Wrap-Up - 2012 BMW X3 Long-Term Road Test

2012 BMW X3: Wrap-Up

January 28, 2013

Read the 2012 BMW X3 introduction to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2012 BMW X3 long-term updates on this vehicle.

What We Got
The 2012 BMW X3 shopper had two options. One was the base X3 xDrive28i, the other the upgraded X3 xDrive35i. What set them apart was the engine underneath the hood. For the 2012 model year, the xDrive28i was powered by a 3.0-liter normally aspirated inline-6 rated at 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. It has since been upgraded with a new turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers the same horsepower along with 260 lb-ft of torque. It's a solid choice for the current X3, but a year ago it made more sense to upgrade to the turbocharged 3.0-liter in the xDrive35i. It produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Both models shared the same all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Our decision to get the X3 xDrive35i was simple. The 35i had an additional 60 hp over the 28i, and it returned better fuel economy. BMW offered us a well-equipped version to test, which included the Sport Activity package ($1,750), the Cold Weather package ($700), the Premium package ($3,450) and finally the Technology package ($3,200).

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The 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i had a starting MSRP of $42,700. Optional equipment raised that price to $53,845.

Our 2012 BMW X3 Impressions

  • "The turbocharged 3.0-liter in our X3 may not look like much, but I'm continually amazed by how much power this straight-6 doles out. I mean, the X3 isn't just strong off the line and all that, it's downright fast. Whether you're getting on the highway or making a pass on a two-lane, this X3 moves out. Combined with a suspension that makes it feel like a 3 Series sedan, this X3 starts to make a pretty good case for itself as a better alternative to the traditional sedan." — Ed Hellwig

  • "Holy guacamole! [Acceleration] was an utter surprise to me because I hadn't looked at the ungainly badge on the side of the X3 [xDrive35i]. Strong AWD launch, but then at 4,000 rpm the afterburners light and the X3 really comes alive." — Chris Walton

  • "Our X3 is equipped with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control (DDC) system which bundles various adjustments together into driver-selectable Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes. There's only one real problem with the system. It's not really needed. Driving around in Normal mode I never once felt the need to sporty things up a little. This X3 is very much a 3 Series on stilts, so it turns, accelerates and stops like a small sport sedan.... I tried the Sport and Sport+ modes on our X3 and didn't find them much better than the Normal mode. Maybe if we had the Dynamic Handling package it would be different, but I doubt it." — Ed Hellwig

  • "As for the ride quality, I have some thoughts. It's firmly damped. Not harsh. It has very good control. It seems to have limited suspension travel, so on broken, nasty pavement it loses some composure. However, it makes great use of the travel it does have. Within those bounds it's sharp and nimble without being punishing." — Jason Kavanagh

  • "Rumor has it the X3's eight-speed automatic transmission is filled with clutch packs and planetary gearsets which allow it to shift from 8th to 2nd gear without passing through the intermediate cogs. Rumor also has it that there's still a conventional torque converter involved in all this mechanical mystery and that it locks up quickly to boost fuel efficiency. I have another hypothesis that goes like this: I think it's filled with fairy dust or, possibly, plain unfiltered magic." — Josh Jacquot

  • "I recently took our X3 several miles up a desert wash to reach an impromptu campsite in a desert valley near Mexico.... The X3 had adequate ground clearance as long as I picked my path carefully. The real issue wasn't clearance. Rather, it was suspension travel. The X3 doesn't have much of it, and the ride over the rocky patches was, well, rough.... The X3 wasn't really made for this kind of stuff. It's essentially a tall wagon with AWD. With that said, it took me to the site and back without any issue. It was just slow going and some nervousness about its tires." — Jason Kavanagh

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  • "A lot of times with Bluetooth, the bass starts to fall apart or the highs get scratchy; then there are the occasional signal cutouts. In our X3, none of these issues surfaced. The only problem I experienced was a random bout of unresponsive buttons. Twice on my drive home, the skip track buttons failed to work. I worked around this by switching sources and back, which seemed to reset it." — Mark Takahashi

  • "I love the widescreen format and the map graphics. They're as good as a topographical atlas and you can follow along as you drive. I also find it easy to move around the map and between the various menus with the current-gen iDrive controller..... I found a new feature that I like.... The system was recommending a fuel stop along the route, taking into account the vehicle's current estimated miles-to-empty countdown. Pretty neat." — Erin Riches

  • "It's a nice interior, right? Tightly stitched Nevada leather upholstery, minimal wood accents, brushed metal trim. It feels like it could be the lobby of a hip Chicago hotel or something.... You realize this is where BMW starts to earn its money. You don't have to be an enthusiast to appreciate these refinements. Sure the engines are great and the steering is benchmark. But how you feel when you slide behind the wheel of the X3 or 3 Series serves as a daily reminder of money well spent. It feels like success." — Dan Frio

  • "I didn't find [the front passenger seat] especially comfortable. The taut seat leather doesn't have much give so it's kind of hard to sit on for a long period of time. And the side bolsters get in the way of relaxing arms, as they do in most cars equipped with them. Maybe it was just problematic for someone of my stature where the bolsters fall just so, pushing the upper arms forward. And naturally, this is fine for a driver who has both hands on the steering wheel, but for someone who just wants to lie back, it wasn't the best." — Caroline Pardilla

  • "Two snowboards, three occupants, snow gear, bags, beer and food. Everything needed for last weekend's snowboarding trip fit into our long-term 2012 BMW X3 with ease. We folded down the far-right backseat for the boards. That way, the backseat occupant had as much space as possible. No roof rack. Fine by me since roof racks leave your pricey gear conspicuously on display." — Jason Kavanagh

  • "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, shows virtually no wear. Carpets in both the driver footwell 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." — Josh Jacquot
  • 2012 BMW X3 Maintenance & Repairs

    Regular Maintenance:
    Routine service intervals were dictated by the car's onboard computer. When HAL 9000 decided it was time, the elusive oil change light illuminated. The X3 requested service just once during our test, at 14,000 miles. Fresh oil and filter cost us nothing. The tab was paid by the BMW free maintenance plan.

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    Service Campaigns:
    No recalls or TSBs surfaced during our test of the X3.

    Fuel Economy and Resale Value

    Observed Fuel Economy:
    The EPA prepared us for 19 city and 26 highway mpg. We averaged a tick over 20 mpg, which was slightly below expectations. Our best single tank was nearly 26 mpg and covered 445 miles of ground. The worst fuel economy was 14 mpg, following an extended stretch of city driving.

    Resale and Depreciation:
    New, our well-optioned X3 xDrive35i had an MSRP of $53,845. After 23,194 miles the crossover depreciated 15 percent according to Edmunds' TMV® Calculator. This figure was based on a private-party sale.

    We typically consider 20 percent depreciation to be very good. In that regard, the X3 was outstanding. We attribute the value retention to its long list of options. In our experience, optional equipment tends to hold its own in the used car market.

    Summing Up

    Pros: Class-leading performance from the engine and transmission combination, better on-road handling than most sedans, top-notch cabin materials that proved durable, very little maintenance and it was free when it was needed, outstanding resale value.

    Cons: Minimal suspension travel makes for a bumpy ride on rough surfaces, limited cargo space, poor fuel economy for a vehicle of its size.

    Bottom Line: The 2012 BMW X3 is one of the fastest, best-handling compact SUVs on the market. If you can stomach the price and the thirsty engine, the rest of the package will rarely disappoint.

    Total Body Repair Costs: None
    Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 12 months)
    Additional Maintenance Costs: None
    Warranty Repairs: None
    Non-Warranty Repairs: None
    Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
    Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 for coolant and wiper fluid top-offs
    Days Out of Service: None
    Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
    Best Fuel Economy: 25.7 mpg
    Worst Fuel Economy: 14.0 mpg
    Average Fuel Economy: 20.2 mpg
    True Market Value at service end: $45,609 (private-party sale)
    Depreciation: $8,236 (or 15% of original MSRP)
    Final Odometer Reading: 23,194 miles

    The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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2012 BMW X3 Research