Pros Panoramic moonroof, well-built tiptronic transmission, xDrive, sports sedan-like handling
Cons Smallish trunk for an SUV, base engine woefully overmatched against vehicle weight, expensive for its size
Summary I leased a new BMW X3 in March 2005 complete with premium package, tiptronic and the upgraded 3.0 liter engine (which I'd highly recommend). I purposefully avoided the sports suspension upgrade as I've heard rumors that the ride is unnecessarily harsh and am glad I did - the base suspension is wound firm enough for this type of vehicle (my basis for comparison is my '92 Nissan 300zx twin turbo). I also opted out of the factory-installed navigation system due to cost and instead installed a garmin GPS device in the same dash space which has turned out to be an excellent compromise in terms of cost and portablility.
This small SUV has outstanding road manners - sharp handling, good acceleration (with the 3.0L engine), solid road feel and great visibility front and rear. In short, it's what you'd expect from a BMW. The ride is the most car-like of any SUV I tested (including the Acura MDX which felt like a tank and almost rolled over in a highway off-ramp). I've recorded ~25mpg during long highway trips with the A/C running which is pretty good for a 4,000lb vehicle. Lastly, but not least important, handling in poor conditions is outstanding. I've driven this vehicle during heavy rains on highways and local roads on a few occassions and it is a rock-solid performer due to the very good Michelin's and xDrive - which you can barely feel engaging when needed. Stopping distances are very good and brake pedal feel and vehicle attitude during braking are also car-like.
However, there are a few drawbacks to this vehicle. It is one of the more expensive, if not most expensive, small SUV's on the market once you add a few basic options. Quality of interior materials (plastics, leather, switches) still lags that of the prior generation 3-series cars despite similar pricing. In town fuel economy is dismal - I've gotten as low as 12-15mpg in local travel.
You give up a bit interior room vs. the full-size SUV's and do not have optional third-row seating but for a couple or small family this vehicle provides a good compromise of space and performance, if at a slightly high price point. If you're looking for a small SUV and are a fan of BMW sedans or sports cars this will likely fit the bill quite nicely.
Pros Fast, Nimble, Pretty
Cons Some may find the ride a bit rough, expensive for some
Summary This is the best car or SUV I have ever owned! My first BMW, but definitely not my last.
It is fast for a non-SUV. For an SUV...it's a rocket and it handles like a sports car. It is also well appointed although not as luxy as it's big brother the X5. Nevertheless, I drove this car for six straight hours on one trip and was very comfortable.
I've read that some find the suspension a bit rough. I don't have a problem here.
For those who complain that it is too expensive, all I can say is....It's a BMW and if you're going to buy a BMW, be prepared to spend some bucks.
My only minor, minor complaint is that it is slightly lacking in the cargo capacityUpdated
Contrary to the Cnet info. There is a factory installed iPod interface that will allow the user to run the iPod through the radio. In additon, there is 3rd party equipment that once installed will allow the user to run XM radio through the radio
Pros Great ride, amazing handling
Cons Interior quality not quite up to par with other BMW's
Summary Cnet's review is full of mis-information. Did anyone see the video: No ipod support? Control the 4-wheel drive from the dash? Sunroof doesn't vent? Did they actually drive the X3 or even read the spec sheet. He kept complaining about id3 tags not being available on the radio (from cd's that is). He also mentioned how there is no official integration from BMW for the ipod and the only alternative is the aux input. Although BMW's ipod adapter may suck, it most certainly works in an X3. Also x-drive does not accept any user input and is completely automatic. Yes there is a vent for the sunroof, and both pannels pop up to provide ventilation (i use it every day).
The bottom line here is that the X3 is an excellent small suv that will out handle many other suv's (and some passenger vehicles) on the road. Is the ride a little stiff, yes it is (don't opt for stiffer suspension with the sport package if you dislike jarring rides), but it has to be if you want amazing handling. Also, unless cnet plans on getting their information right they should discontinue reviewing automobiles. If you want to review the technology in automobiles, fine, do just that (however they still managed to get this wrong anyway), but stay away from other categories you know nothing about!
Pros Handling, Exterior, BMW Engine, xDrive
Cons Interior materials, pricey
Summary Cnet really screwed up on this one. They missed what this car is all about: Handling. No SUV, can handle like this car. Hell this car even out-handles most sedans out on the market today ! The tradeoff is that you have to have tightly tuned suspension, which as a result doesn't give you a plushy lexus ride. But this is a BMW after all !
The engine is buttery smooth, and xDrive really is amazing.
What I would like to see BMW do with this car, is upgrade some of the interior materials. Unlike the review, I find the leather just fine, but some of the dash plastics could be nicer. That said the X3's interiors well-built and the fit and finish is as good as any other BMW.
Bottom Line: Delivers a BMW feel + the unlimited possibilities of a SUV. If your a spirited driver and you test drive it, you'll probably be hooked on its amazing handling.
Pros Handling, styling, performance, safety
Cons BMW Dealerships are populated by sleazy scum bags, MPG could be improved
Summary I love my X3 but I hate my dealer. BMW used to be sold by dealers that understood what it meant to sell a high class, high quality product. Not anymore - BMW dealers are classless slime.
Anyway, back to the car. The X3 is one of the most unique vehicles on the road. It is an SUV that has the nimble handling of a high performance sports car. The X3 weighs about 4000lbs, but you would never no it driving it - it feels like a 3-series on the road.
Yes it is expensive, but it is actually a good value. I would recommend looking into leasing as the lease support BMW offers on this car is exceptional. I don't think there is another car on the road in the 40K price range that you can lease for 300-400/month, about the same as a Honda Pilot on a lease due to high BMW residuals and low interest rate BMW offers on the X3.
The NAV system on the BMW is not as good as some of Japanese brands, the data entry is a bit awkward and the screen is smaller than on the Acuras. The factory stereo is decent but leaves a bit to be desired particularly for on low end of the frequency spectrum (not enough bass).
MPG is OK for car of this size, but will likely improve by 10-15% when BMW adds the Valvotronic engines in mid-2006. I get about 18MPG with mixed city and highway(although often in traffic). These are my only two real complaints.
All in all, a great vehicle... As for CNET, stick to reviewing consumer electronics, leave car reviews to people who know something about cars.