2012 BMW X3: Visiting the Volcanoes
August 09, 2012
One of the best things about living out west is the nearness of the Cascade Range. I can never drive up Interstate 5 without detouring onto Everitt Memorial Highway to spend some quality time looking at beautiful Mt Shasta. And on my recent road trip in the long-term BMW X3, I made my first trip to Mt St Helens. Actually, we went by Mt Rainier as well, but the peak was obscured by clouds and we didn't have time to hike.
Honestly, I never end up having time to hike, but never mind that. We entered the Mt St Helens vicinity via U.S. 12 and then meandered down National Forest Road 25. It was after 8 p.m. and the sun was just starting to get low in the sky, so we needed to make some time... and what a fun little road NF 25 happens to be. It's super twisty and nearly empty. It was just us and the volcano -- easily my favorite part of the whole trip.
By that point, I'd settled on using Sport mode (at least the chassis part of; never used the drivetrain setting for very long because it locks out top gear). Initially, I was hesistant to use it, because I didn't like the extra weight it seemed to add to the steering (it didn't feel like an improvement). But in time, I got used to that, and Sport mode's more aggressive damping made the X3 feel more balanced and controlled through turns -- while eliminating any potential nausea for the front passenger, I'm told. We kept a decent pace and got surprisingly little protest from the Goodyear tires, which I thought gripped well for all-season run-flats.
While I don't love driving the X3, it really handles well for a two-ton crossover, so much so that several times I parked and was surprised by the step down to the curb as I disembarked... because I'd started thinking of it like it was a sedan.
And here we are at Shasta. Everitt Memorial is a fun road, too, but there's a lot more traffic, so you're on it for the mountain, not the drive.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,414 miles