By Danny Chang
- Tight & confident handling
- Decent acceleration
- Refined interior & build quality
- Styling is a step back in time
- 8-speed automatic is too shift-happy
- Lacks personality
The second generation BMW X3 is almost the size of the first generation X5. BMW has added to the overall length, width and height, as well as a tiny bit to the wheelbase. The benefits are rear passenger legroom, headroom for all passengers and cargo room. Despite its bigger size, the second generation X3 still reminds you of the original, smaller X3, at least from the front. From the back, the new X3 resembles the new designs of the X5 and X6.
Although the new X3 offers a refreshing take on the original X3, the luxury compact SUV segment is filled with other entrants that offer lots of style and luxury these days. The second generation X3 definitely faces a lot more competition than the first one ever did.
Our tester X3 came dressed in Mineral Silver Metallic paint and xDrive35i trim, which means it has a Twin Turbo-charged 3.0 liter DOHC inline six producing 300 HP and 300 lb-ft of torque. It sprints from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds. This sure sounds pretty fast, but unfortunately the X3 doesn’t “feel” as fast. When you sink the accelerator pedal to the floor, the X3 hesitates a bit before kicking in the power. I’m not sure why, but this delay is definitely noticeable.
After the power kicks in, however, the X3 has no problem accelerating. But then you start to notice that the 8-speed transmission gets right to work and starts upshifting like it’s going out of style. You definitely notice the gear shifts, too. Even when I used the paddle shifters the transmission would step in and upshift for me. I guess that’s the price of best-in-class fuel economy. Flipping the Electronic Damping Control to Sport+ and driving with a lead foot helped with this situation, but it does keep you wondering who’s really in control here.
Once you get up to speed on an expressway or the freeway, however, the X3 is smooth sailing. Try downshifting using the paddle shifters and the X3 sprints forward and you begin to smile. Steering feel is decent and courtesy of the Servotronic vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering, it’s both tight on the highway and effortless in the parking lot. Throwing the Electronic Damping Control into Sport+ also changes the suspension to be firmer than normal, making for a more enjoyable driving experience…for the driver. I don’t recommend this with passengers in the back.