankfully it didn't fly off on the short drive home, but it wasn't exactly 100% secure either. We kept a close eye on it through the X3's large glass sunroof and it shifted more than a few of times. Next year I think we'll get a smaller tree.

Merry Christmas.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 21,200 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Tire Pressure Warning

December 17, 2012

2012 BMW X3

I got a TPMS warning on the X3 last weekend. Turns out, all the tires were about five psi low — no tire was a stand out. A few minutes with the air compressor and a tire gauge turned the light off.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor @ about 21,000 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Best Approach Lighting in the Business

December 05, 2012

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Even my disheveled garage* looks nice when there's a 2012 BMW X3 parked in it. Although I'm not a fan of the recent direction BMW has taken in styling its vehicles (with an exception for the 6 Series Gran Coupe and an even bigger exception for the short-lived 1 Series M... that car had such a great stance), the designers always figure out a way to make them look great at night.

From the blue glow of the projector-type HID headlights accented by the amber turn signals, to the little LEDs on the underside of each door handle, to the wash of red taillights on the back of the garage door, the X3 after-dark is a distinctive and awesome sight. I was just going out to put my gym bag in it around 11 o'clock last night and just seeing it all lit up put me in a festive mood.

Anyone would feel good walking up to a car that looks like this when you unlock it. It's one of the little things that makes modern BMWs endearing (after inline-6 engines, steering feel and other more substantive stuff). Once you own one, you're going to want another one.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 20,402 miles

*It's disheveled, yes, but there's a method to my disorganization, like the strategically placed box on the lower right that prevents me from crashing into the dryer.

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2012 BMW X3: 20,000 Miles Behind Us

November 30, 2012

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We are in month ten of our 12-month test and the odometer of our 2012 BMW X3 just reached 20,000 miles. That was fast.

So far we've spent nothing to maintain the X3. BMW's free scheduled maintenance plan covered these routine expenses. It's seen the dealer for an oil change, new oil filter, washer fluid top-off and, at one visit, a quart of coolant. Aside from the one-time low coolant warning, it's been standard stuff.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 20,000 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Shortcut?

November 13, 2012

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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

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2012 BMW X3 vs 2013 Bmw X3 xDrive28i

November 07, 2012

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The turbo four finally made its way into the 2013 BMW X3, how does it stack up against our boosted six-cylinder 2012 X3?

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i vs. 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i Track Test

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2012 BMW X3: After the Storm

October 30, 2012

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The smart boys and girls of our Edmunds data team have been getting all kinds of questions from the media regarding the impact that Hurricane Sandy will have on the automotive industry. Here's what our Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell had to say:

"The storm likely will have an impact on October sales, especially since it comes at the end of the month, but those sales won't disappear altogether. If anything, it'll make November an interesting month to watch, not just for the deferred sales, but also because hurricane-damaged vehicles could unexpectedly force several buyers back into the market."

Our data team expects luxury brands -- such as Acura, BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- to be most impacted by the hurricane, since they rely heavily on big East Coast markets. In BMW's case, the New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. markets account for 23.2 percent of total sales.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Perfect for Glamping?

October 30, 2012

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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

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2012 BMW X3: Skip A Lease Payment, On the House

October 25, 2012

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Lexus was the undisputed U.S. sales king of the luxury-car segment for a long while, but that changed last year when BMW snatched the crown, outselling both Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Things aren't looking as rosy for BMW this year, though, since Mercedes-Benz is leading the brand in year-to-date sales.

BMW's answer? Incentives! The brand is offering a pretty generous incentive program -- good through the end of this month -- that allows lease owners to skip payments if they buy a new vehicle. The X3 is included in the program, along with most of the manufacturer's lineup.

Though BMW has reduced incentive spending by 4.8 percent so far this year (and has invested less than Mercedes-Benz on incentive spending year-to-date), the brand still spends about "37 percent more per vehicle than the industry average on discounts and promotions."

Businessweek

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Extended Sun Visors Needed

October 19, 2012

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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

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2012 BMW X3: A Look Underneath

October 5, 2012

By now you know the routine. This time it's our 2012 BMW X3 up on our 2-post Rotary Lift. Enjoy.

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2012 BMW X3: These Pedals are too Close

September 21, 2012

The gas and brake pedals in our 2012 BMW X3 are too close together for my feet. A contributing factor to my disapproval is that I tend to brake with the inside of my foot. See the above picture and look at the degree of gas pedal overlap. I tried to retrain myself to use more of my foot in the picture below. But there is still significant overlap.

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2012 BMW X3: I Can't Hear You

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

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2012 BMW X3: The Ahhh Moment

August 30, 2012

Does your car give you the "ahhhh" moment?

After a long day at work, or if you've been outside a long time, or doing something stressful, and then you trudge through the parking lot and finally get into your car. And then you smile and say, "ahhhh. My car. Take me home."

Does your car give you that feeling of comfort and hominess? It should. That's how the BMW X3 feels to me.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

P.S. Our comment system is working again. Thanks for your patience.

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2012 BMW X3: Fifteen K and OK

August 27, 2012

I managed to remain in our long-term BMW X3 for an entire week and ran it into the 15,000-mile range on the odometer. In the process, it became one of my favorite SUVs. More on that later.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 15,000 miles

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2012 BMW X3: I Could Get Used To This

June 04, 2012

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The small crossover segment (Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, et al) is one of the most popular out there. It's not hard to figure out why: these things work out really well for a broad specturm of buyers. Trouble is, few, if any, are something you'd actually lust to own.

The BMW X3 comes close, though. I doubt I'd ever spend my days dreaming about one and spending hours on the BMW configurator. But geez, this thing is really nice, and certainly more desirable than a mainstream crossover. Like others have written before, it's pretty much a 335i on stilts. Very nice interior, high-end features, useful cargo area, pretty sharp handling and, the kicker, a cracking turbo inline-6 paired to a responsive eight-speed auto.

OK, yes, our tester costs $53,000. Innumerable other cars come to mind for that price. But as small crossovers go, I'd be very happy with this one.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,930 miles

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BMW X3: Owner's Manual Hit Parade

April 03, 2012

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As I was downloading an owner's manual at the BMW USA site recently, I noticed that a bit of mousing across the screen opens pop-up windows that purport to tell you the popular topics for each BMW vehicle's manual. That seemed cool, until I realized that the topics don't vary much from car to car, and they don't change from day to day. So these do not appear to be real rankings of the info owners are checking out. Pity.

But wouldn't it be cool if they were? Counting down to No. 1 on the owner's manual hit parade, what would you expect to find as the five most popular topics? And would they they vary from vehicle to vehicle?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @5,511 miles

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2012 BMW X3: How It Compares

February 09, 2012

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I remember our 2005 BMW X3 well. It was in the pre-LTRTB era. On a weekend trip I drove it to Santa Barbara and back to Los Angeles with three passengers. The previous X3 had a very -- and I mean VERY -- stiff suspension. As the driver, I enjoyed the stiff ride but rear passengers felt every bump on the road. This new 2012 X3 is not soft by any means, but noticeably less harsh. I also found it easier to climb in and out and it feels roomier.

A lot of you are asking why we got this vehicle, no one could possibly be interested in the X3. Well, since inception the BMW X3 has sold over 600,000 units worldwide, leading this segment. So somebody cares. I know I do. This is exactly the type of vehicle I would consider purchasing. I would cross-shop it with my new crush, the 2013 Acura RDX and my old flame, the Audi A4 wagon.

I pulled out a few specs for comparison between our two long-termers seven years apart.

 

2012 BMW X3

2005 BMW X3

Width 74.1 in. 73.0 in.
Height 65.4 in. 66.0 in.
Length 183.0 in. 179.7 in.
Wheelbase 110.6 in. 110.1 in.
Curb weight 4,112 lbs. 4,001 lbs.
     
Front head room 40.7 in. 39.3 in.
Front leg room 39.9 in. 40.2 in.
Front shoulder room 57.3 in. 55.8 in.
     
Rear head room 39.1 in. 39.4 in.
Rear leg room 36.8 in. 35.8 in.
Rear shoulder room 56.0 in. 55.4 in.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 BMW X3: What Is That?

March 07, 2012

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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!

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2012 BMW X3: 10,000 Miles

July 02, 2012

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We introduced our Long Term 2012 BMW X3 on February 2, 2012. And now, on July 2nd, we've hit 10,000 miles. (Actually, this achievement happened on June 30th, but that doesn't sound as good.)

In these five months we've averaged 18.6 mpg and have had zero issues. The keyless still hates me, everyone loves the N55, the center console is full of antiques and it holds small and medium boxes quite well.

Not surprisingly, this is a popular one and 20,000 miles shouldn't be a problem.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line @ 10,000 Miles

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2012 BMW X3: What Do You Want?

February 06, 2012

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Judging from all the comments on the intro blog post for our new 2012 BMW X3, sounds like a lot of you are already bored by this long-term trial before it even began. "I literally could not care less. I tried to care less and failed," said commenter mkboyardee, which made me giggle but also made me wonder, what could we possibly cover that would interest you?

I mean, you have no interest in hearing how much I liked driving the X3 over the weekend? That I loved the way it handled and how much power it has? How I'd gladly pick it as my road trip vehicle, rush-hour savior, dog-toting mobile? And, oh, don't get me started on those fab seat heaters.

So out of curiosity, what would you like to see us blog about on our X3?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 1,975 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Family Resemblance

February 08, 2012

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I had a deja vu moment as I got into our BMW X3 yesterday. The key fob felt familiar, but it was bigger and chunkier in my hand. The seat's excellent lumbar adjustments were at my fingertips as always, but as I settled in, I sure had a whole lot loftier vista than usual. The iDrive was right where it belonged, but it was a mere island in the Fineline Sienna wood-trimmed console. I couldn't initially find the USB port -- it was lurking under a phone tray. Phone pairing was a snap -- just like always.

What the heck, you ask, is she talking about?

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2012 BMW X3: Not Enough Juice?

June 08, 2012

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My co-worker Carroll sent me a couple links (here and here) to some forum chatter about the new X3's battery. Specifically, some owners are finding that their X3s' batteries are becoming drained or severely discharged when the vehicle's not in constant use.

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2012 BMW X3: At the Wedding of the Century

July 24, 2012

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Like most of the long-term test fleet, the BMW X3 found its way last weekend to the Wedding of the Century. And it did great doing it.

No complaints about the package, because the upright passenger seating keeps everybody from getting wrinkled, and apparently this is really important since you're wearing stuff that not only hasn't been worn in this company before but also something that isn't even entirely familiar to said company. Or so I'm told, as apparently my otherwise extensive experience has so far left me unfamiliar with these rules of wedding behavior.

But really, the thing I noticed is that the BMW X3 didn't look dowdy in the parking lot like some boring old BMW sedan, which is something that is worn everywhere and is entirely too familiar.

Every time I see our BMW X3, it seems both fresh and striking. Every time I see a post-Bangle BMW sedan, it looks like another piece of sausage from the same sausage from which BMW makes all its sedans these days. It's as if the challenges of sports-utility package bring out the best in the BMW designers, while the sedan package has so much brand baggage that it can't move forward.

When you're in the company of the BMW X3, you feel pretty snappy and fashion forward. Everything else looks as dowdy as Queen Elizabeth II.

It's no wonder that our Erin Riches took the BMW X3 away from us for her post-wedding road trip with her new husband Loren.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 11,154 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Ramp Travel Index

February 04, 2012

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Our 2012 BMW X3 is eligible for the RTI ramp treatment because it is equipped with AWD and is SUV-shaped. If that's not enough acronyms for you, get a job with the DOD (Department of Defense). When I worked there some years ago I had access to a government/military acronym dictionary that was 3 inches think, containing many 3-layer nested sub-acronyms and initialisms. And yes, "fubar" was in there. Not sure about "RTFM." Had to be, right?

But I digress.

This photo above depicts the upper limit reached by our 2012 X3. The lower valance cleared easily at the bottom but as the suspension compressed it came into very slight contact with the cheese grater that is out ramp's traction surface. No little plastic shavings were produced, however.

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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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2012 BMW X3: Excuse for Pretty Pictures

August 08, 2012

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The weather has been really hot and unpleasant here this week. But it makes for great sunsets.

And now for my beat-a-dead-horse A/C review. I wish the air conditioner in the BMW X3 was stronger and quicker acting. It's been the same in most recent BMWs we've had come through here. It just doesn't blast in your face the way most Americans want it to. Well, at least the way this American wants it to. Yes, it cools off the car...eventually. But not quick enough for my hot blood. I can't stand the heat and I like instant gratification.

This is one area where our domestic automakers will always win in my book. We know how to make a strong, cold, Arctic-blast A/C.

And now more pretty pictures.

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2012 BMW X3: You Stay Here While I Go Over There

February 23, 2012

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Sorry, 2012 BMW X3. You'll have to wait here. No, you haven't done anything wrong. It's just that, well, I've never driven one of THOSE before and I don't know when I'll get another chance.

Thanks for carrying me out to Auto Club Speedway, and all -- and my helmet. You've earned a break. Why not chill out and cool down? I'll find you some nice shade.

Wait, what? No, I didn't know I was going to need it. I just carry it along sometimes. Relax. I'll be gone no more than an hour...or four. Promise.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,911 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Keyless Hates Me

June 28, 2012

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I love keyless entry. Love it. If I were new car shopping tomorrow I wouldn't look at a single vehicle without it. No truly keyless? Dealbreaker. "But it has a remote! You just need to press one button!" And dig through my stuff like a common pickpocket? No thanks.

The good news is that our $53,845 BMW X3 has "Comfort Access" keyless entry. The bad news is that it hates me.

Here's how the system is supposed to work:

Step one: Walk up to car
Step two: Place hand in door handle
Step three: Wait a fraction of a second
Step four: Pull handle.
Step five: Enter X3.

This works 1/4 of the time. Here's how it goes the rest of the time for me.

Step one: Walk up to car
Step two: Place hand in door handle
Step three: Wait a fraction of a second
Step four: Keep waiting
Step five: Ram hand in and out like one of those stupid Dyson hair dryers from the airport
Step six: Start randomly, furiously pulling on the handle.
Step seven: Repeat step five.
Step eight: Jam hand in and wait.
Step nine: Magic.
Step 10: Pull handle.
Step 11: Enter X3.

Once in, the start button works 100% of the time. Which is good. But then you have to get out and lock the car, which is bad. Back to the list:

Step one: exit car
Step two: close door
Step three: look for obvious, weather-sealed rubber button to press.
Step four: Remember there isn't one and rub finger over the textured area on the handle.
Step five: Think "Maybe this one you press and hold" and then press finger to handle.
Step six: Wait.
Seven: Rub again.
Eight: Press again.
Nine: Rub harder
Ten: Yell.
Eleven: Press very gently?
Twelve: Magic
Thirteen: Door locks.
Fourteen: Curse. (Repeat step fourteen every other step, actually.)

Now, I've seen Riswick work this system with great success, but no matter what I try, I can't get it to work the right way. I can work ATMs and my iPad, but this touch-based system traps me every time. Systems with a small exterior button that both locks and unlocks are far superior.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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2012 BMW X3: Fob Logic

March 20, 2012

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When you have a new car, it takes a little while to get used to its system of icons and symbols. On the key fob for the 2011 BMW 328i coupe that I bought in December, the lock button is the BMW symbol. It says "lock" just above it. The unlock button is the silver square with the arrow. Easy enough, once you've used it daily. But my husband, who only occasionally drives the car, hasn't quite got it down yet. He fumbles a bit every time he locks the car.

When I drove our long-term X3 last night, I noticed that the fob is slightly different. It doesn't rely on words to describe the button functions. There's a lock icon next to the BMW symbol. And there's an unlock icon on the silver rectangle above it. If you're a looker and not a feeler when it comes to key fobs, it makes a lot more sense.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @4,499 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Would It Be Any Different With RWD?

April 02, 2012

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After considerable seat time, I recently proclaimed that the X3 is a legit alternative to the 3 Series sedan. It drives like one, goes like one (ok, almost like one) and it's not bad looking either.

The one major difference between the two is the X3's standard all-wheel drive. BMW has done a remarkable job of maintaining the X3's steering and handling characteristics for a vehicle with power being routed through the front wheels. Granted, it not always that much power, but it's still something to contend with.

Made me wonder how good this vehicle would be with a pure rear-wheel drive setup? It would save a little weight, give it sharper steering and improve the mileage. Then again, without AWD, would anyone buy it? Probably not. And that's just one of the problems with SUVs.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 5,311 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Cold Comfort

February 07, 2012

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Something's wrong with our new X3's climate control. Judging from the temperature setting shown, you'd think that I was slow-roasting myself on the way home. Not so.

Update: The car is fine. I'm broken.

I usually have automatic climate control systems set to 74 degrees. About three blocks from the office last night, the vents were still blowing cold. I figured that the temperature sensor was wonky, so I turned up the heat. Still cold.

Then I took it out of automatic mode. Nope, still cold. Finally, I turned it all the way up to its maximum of 84 degrees. Finally, I heard a mechanism move behind the dash and warm air poured forth. But if I turned it down to 83 degrees, it went right back to cold. I also tried turning off the AC, but that just made things a little swampy inside.

So there's problem number one, just a week into the long-term test. Let's hope things remain as minor as this.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 2,003 miles

Update: I went down to ensure that the thumb dial is in fact, the culprit. It is. I honestly can't see how this feature is useful, but there it is. Thanks to all who corrected me and for not calling me a mouth-breathing troglodyte.

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2012 BMW X3: The American Solution

February 13, 2012

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It's a long way to here from Germany, but the 2012 BMW X3 shows that the guys there finally know the way. Remember when they were so lost, we thought they'd never get here with the right kind of sport-utility?

Like the very first BMW X5, which was a spectacular hot rod, but had a passenger cabin smaller than a BMW 5 series wagon and a tendency to find a ditch whenever it snowed.

Or the first Mercedes-Benz ML, which was (please don't tell anyone), a minivan concept until sport-utilities got popular in the middle of its development cycle so it got dressed up in SUV clothes.

Or the first Porsche Cayenne, which had a dual-range transfer case because those well-meaning engineers at Weissach R&D were sure that every American really wanted to drive his $70,000 SUV with the $3,000 pearlescent paint option to the top of some pillar of red rock in Moab, Utah.

Instead the new BMW X3 is exactly what Americans have wanted all along, an all-weather wagon with a little room to spread out inside. It's quiet, nice and yet speedy, and so far it doesn't seem like it'll find the ditch when it snows.

It's understandable that the Germans didn't realize that we need a specialized vehicle for this sort of all-weather mobility, since they drive in weather even more fraught than ours in plain old cars. But that's just how we are in America, and it's so far from Germany that you need a pretty big set of binoculars to figure out what's happening from Munich or Stuttgart.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 2,282 miles.

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2012 BMW X3: Bullseye for the Bimmer

March 12, 2012

x3 rr defr.jpg

I noticed this defroster detail on the X3. Usually, the defroster's heating elements (the orange lines) run horizontally across the rear window. As you can see, the X3's are arranged in concentric fashion, echoing the sweep of the wiper. Although it may not make much difference from a strictly functional perspective, aesthetically it's a nice touch.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2012 BMW X3: M I Crazy?

May 31, 2012

X3M_Concept.jpg

I like bonkers SUVs. Our new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 reminded me how much. Like an infected carrier, I brought this pathogen over to our BMW X3 last night. I present to you, the BMW X3 M.

With Photoshop booted-up, I lowered a Euro-spec X3 with the optional M Sport package. I also added a hood bulge (poorly) grew the wheels and made them dark.

But this is all cosmetic. In my head, I'm dropping the 555-hp V8 from the X5 M under the hood. With the shorter wheelbase and lower ride height than the X5, I think the X3 M would be a riot to drive. I also contend that it'll be cooler than a "sport" wagon, yet deliver all of the convenience and utility associated with wagons.

On my wishlist, I'd like a sport exhaust button and center diff that can be adjusted to send all power to the rear wheels. You know, a hoondial.

What do you think?

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Bump it Up

March 16, 2012

BMW strg whl.jpg

While engaging in a rare driving condition recently (an open freeway in L.A.) I engaged the X3's cruise control. This is when I noticed the cruise's bump up/down feature. I know some other luxury brands offer this feature and it comes in handy, especially when traveling on freeways where the speed limit can fluctuate between 65 and 70.

The X3's cruise speed up/down button (rocker switch on left wheel spoke) works like an auto down/up power window switch. Push it lightly and you can adjust the speed by one or more mph, depending on how long you hold it there. Press it briefly and beyond the initial travel (through the "click") and the preset speed automatically moves up or down to the next multiple of 5mph.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2012 BMW X3: I'd Pick It For A Road Trip

June 13, 2012

bmw_x3_skitrip.JPG

Kelly's post today about going to the Grand Canyon with two adults and two "super chatty" 11-year-old girls got me thinking about our X3's road-trip abilities. Not sure how much gear Kelly is planning on taking, but it certainly seems feasible that the X3 would work out. There's enough rear seat legroom plus a decent-sized luggage area. Still, the JX or the Quest would unquestionably be more comfortable for all involved.

In other circumstances, though, I'd gladly take the X3 on a road trip. Jay used it back in April for a snowboarding trip and had only positive things to say. Really, seems like an ideal weekend ski/mountain trip vehicle for two adults and maybe two kids or friends in the back. With the X3, you get turbo power to neutralize elevation horsepower loss, all-wheel drive for wet-weather traction, sporty handling for cornering and an upscale interior and feature list to buff out the experience a little.

Best vehicle in the fleet right now for such a trip, I'd say. (Well, the JGC SRT8 would be cool, too.) All I need now is snow.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,412 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Rear Defroster Hits a Bull's Eye

March 22, 2012

x3_defrost_1600.jpg

It wasn't until I fired up the BMW X3's rear defroster this morning that I noticed its unusual shape. Approximately 10 seconds later, the center of the bull's eye was entirely clear, and the heat began to radiate toward the outer edges.

Later, when I sat down to write this post I read John DiPietro's earlier post on the same topic. Most commenters assumed the defroster wires were set in the round design for aethetics only. But after watching it in action this morning, I definitely think it's more than just a big target for bird poop.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Wastegate Rattle

April 26, 2012

x3_eng_rattle.jpg

At least, that's what I think is causing our longterm 2012 BMW X3's cold start rattle. There's a muted buzzy rattling sound in the background that gradually fades away within fifteen seconds or so after a cold start.

To my ears this is textbook wastegate rattle. Cars that have vacuum-actuated or electronic wastegate actuators hold the 'gates open during a cold start in order to rapidly put some fire in the catalyst bricks, thereby reducing emissions. The open valve then dangles freely and makes the jingling noise until it expands and takes up the clearance. Our longterm Kia Optima Turbo did the same thing.

In general this issue is benign and falls into the 'annoyance' category, rather than the harbinger of an actual serious problem, but not always. We'll have it looked into at the next service.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Subpar AC in Triple Digits

July 04, 2012

too hot x3.jpg

As you may have read, I was in Arizona this past weekend checking out a new potential Long Term car. On my way there the temperature hit triple-digits right around 11am and didn't drop below that until something like 8 pm.

During this time I stayed on the throttle keeping up with the notoriously quick Arizona traffic. The good news is that, despite keeping the AC on full blast, the BMW's temp gauge never moved.

The bad thing is that despite the AC being on full-bore, max, recirculate the entire time, we were still hot the entire time. The "we" in this situation means me and my "I'm always cold no matter what and these seat heaters aren't warm enough" girlfriend.

The X3 may drive great and pull hard, but it can learn a lot from your average GMC Terrain about how to keep Americans cool.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line @ 10,400 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Caution: Filling May Be Hot

March 08, 2012

x3 hot warning.jpg

After popping the X3's hood to check the oil (before realizing it has an electronic oil level monitor), this warning showed up both within the instrument cluster and on the navi's monitor. The boxed-in area where an internal combustion engine resides can be hot? Who knew?

Next thing you know, you'll see warnings on coffee cups cautioning java junkies that indeed that beverage is hot...

Kidding aside, it's nice to know that BMW cares.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 3,694 miles

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2012 BMW X3: All-American?

March 15, 2012

BMW Spartanburg SC.jpg

BMW Manufacturing Co in Spartanburg, SC, produced its first vehicle, a 318i, on September, 8, 1994. BMW has since produced over 2 million vehicles and has invested over $5 billion at that U.S. plant.

Our long-term 2012 BMW X3 was built in the Spartanburg plant, along with the X5 and X6 SUVs (Z4 production was moved from Spartanburg in August 2008.) In fact, all X3s -- regardless of the country for which they're destined -- are built in Spartanburg. Additionally, the new X3 was designed in California.

So, considering all the recent fuss about Chrysler and the Clint Eastwood Superbowl ad, does that make the new X3 an American car? Does that even matter to you?

Hit the jump for the video, BMW X3: Defying Logic

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~4,300 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Whoooosh Hiss

February 07, 2012

BMWX3_Engine.jpg

There's something about hearing a turbo under acceleration that just makes me smile. My first experience with this was in a 2005 Subaru WRX STi. The whoosh and hiss absolutely did it for me. But in every modern BMW with a turbo, those sounds have been absent. Maybe that's a good thing, since I suppose most BMW owners wouldn't find it as appealing as I do. But it's there, you just have to listen for it.

I was running a quick errand yesterday with the windows down. I needed to accelerate rather briskly at one point and there it was. A very faint and high-pitched turbo whoosh, followed by an equally faint hiss between gears. That brought a smile to my face.

It's completely undetectable if the stereo is on, even on the lowest volume setting. Because of this, I have a feeling I'll be driving windows down and silent more often than not.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 BMW X3: The Run Flats are Fine

March 27, 2012

bmw-x3-tires.jpg

We've never been big fans of run flat tires. They're a nice idea in theory, but in practice they mostly just ride poorly compared to their traditional counterparts.

Our X3 has them so I expected to be annoyed after a few hundred miles behind the wheel. Instead, I barely notice them. They ride firm yet not overly harsh. I haven't even come close to pushing the X3 to its limits yest, so I can't comment on their sheer grip. In a vehicle like this, however, I can't imagine threshold traction is an issue worth worrying about.

On another note, the wheels that came as part of the optional Sport Activity package look great. They're definitely a step up from the odd-looking stockers. Then again, they're not quite as awesome as the M Double Spoke wheels that are available as an accessory package, a $6,300 accessory package. Ouch.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2012 BMW X3: Three Thousand Miles Later

August 06, 2012

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No doubt you've noticed our long-term 2012 BMW X3 has been missing in action and unblogged for a good two weeks. I take full credit for that, as I've just returned from 3,253 miles on the road -- a meandering journey to Seattle and back.

I'll chronicle the trip in various installments this week, but for now I'll offer this: The ride quality was excellent for the duration of our travels, yes, even with 19-inch wheels and run-flat tires, and even over some seriously crumbling pavement in San Francisco.

And when I rolled into the office garage this morning, the X3 was just 210 miles shy of needing its first oil service. We'll likely have that done this week.

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2012 BMW X3: Custom Order is Better Than Netflix

March 28, 2012

BMW X3 assembly.jpg

The fact that our long-term 2012 BMW X3, like every X3 -- regardless of which country for which it's destined -- is built in Spartanburg, SC, means that no European delivery program exists. BMW buyers who custom order a X3 could visit the SC plant to pick-up, but you would not be allowed on the shop floor -- of course -- to watch your X3 get built.

BMW has installed cameras on the Spartanburg assembly line. What good is that to you?
With your custom ordered X3, you'll get a personalized video of your car being built.
It's better than Netflix (and a lot more expensive.)

Hit the jump to see some highlights of an X3 build (note the VIN in lower right of some of the frames.) The video is like a short version of How It's Made or Ultimate Factories on cable, and shows some advanced assembly procedures including panoramic moonroof install, tilting assembly carrier, and marriage of body and powertrain. It's amazing!

Although it would be an experience of a lifetime, European delivery may not be achievable for many of us, due to time and expense. But visiting Spartanburg is not out of reach.

Tell us about your European (or Spartanburg) delivery experience -- with any make of car.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~ 4,900 miles

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2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i: IIHS Rating

February 04, 2012

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The BMW X3 was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It achieved the highest rating in all categories, which includes front, side, rollover, and rear tests. To achieve this rating a vehicle must also offer standard electronic stability control.

The IIHS classifies the X3 as a midsize luxury SUV. Other top picks in this category are the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti EX35, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes GLK, Mercedes M-Class, Volvo XC60 and Volvo XC90.

It's a pretty safe segment. Do you own any cars on this list?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Good Headlights, But Aimed Low

August 10, 2012

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I still have a lot of material from my road trip in our long-term 2012 BMW X3, and in this latest installment, I'll discuss the headlights. Our xDrive35i model has adaptive HIDs as standard, and after my experience with the adaptive lights on our long-term 528i and 750i, I went into the trip expecting them to be good.

And they were. Mostly.

This was my first time on U.S. 199 at night, and even at the height of summer, we encountered thick fog, which is more than a match for most headlights, including these. In a couple spots, the fog was so thick we couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead of the X3's nose so using the high-beams was pointless bordering on foolish -- the light was just reflected back at us. Nothing you (or BMW) can do about that and obviously not the X3's fault.

When the fog cleared (as seen here), the headlights worked much better. I just love adaptive lights. They make it so much easier to see through turns at night and minimize a lot of the fatigue that comes with driving on two-lane roads with worn (or nonexistent) reflectors.

However, I found myself using (or wanting to use) the brights a lot more than I would have expected. The X3's headlights are aimed low and that shortens their reach when the road is straight. Then again, it could just be me. We'll have to see if other editors concur that they're underachieving in this regard.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Courtesy Lights

August 20, 2012

bmw_x3_courtesy_lights_1.jpg

Sometimes, it's the little things that make me happy.

When I press the unlock button on the X3's key fob, a white light on the exterior door handle and an orange light on the interior handle light up in the evening.

They also light up as soon as I put the car in park.

Nice touch.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 14,865 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Hillhold Comes in Handy

August 07, 2012

x3_park2.jpg

My recent trip up the Pacific Coast in our long-term 2012 BMW X3 included a dinner stop in San Francisco on the trip north and a Giants game at New Candlestick Pac Bell AT&T Wireless on the way home. Hungry and weary from evening traffic, I foraged for parking "near" our chosen restaurant in Nob Hill. Eventually, I found a spot that would fit the X3 and quickly came to appreciate one of its conveniences: hillhold.

It's a side benefit of having an electronic parking brake. Hit the "Auto H" button and the electronic parking brake automatically comes on when you're stopped while maneuvering into a spot and disengages when you release the brake pedal as you start to reverse again or press the gas pedal to ease forward in D. Yeah, you could certainly get by without it, but I don't park in San Francisco every day, so I didn't mind delegating the task of preventing the X3 from rolling into a Yaris.

From here, we walked a half-mile, probably a little more, to Frascati. It was worth the walk.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,771 miles

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2012 BMW X3: Do the Lights Make a Difference?

March 12, 2012

bmwlight2.jpg

You may have noticed a greater number of new vehicles with odd looking headlights. It's a trend that BMW largely started awhile back with its corona ring design, quickly followed up by Audi and its LEDs. Now, just about vehicle has some signature light cue up front, some more interesting than others.

Our X3 has BMW's latest take on headlight design and it's slightly more complicated version of its traditional design. The lights themselves work well and they don't look half bad when they're glowing eerily after you hit the unlock button.

Made me wonder, though, how much the average buyer really cares. Do they really notice? Would they prefer to save the money as long as they could see well at night? Is this whole fancy light fad something that will fade away as quickly as it came about?

Hard to tell as this point, although as LEDs become more flexible, the designs are only going to get more complicated. So much for changing a bulb in front of the auto parts store.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2012 BMW X3: A Taste of L.A.

March 14, 2012

Ever wonder what it's like to live in Los Angeles? Here's a taste of rush hour traffic.

Ho hum.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ approximately 2 mph

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2012 BMW X3: Just Because

March 01, 2012

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While loading some bags into the cargo area of our longterm 2012 BMW X3, I took a quick scan of its various features. Elastic strap thingie, stationary tiedown anchors, sliding tiedown anchors, flip-down grocery bag hooks, watertight well (lower right), AC 12v power outlet.

Wait, doesn't this thing have run-flats?

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2012 BMW X3: Low Profile Tires Take Their Toll

May 30, 2012

bmw-x3-profile.jpg

I like the way the latest X3 looks. It's sharp without looking like it's trying too hard. I kind of like the Mercedes GLK, too, but I can't help but look at it and think that it really wants to be something else.

It helps that our X3 has a set of seriously low-profile tires. I mean, look at those things, they're rubber bands. The downside to going low-pro is usually the ride quality, yet our X3 still has a decent ride for my tastes. I figured it would loosen up a little as it got older, but it still feels like it's wound pretty tight. Occasionally it's annoying, but most of the time it feels precise, responsive and sedan-like. It might be a little firm for some, but I'm still good with it.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2012 BMW X3: Mega Millions Car

March 29, 2012

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I've been fantasizing about winning the Mega Millions lottery. On my way to work this morning I was driving the BMW X3 and thinking about how many cars I would buy.

Because my lifestyle would change so drastically, I would need several cars to fulfill my needs. I decided the BMW X3 would be a good choice for travelling between my penthouse in New York City and my family's home in South Jersey.

Other cars that would fit nicely into my multicar garage: Nissan GT-R, Audi R8, a used Acura RL, Mustang GT, Porsche 911 Turbo and maybe one of those bullet-proof Benzes. I would also want a big pickup truck to ship to my farmhouse in Italy but I haven't decided which one yet, perhaps a Raptor. Many of these vehicles have been in our fleet.

What cars would you buy? Start with our past and present long-term fleet and then add on any other dream cars.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Not Easy For Me To Get In

April 10, 2012

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It's not easy for me to slide into the BMW X3's driver seat. You all know by now that I'm only 5'4" in height so I usually have the seat adjusted pretty far forward. I also need the steering wheel to be lower so my arms can comfortably and safely reach.

Combine that with the generous side bolsters on the seat cushions and I have an awkward time stepping up into the X3. It's probably not an issue for taller chaps. And I could push the seat back when I get out so that it is easier to get in.

But I just thought I'd mention it. If any of you or your wives are on the shorter side, this may bother you.

And by the way, those seats are not that tomato red color in person.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 BMW X3: Should We?

July 02, 2012

CL X3.jpg

That brownish crossover is our 2012 BMW X3. That silver missile next to it is a Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.

The 2012 X3 is our long term car. The CL65 AMG is a car we're thinking about adding to our long term fleet. I drove out to Arizona this weekend to check it out. The CL's got a twin-turbo V12 that makes 604 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. It's the same motor that's still in the CL, S and G65 AMG. It cost $180,000 when new and now costs a little more than half of what our X3 does.

We've heard that maintenance is a nightmare and that it'll be a fortune to keep up. But then again, we heard that about our 308 and look how that ended. What say you, readers? Should we?

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2012 BMW X3: Are These Still Recognizable?

May 07, 2012

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When BMW first came out with its unique ringed headlights, or angel eyes as some referred to them, they were a unique styling element. You could see them from down the street and they immediately said "BMW" even before you could make out the badge or twin-kidney grille.

But now, everybody is in on the overly-styled headlight game. Audi's were recognizable for a time, but strips of LEDs have become standard equipment on half a dozen models so even that monopoly is done. Made me wonder if anybody still recognizes the BMW's rings anymore or are they just another dated technology at this point. I still think they look sharp, especially compared to the overly glittery look of most LEDs.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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