2011 BMW X3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury SUV
Fuel Economy (claimed): 9.0 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.8 l/100km
The 2011 BMW X3 is all-new, and worlds apart from the undercooked X3 that preceded it.
Inside and out, it’s more modern, has heaps more appeal and, on road, is a very polished and responsive performer.
- Quality: Everything from the soft-touch dashboard to the leather-upholstered seats feels good to the touch, and there were no fitment issues whatsoever with the cabin of our tester.
The ‘clacky’ latch on the mobile phone cradle was an annoyance though, and the cradle itself is arguably unnecessary in an age of Bluetooth.
- Comfort: The front electric seats give good support and have a wide range of adjustment, but the back seat squab doesn't give enough under-thigh support. Rear seat legroom is acceptable, as is headroom.
- Equipment: As standard the X3 xDrive28i is equipped with dual-zone climate control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, a trip computer, foglights, 18-inch alloys and a rear-view camera.
Our tester was heavily optioned, and had a heads-up display, panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod connectivity, internet preparation, Navigation System Professional, bi-xenon headlamps, keyless entry and ignition and the X-Line styling package.
- Storage: Rear seats up, there's 550 litres of boot space, plus a shallow storage tray under the boot floor.
Integrated rails in the floor allow tie-downs and other restraints to be fitted, and folding the 40/20/40 split rear seatback expands cargo capacity to 1600 litres.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The 3.0 litre 190kW naturally-aspirated straight six is a smooth unit with stout mid-range torque (310Nm at 2600rpm).
It's fairly docile when the Dynamic Driving Control is set to 'Normal', but the accelerator becomes a lot more responsive in Sport or Sport+ mode.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard, and difficult to fault. Shifts are smooth in normal mode, crisp in Sport mode and, in tiptronic mode, responds quickly to 'manual' shifts.
Unfortunately, despite the sophisticated gearbox and torquey engine, we couldn't come close to matching BMW's claimed combined fuel efficiency of 9.0 l/100km.
- Refinement: There's some tyre roar from the 18-inch run-flats, but otherwise there's minimal noise intrusion into the cabin.
- Suspension: The standard suspension (adaptive dampers are optional) delivers a comfortable ride, without being too wallowy in corners. The X3 understeers when pushed too far, but is otherwise very stable on the blacktop.
- Braking: Brake feel is progressive and smooth, and the all-disc system stops the 1.7-tonne X3 without raising a sweat.
- ANCAP rating: Not tested
- Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, dual front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts (front pretensioning), anti-whiplash front headrests, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3 years
- Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Audi Q5 3.2 FSI ($73,500) – The closest competitor to the X3 in both size and prestige, the Q5 3.2 FSI costs a couple of grand more, but has more power and torque and a slightly larger cabin.
- Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design ($70,150) – The XC60 is a practical size for those with young children, has heaps of safety credentials and also benefits from a powerful turbocharged petrol six.
Like the BMW though, ticking a few options can be expensive. (see XC60 reviews)
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland ($69,500) – It's a vastly different car to the BMW in that it's a size bigger and has a massive, fuel-guzzling V8 engine.
It's nevertheless excellent value for a premium SUV thanks to a healthy standard equipment list and a sub-$70k retail price. (see Grand Cherokee reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The X3 is a finely-built car and a superb drive. It's a huge leap ahead in both quality and refinement over the model it replaces, and is a great addition to BMW's ever-expanding line-up of SUVs.
There's a catch though. Loading up an X3 with high-tech gadgets like sat-nav, head-up displays and internet connectivity is an expensive exercise, and it's not hard to inflate the retail price beyond $85,000 – crossing into the price-point territory of larger luxury SUVs .
It's a very accomplished vehicle though, and arguably a better fit for suburban families than the larger X5. Is it worth the expense? We'll leave that for you and your bank manager to decide.