2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i Review

Improved in all ways but one, the X3’s interior is hard to overlook

2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i Review

A mismatched pairing of expletives spilled out of my brother in law’s mouth as we sailed through a corner at what he so vocally deemed was a terrifyingly fast rate of speed. His first impression of the all-new BMW X3 differed rather significantly from my own.

FAST FACTS

1. Powered by a turbocharged inline-six the xDrive35i makes 300-hp and 300 lb-ft of torque at just 1200 rpm, delivering a 0-60 mph time of just 5.5 seconds.

2. Roughly the same size as the original X5, the new X3 adds more interior room and cargo room at with 19.4 cu-ft behind the rear seat 56.6 cu-ft total.

3. The new X3 starts at $36,750 or $41,050 for the 300-hp xDrive35i model.

SORRY-EXCUSE FOR A LUXURY INTERIOR

Not having had time to really soak-in the new exterior shape, I hopped aboard the redesigned sport ute to be greeted by perhaps the most disappointing car interior since the Chevy Camaro. With the exception of some Fisher Price-grade canoe wood trim, the X3’s cabin is drab and monotone. Known for having Spartan interiors, this cockpit looks like it was inspired by one of the ancient Greek soldiers’ barracks.

The seats have little if no shape to them, meaning they don’t do a great job holding you in place in the corners. They do a worse job of looking halfway decent. As for the rear seat area, it’s a flat and bland expanse of hard, coarse leather, as devoid of passion as a desert is of water.

The problem stems from one critical error on the part of the BMW interior designers. It’s obvious that the dash plastics were intended to mimic the look of the leather, but the converse effect is achieved. Overall, it makes even the Acura RDX cockpit look stylish, and it’s simply nowhere close to the Audi Q5 or Infiniti EX. To be fair, we do have to wonder if a different choice of leather might help alleviate our displeasure with the monotone cockpit.

At least there’s nothing bad to say about the iDrive system. Panned for over a decade since it was first introduced, BMW was forced to take notice and make big changes. The result is what might just be the most intuitive and easy to use such system in the business, with the iDrive control knob so ideally located, anything else feels unnatural.

The iDrive system is standard, although you’ll have to pay extra for navigation, which also comes with a larger 8.8-inch display screen. The space at the top of the center stack is meant for the bigger unit too, and on base models there’s the distinct feeling that something is missing.

As for the audio, this Bimmer, like all the rest deserves applauds with excellent quality and near-defending output.

LARGER DIMENSIONS MAKE FOR MORE INTERIOR SPACE

If there’s one important improvement for the new X3 its in the added space. The ‘sports activity vehicle’ has grown in all ways for 2011, even though its new look gives the impression of a more compact machine. Half an inch taller, it’s just over an inch wider and gets the biggest gain end-to-end with almost 3.5-inches more between the bumpers. The result is a back seat with plenty of space (legroom in particular), while trunk space is also up considerably.

BMW claims the X3 is now best-in-class for cargo volume, although the truth is somewhat less certain. At 19.4 cu-ft behind the rear seat and a total of 56.6 cu-ft, those numbers actually put the X3 at just about dead last when compared to rivals like the Audi Q5 or Acura RDX. The numbers require some analysis, however, as they’re calculated rather subjectively and aren’t just based on dimensions of the trunk space. A ruler and calculator are not required to see the space between the rear seats is up quite a bit and in our test there was enough space for luggage for four an extra-long-weekend road trip – which also revealed how nice a highway cruiser the X3 is, with a quiet cabin making it easy to hold a conversation with back seat passengers.

To give a little perspective on its size, the new X3 is comparable to the original X5. In total its 0.8-inches shorter in length and 2-inches lower, but it’s actually 0.8 inches wider. To keep enough space between models the current X5 has also grown, although both it and the X3 share an uncanny resemblance now.

MORE PERFORMANCE THAN ANY ‘UTE NEEDS

Even with all that extra room, the crossover’s wheelbase has only grown half an inch, retaining its excellent driving dynamics, as evidenced by the foul-mouthed comments of my wife’s brother.

The X3 doesn’t just impress, it surprises, and combined with standard xDrive AWD has incredible amounts of grip. Under normal driving conditions, torque splits 40/60 front to rear, although under the right circumstances a full 100 percent can be sent to the two rear wheels meaning there’s plenty of sports car in this ‘ute.

There’s also the sort of acceleration you’d expect from a two-door German machine, with the turbocharged inline-six laying down 300-hp at 5800 rpm and a serious 300 lb-ft from just 1200 rpm. A bit of a porker at 4,222 lbs, it’s actually lighter than the outgoing model. Considering that weight, you’d expect sprint time to be affected, but it isn’t with a startlingly fast blast to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.

The down side, of course, is fuel economy. It’s officially rated at 19/26-mpg, but we managed just 19-mpg on average, with the vast majority being highway miles, so look for your numbers to be even lower.

Like any proper German vehicle the X3 is available with enough options to double the base price (ok, not quite). Unfortunately our car didn’t come with many of them, which is disappointing because BMW’s Driving Dynamic Control selector is an extra we’ve thoroughly enjoyed on every other Bimmer we’ve tested. With choices for Normal, Sport and Sport+ the different programs control vehicle settings like throttle response, transmission shift points, steering and even shock absorber firmness when equipped with yet another option, Electronic Damping Control.

With BMW’s sedan lineup starting to all look the same; a similar trend is obvious with the X3 and X5. That’s not entirely a bad thing and the more imposing size of the new X3 can partially help to justify is rather significant price tag. There is, however, more to the X3 than just its shape, with impressive paint (Sparking Bronze metallic on our test car) and the sort of details you can really only appreciate in person.

Without any options and just sticking to the base engine you can find yourself in an X3 for $36,750. Our xDrive35i tester retails for $41,050. Add on the Convenience Package with a power tailgate and keyless access for $1,150; a Cold Weather Package with heated front and rear seats, plus a heated steering wheel for another $1,150; and then the Premium Package with leather, lumbar support, a panoramic moonroof and auto-dimming mirrors and you’re not far off the $50K mark. Pricey, yes, but in this class, that’s certainly not an unreasonable amount of dough.

THE VERDICT

Sure it’s absurdly fast and can tackle an off-camber late apex corner with poise, both things that will help maintain and grow the X3’s appeal, but rarely will these attributes be used by anyone who buys one. Instead, the far more important qualities of the new X3 include added room for passengers and their things, as well as the handsome new body. That said, it’s an impressive machine and while expensive is by no means unrealistically priced.

But should you buy one? Were it not for the abysmal interior we’d heartily recommend it, and perhaps your opinion of the cabin may differ, in which case it’s enticing. With such a high level of performance it’s temping to gloss over the cabin, but when you consider how much time you’re likely to spend in traffic, staring at the expanses of unappealing leather, a temporary bout of buyers remorse is likely to become something more chronic.

RELATED READING

2010 Lexus RX350 Review 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC Review 2009 Audi Q5: First Drive

2010 Infiniti EX35 Journey AWD Review 2010 Acura RDX SH-AWD

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked