Test Drive: 2011 BMW X3

BMW X3The X3 is BMW?s leading Crossover SUV and one of the most popular choices in the luxury SUV market. The X3 was redesigned for the 2010 model year, and the general consensus is that the new design is a winner.? Now in its second year of production, the 2011 X3 can safely be said to be the best X3 yet. This year, readers of the German magazine ?Auto Bild Allrad? voted the 2011 X3 ?Four-Wheel Drive Car of the Year? and here in America, ?Off Road? magazine readers voted the X3 ?Off-road Vehicle of the Year.? The German vote might be dismissed as predictable, but when an American offroading magazine?s subscriber base likes the BMW, that?s significant.

Compared to the prior generation, this X3 offers more interior space and generally improved usability. But the real advantage to the new X3 is in the drivetrain. You can get your new X3 with your choice of the normally aspirated 3-liter BMW inline 6-cylinder engine at 240 horsepower, or upgrade to a turbocharged engine at 306 horses. In either case, you get a new 8-speed automatic transmission designed for both performance and fuel economy.? One standout feature of this new drivetrain is start-stop technology, which actually kills the engine when you?re waiting at a stoplight and then instantly refires it when it?s time to move.

That drivetrain technology is how the BMW X3 gets 19 MPG in the city and 25 on the highway. Not fantastic in this day and age, but this is a luxury and performance CUV, not a hybrid. With any luck, BMW will begin importing the diesel variant of the X3 soon ? it?s on sale now in Europe.

BMW X3BMW has also improved the xDrive all wheel drive system in the X3, and gifted the crossover with a new suspension to handle both off-road needs and pleasant yet sporty driving on pavement. The AWD system features electronically-controlled power distribution for traction on slippery surfaces, and also increased traction in cornering for a sports car feel. This is a BMW, after all.

Not to be left behind in the technology department, BMW has also upgraded the ConnectedDrive system in the X3. Using ConnectedDrive, the X3 the only vehicle in its class with an optional Heads-Up Display in which dashboard information is projected onto the windshield, and the X3 has an option for in-car Internet access. This is all on top of the usual Bluetooth hands-free phone support, state of the art stereo system, navigation, backup camera and radar, and all the usual luxury features you expect in a CUV of this class.

BMW X3 - Interior DetailDriving the X3 is both fun and nice. There?s no mistaking the BMW feel ? solid to the point of feeling like you?re part of the Earth, yet confident that you can take any corner with grace and dignity.? The seats are comfortable, the vehicle is convenient, and it goes like a scalded dog when you lay into the throttle. What more could you want from a beemer?

The 2011 X3 is priced from $36,750, and from about $40,000 with the turbo engine.

So, the bottom line on the 2011 BMW X3? If you?re shopping luxury crossover SUVs like the Volvo XC90, Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz GLK350, Audi Q5, or the Lexus/Infiniti/Acura models, you should definitely check out the BMW X3.

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