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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The BMW X3 is a mid-size luxury crossover that's now built in the U.S., in BMW's South Carolina assembly plant. Sized between the compact X1 and the large X5 SUVs, the X3 is priced from the high $30,000 range, where it competes with other pricey crossovers like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Land Rover LR2, and Cadillac SRX.

As one of the anchors of the luxury crossover segment, the BMW X3 first showed up in U.S. showrooms with six-cylinder engines, manual and automatic transmissions, and an advanced all-wheel-drive system that used input from stability control to determine how to distribute its power. It also features a relatively small interior with inexpensive-looking trim and had a very firm ride.

In almost every model year, BMW tweaked the X3's looks or hardware. In 2007, the engines were updated, and ride and steering were revised, while the cockpit was refurbished with better materials--a noticeable improvement all around. Toward the end of its first generation, BMW dropped all engine variants save for the 260-horsepower, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. A brisk performer, the X3 remained responsive and eager.

With the 2011 model year, BMW introduced the second-generation X3. Growing in all directions, this X3 -- largely carried over for the 2012 model year--also adopted the familiar BMW in-line six, in normally aspirated and turbocharged versions, with 240 horsepower and 300 hp, respectively. An eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW's sophisticated xDrive all-wheel-drive system are standard on either model. This X3's handling improved greatly while versions with adaptive suspension and driver-selectable steering gave drivers better comfort and precision than in the older version.

The current X3's styling has also adopted some of the latest BMW curves, though in this iteration, it's a much happier mix than in some of the early examples of this design theme--the 7-Series and 6-Series of the early 2000s, to be specific. Inside, the X3's upgraded interior brought new clarity and richer materials front and center.

With carlike ride and handling, and 0-60 mph times of 5.5 seconds on turbo models, today's X3 sits atop the luxury-crossover class in almost every regard. It's also a safety winner: the IIHS has named it a Top Safety Pick. And entertainment's finally on the menu: the options list includes an excellent navigation system, iPod integration, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and a big panoramic sunroof.

The 2013 model year sees the base in-line six dropped in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with nearly identical power ratings to the outgoing six and improved highway fuel economy. However, BMW hasn't divulged any plans to offer a small diesel in the X3, as it has in the larger X5.

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