The BMW X3 was all-new for 2011. So for 2012, the X3 is largely unchanged. All 2012 BMW X3 models come standard with black high-gloss interior trim, option packages have been changed on 2012 X3 xDrive 28i and 2012 X3 xDrive35i models, and a new M Sport Package with a sports suspension is available.
Completely redesigned, this latest-generation BMW X3 is roomier than pre-2011 models. Cargo space behind the second row is generous for the class, an unusual achievement for a BMW SAV.
The exterior is tasteful. It holds onto BMW design cues but makes the previous version look suddenly dowdy and dated.
During our test drive, the BMW X3 xDrive35i demonstrated some of the best poise and isolation we've ever experienced in an SUV on gravel roads. A completely redeveloped suspension technology, with a new double-joint spring-strut mechanism at the front and a multi-link system at the rear improves handling over the previous-generation X3.
BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, standard on all models, retains as much of a rear-drive feel as it can muster, using a multi-plate clutch to vary rear-to-front torque split from fully 100 percent committed to the rear to 40 percent sent forward to assist with traction.
Two engines are available, a 3.0-liter inline-6 and a turbocharged version of the same engine. They get essentially the same fuel economy, but the turbocharged engine has more power. Otherwise the two models, X3 xDrive28i and X3 xDrive35i, are nearly identical, though the xDrive35i comes with slightly larger wheels. The xDrive28i and xDrive35i come with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
An optional electronic damping control system is available to vary shock response according to conditions, with a driver-selectable three-position switch to focus its operation to the driver's intended activity. This so-called Performance Control switch also affects the level of steering assist, and the xDrive all-wheel drive system by selecting a 20/80 front-to-rear torque-split in steady state driving and also providing some so-called torque-vectoring influence in corners by braking an inside wheel. These new technologies may prove decisive to buyers searching for the latest in safety and dynamic systems.
The 2012 BMW X3 xDrive28i ($36,850) comes with a normally aspirated 2996 cc inline-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The xDrive28i comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels.
The BMW X3 xDrive35i ($42,400) features a 2979 cc inline-6 equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger, and produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, the latter available from 1300 rpm through to 5000 rpm. The xDrive35i comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels.
An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.
Standard features on X3 models include climate control with micron air filter, leatherette upholstery, black high-gloss tirm, 205-watt AM/FM/CD with MP3 and HD radio, power locks, power windows, eight way power front seats with memory for driver seat, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, on-board computer, floor mats.
Options include Nevada leather ($1,450); navigation ($2,150); rearview camera ($400); satellite radio ($350); premium audio ($875); panoramic moonroof ($1,350); Park Distance Control ($750); power tailgate ($500); keyless entry ($500); heated front seats ($500); folding rear seats split 40/20/40 ($200). The Dynamic Handling Package ($1,400) includes dynamic damper control, variable sport steering, and performance control. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $875 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, all-wheel drive. Optional safety features include rearview camera, Park Distance Control.