2012 BMW X3: Meh
February 29, 2012
(An appropriate gear for any 3-Series.)
That's how I thought I'd feel after driving our X3 for the first time. Last time I drove one, more than a year ago, it was nice and steady and competent. And totally forgettable. Actually, I take that back. The X3 was pretty memorable for its inebriated throttle response and the subtlety of its Efficient Dynamics initiative (only a sticker on each rear window and the blue/red fill gauge monitoring my eco habits every time I lifted off-throttle).
I wanted to be underwhelmed - especially after driving the new F30 sedan and soaking up the new turbo-four and revised chassis.
Coming out of that car, the X3 seems somewhat irrelevant. A nice SUV for work and weekends, but not one you think about after locking the doors. You can say the same about many crossovers, but the X3 costs more to think less about it.
But you can't hate the X3. I mean, you can. But that just makes you some grumpy funk. When the six-cylinder sucks down, spools up and sends its valves into a frenzy, you smile. Or with a little speed underneath, you grab a left paddle to sling around slower traffic, and the 3.0-liter simply wonders if that's all you need. And something's happened to the throttle lag; either it's gone, or I've adapted. Maybe I forgot to drive it outside of Sport.
And it's all comfortable and quiet, visible and solid. Not quite luxury, not by the evolving benchmarks or by what awaits further up-class anyway. But premium. There's better out there, sure, and why not aspire to it? But the X3 is a nice scotch you could probably enjoy the rest of your days, without much pining for whatever else you're missing.
You get all that with the new 3 Series, too. The new turbo-four doesn't disappoint and its improved efficiency promises even more mainstream appeal. Ditto that when the turbo-four finds its way into the base X3. So who buys the X3 then? Cyclists? Local chefs? Dog owners? People who want a 3 Series with a bigger trunk? Poser One-Percenters who can't bear closer proximity to the rabble and scrub?
We must have some X3 owners on the blog. Weigh in.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor