With the price of everything a touch more expensive North of the border, BMW offers several lower cost options to Canadians looking to get behind the wheel of the ultimate driving machine. Included on the list are the 323i Sedan as well as another vehicle, and one that we recently had the chance to test, the X3 xDrive28i.
|1. The X3 xDrive28i model is offered in Canada (but not the U.S.) as a gateway model to the BMW brand.
2. Powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six, it makes 210-hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque.
3. Leatherette interior is standard with no option for real leather, plus the seats are manually adjustable.
4. Pricing is $6,000 less than the xDrive30i model at $39,900 (CDN).
Powered by a similar engine to the one found on the xDrive30i, the entry-level 28i model makes substantially less power at just 215-hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque. For the record, that’s 45-hp ad 40 ft-lbs less than the xDrive30i. Combined with a six-speed automatic transmission with auto-shifting feature there’s enough power on call for daily commuting, but a noticeable absence of grunt when getting on the highway. BMW lists the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time as 8.9 seconds, almost a second and a half off the pace of the 265-hp model. Adding to the lackluster appeal of the 28i is the fact that average fuel economy is essentially spot-on compared to the more powerful engine option with improved city mileage but worse highway mileage.
The trade off, however, is likely the ability to afford a BMW, with the xDrive28i one of the least expensive BMWs on the market. In Canadian dollars, it’s $6,000 less than the 30i model at $39,900. It’s also one of just three vehicles to undercut the $40,000 mark in Canada, a list that also includes the $35,800 ($29,150 USD) 128i Coupe and the $34,900 323i Sedan.
This might be a reasonable compromise were the downgrades just limited to under the hood. They aren’t.
CLASSIC LOOK HAS AGED WELL
At first inspection everything seems up to BMW standards. Build quality is great, there’s top-notch paint, standard roof rails and a set of reasonably sporty looking 17-inch alloy wheels. Oh, and lets not forget the reason to buy a BMW like this in the first place – the badge on the front. For a model that’s been on the market for almost a decade, it’s not dated and continues to offer handsome good looks.
Of note, only black and white paint can be had as standard equipment with Space Grey Metallic the only option for $800.
Step inside and things continue to look typical of a quality German machine. The more basic xDrive28i model is saved by nature of the fact that BMWs are generally quite simple inside, so the lack of features on this model doesn’t stand out.
Our tester also featured an $1,100 Executive Package that includes a heated steering wheel (a great Canadian feature) and a panoramic moonroof that really brightens up the cabin.
INTERIOR AMENITIES INCLUDE FAUX-LEATHER AND MANUAL SEATS
The smell of leather may greet you when you open the door, but don’t let that fool you, this is leatherette. And you can keep your PETA membership, because unlike on the xDrive30i model (in both the U.S. and Canada), there’s no option to upgrade to the real stuff here.
Also absent are items like climate control (just manual air conditioning) and there’s no Bluetooth connectivity so you’ll need your earpiece – just like a stereotypical BMW driver. The biggest shocker, however, is that the seats are manually adjustable. Yup, as in, gotta-do-it-yourself manual.
Apart from these glaring omissions, (the final one so offensive we’d drop the X3 xDrive28i from our short list of options just on principle), the interior isn’t bad. With the Sand Beige interior rather than just the standard black the cockpit looks quite sophisticated, with the black top dash giving a two-tone look, divided nicely by some soft aluminum trim.
Unlike some of the more cramped offerings in this class the X3 offers decent rear seat room for passengers. And it’s functional too, with 17 cubic feet of cargo room out back and a total of 59.3 cu.-ft. with the rear seats folded flat.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
It may be a stripped-down version but it still feels like a BMW from behind the wheel – at least at first. As far as compact luxury crossovers go its quite sporty, but not as much as some of the newer models and some of the Japanese competition. Steering isn’t quite as quick as we’d like and the brakes are definitely too soft, lacking in initial bite.
Often the standard X3 xDrive30i model gets critiqued for an overly stiff suspension; a problem that seems to be solved in the 28i model thanks to smaller wheels and taller tires that accept more of the impact from the road. As a result we found it quite comfortable for all driving situations.
BMW’s xDrive AWD system is standard delivering surefootedness and combined with the crossover’s German driving dynamics will hold a corner more than you’d need to in such a vehicle.
On its own the X3 xDrive28i is a fine car, but saddled up next to the competition it falls considerably short. Designed as a gateway vehicle into the BMW brand in Canada this low-end model still isn’t overly affordable. In fact, for roughly the same money you could slide into a more luxurious and even sportier Infiniti EX35 with 296-hp or the entertainingly fun Acura RDX with its 240-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder.
Those on a tight budget who absolutely have to drive a BMW can at least take solace that in this last year of the first-generation X3’s existence there are certain to be plenty of incentives offered to help move these models off dealer lots.
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