December 06, 2012
Earlier this week, I spent some time in an entry-luxury car that costs almost as much our long-term 2012 BMW X3 ($53,845). Coincidently, it also had a 300-hp six-cylinder engine, though admittedly, those are pretty common right now. But geez, nothing in this price range really compares to this N55 engine.*
This turbocharged inline six-cylinder makes any vehicle feel special. As you've read, it's potent from a low rpm and it revs so incredibly smoothly and sounds great. Even in the 4,200-pound X3, the acceleration is just breathtaking. Of course, I'd rather have this six in the lighter 3 Series or X1, which are just ridiculous when you floor the throttle in traffic.
Not surprisingly, exactly none of us have been able to stay out of the power, so our X3 is averaging just over 20 mpg against an EPA-combined rating of 21. Not horrible, but hardly stellar. However, some things in life are just worth paying for no matter what, and this BMW inline-6 is one of them. If you're going to buy a six-cylinder anything, skip all the mediocre V6s in this price bracket and get one of these.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 20,462 miles
much less except the overachieving twin-turbo N54 that came before it
April 13, 2012
By the end of my snowboarding road trip in our longterm 2012 BMW X3, a bit more than 600 miles had been covered. Most of the trip entailed 80-mph cruising and a modest payload. There was a climb to more than 7000 feet in altitude (and then back down). Traffic was light while en route, though there was the usual L.A. nonsense upon departure and arrival.
Fuel economy for the trip penciled out to...(hit the jump)
That's a tick over the EPA combined number of 21 mpg. Considering the travel conditions of the trip, does this result meet your expectations?
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
April 18, 2012
Yesterday in the interest of research I drove our X3 until its trip computer said it was out of fuel range. At 56 miles to go, the car began to tell me to stop for fuel, but it continued to count down the range as I drove. And it counted all the way down...5,4,3,2,1 and then the ---- you see on the instrument cluster in the photo above.
At that moment I immediately pulled into a gas station and filled the BMW's tank. That's when things got wierd.
It took 17.979 gallons of 91. Now according to BMW the X3 has a 17.7 gallon tank. So I scratched my head and checked the X3's fuel log. Sure enough it had taken more than 17 gallons more than a few times. Didn't seem right. So I emailed BMW for an explanation. Honestly, I thought the response was going to be something like, "Oops we screwed up. the tank is really 19.7 gallons. Sorry about that."
Instead the response was, "There are a lot of potential explanations. One could be manufacturing tolerances. Its possible that the tank in the X3 you guys are driving is slightly larger than the indicated 17.7 gallons, based on manufacturing tolerances. Its possible that the amount of fuel that comes up the fill tube varies from fill-to-fill. Ive been told that fuel volume as indicated on the pump is taken at a benchmark ambient temperature for calibration purposes so if you are putting fuel in the tank below that benchmark threshold, youre actually getting less fuel per indicated gallon than you think, so it could look like you are putting more fuel in the tank."
This is a strange one. I put gas in dozens and dozens of cars a year. Seems unusual to me that BMW's manufacturing tolerances would vary as radically as to add atleast a gallon or three to the size of its gas tank. Also, considering we're in Los Angeles, which isn't really known for its temperature swings, I'm not sure I'm buying that either.
The fill tube seems plausible I guess, but just as unlikely. Again, I've never run into this before. Have any of you?
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
August 15, 2012
As I set out on my road trip in our long-term 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i, I had no illusions that I was going to break any fuel mileage records. Nobody drives a 300-horsepower, 4,200-pound crossover because they really care about mpg.
While driving 3,253 miles, I put in 134.6 gallons of fuel, of which 40.161 gallons were 92 octane from gas stations in Washington. The rest was good old California 91. I planned my fuel stops so that I wouldn't have to stop in Oregon and delegate the refueling to gas station staff.
Here's how I did against the X3's 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined EPA rating.
Best mpg: 25.7
Worst mpg: 22.3
Average mpg: 24.2
Longest tank: 445.0
In short, not even close to the numbers I got in our long-term 2011 528i, where I averaged 29.3 mpg and eked 531 miles out of single tank.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,414 miles (again)