BMW X3 xDrive35i Review and Road Test

By Jonathan Spira on 10 May 2011
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First introduced in 2003, the BMW X3 is all new for 2011.  While over 600,000 original X3s were sold, including 150,000 in the U.S.  Production in Graz, Austria ended on August 31st of last year and production of the next generation X3 started the very next day, at BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant.

The redesigned X3 neatly addresses the two criticisms that we had for the earlier version, namely insufficient legroom in the rear and a harsh ride (although based on the prior generation 3 Series platform, its handling was anything but 3 Series-like).

The new X3 is immediately recognizable as a BMW with a forward-slanting twin-kidney grill and bold contour lines that meet at the grill. Typical of BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicles (which include the X1, X5, and X6), the twin round headlights with round fog lamps form a pattern characteristic of the line. Other familial traits include flared wheel arches with a short overhang both in front and in the rear.

I was surprised at how much bigger the new X3 was when I first got into one.  It turns out that its dimensions are close to the first generation X5. As a result, rear seat occupants won’t have to bang their knees against the front seatbacks.

The new X3 is half an inch (12 mm) taller, 3.36” (83 mm) longer, and 1.1” (28 mm) wider. Ground clearance has increased by half an inch (12 mm) and the 110.6” (2810 mm) wheelbase is 0.6 inches (15 mm) longer.

The interior befits a BMW and is markedly improved from the previous generation, which I had criticized as Spartan and inelegant. The driver-oriented cockpit is complemented by the Central Display in the center stack, which features an 8.8” high-resolution trans-reflective screen, making it the largest such display in its class.

I found ample storage compartments, trays, and cup holders throughout the vehicle. The cargo space is versatile.  Depending on how you arrange the rear seats (both up, one up, etc.), the cargo volume ranges from 19 to 56.6 cubic feet (550 to 1,600 liters).  If you specify the optional rear seats with ski pass-through, they have three segments, making a variety of configurations possible.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Driving the BMW X3 xDrive35i

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