The popularity of BMW's X Series proves that some people don't mind seeing BMW's classic twin grilles so high off the ground, and it shows that BMW can build performance at any altitude. All in all, the look of this sporty and small SUV hasn't changed much, and the sheet-metal appearance of BMW's sedans, coupes, and roadsters hasn't quite hit the 2005 BMW X3 yet, which for many people will be a good thing. BMW's engineering expertise also shines through the X3's sophisticated integration of the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, coupled with a 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder and mediated by a five-speed automatic transmission. Despite these high points, there were also disappointments. Although we know BMW can also make fine interiors, we didn't see that in the X3, even though our test vehicle was equipped with the $1,800 Premium Package. We found the audio system and leather of only adequate quality and felt the ride was a bit rough. An optional navigation system ($1,800), Xenon adaptive headlights ($800), and a front and rear Park Distance Control system ($700) are available, though our test vehicle didn't come with them installed. It did have Bluetooth integration, which paired up nicely with our Motorola V505
, as well as a double-pane moonroof similar to the one we liked so much on the Subaru Outback 3.0
. The total price for our test X3--including the Premium Package mentioned above ($1,800), as well as the Sport Package ($1,500) and the Cold Weather Package ($750)--came in at $42,345. Our BMW X3 sports a classic silver exterior that goes perfectly with the interior's black leather seats and rubberized dashboard trim. From a distance, the cabin looks rather elegant, but this impression is ruined once you take a closer look. The leather on the seats, though nice and thick, has a finish that gives it the texture of vinyl. On the upside, the seats are power adjustable, with a memory setting for the driver seat. We've never been disappointed by the lumbar support in BMW seats, and the X3 didn't let us down either. Rear leg room is a little cramped, but with only two people in back, there's room to fold down the drink-holding console in the center. Unfortunately, the console's construction feels a little cheap.
We were impressed by the 2005 BMW X3's Bluetooth integration, which is controlled from steering-wheel buttons. The button marked R/T puts the X3 into pairing mode, and we had no problems getting connected. Our Motorola V505 immediately paired with the X3, and the car loaded our address book. Steering-wheel buttons let you scroll through address book entries, which are visible on the single-line display below the stereo, and you can place calls with a single button-push. Even better, the car automatically mutes the stereo volume during phone calls.
The BMW X3's AM/FM/MP3 CD system sounds a bit thin through the car's eight speakers and doesn't display ID3-tag information.
The stereo lived up to the inauspicious title of Business CD, which is inscribed in its black plastic face. This simple AM/FM/MP3 CD system pumps out audio through eight speakers, but we weren't all that impressed with the quality of the sound. It could use a subwoofer to make the audio more enveloping. The simple single line display below the CD slot also doesn't show ID3-tag information off MP3 CDs, which was disappointing, but as with the phone controls, the stereo can be manipulated from the steering wheel.
Also in the center console is a hatch where a navigation system might go--had that option been installed. As it was, the hatch provided room for sunglasses and parking change. The onboard computer displays average miles per hour, average miles per gallon, miles until empty, and trip miles just under the speedometer. We like the material on the dash, with its slightly rubberized feel.
The BMW X3's double-pane moonroof features a motorized inside cover and can be opened to half or full positions.