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BMW X3 review

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    BMW has moved the X3 upmarket, adding more style. The hard angular lines of the existing car have been smoothed off, while new design lines have been introduced to give the car a sleeker look.

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James Stanford road tests and reviews the new 2011 BMW X3 at its international launch in Atlanta.

The middle child of the BMW X range has been given some special treatment. A new X3 has been launched in the US and is on its way to Australia around March next year. It is the second generation of the mid-sized SUV that sits comfortably between the small X1 and the large X5.

BMW has substantially improved the crossover wagon, stretching and widening the body to the extent that it is very nearly as big as the first generation X5. There is new front suspension, fresh steering, more interior space, and an improved all-wheel drive system.


BMW is yet to lock in prices at this stage, but sources suggest that prices, at least on the entry level petrol and diesel models will not increase over the current level. That means you can expect to get the base diesel, the best seller, for about $62,000 and the base petrol for about $69,000. This is a fair amount of cash, but you do get a prestige SUV that is nearly as big as the original X5.


BMW Australia will bring in the 20D model which runs a turbo diesel four-cylinder with 135kW and 380Nm that uses just 5.6 litres per 100km.  It will also have a naturally aspirated petrol six-cylinder and a six-cylinder diesel, but these are yet to be announced.

There is a six-speed manual and a new ZF eight-speed auto available overseas, but Australia will only take the automatic.  Overseas markets also have a 35is turbo petrol six-cylinder that pumps out 225kW and 400Nm, but BMW Australia has decided against importing it.

The engines are available with fuel saving stop-start technology, a heads-up display which projects information on to the screen is new as is electric power steering, optional top view reversing camera and optional adjustable suspension dampers.


The X3 comes with permanent all-wheel drive to help the driver keep out of trouble in the first place. Electronic stability control and a full suite of airbags is standard. A cruise control system that can detect objects in front and brake the car is available as an option.


BMW has moved the X3 upmarket, adding more style. The hard angular lines of the existing car have been smoothed off, while new design lines have been introduced to give the car a sleeker look.

The lengthening and widening of the body helped designers give the car a more muscular look compared to the existing model. The interior has been given a mild upgrade.


We drove a diesel X3 with a manual transmission and a turbo petrol with an automatic.  We won’t get the turbo petrol engine or the manual transmission but we will get the diesel engine with the automatic transmission.

Even though we couldn’t drive that exact car, the drive through the countryside near Atlanta in the US gave us a clear indication that BMW really has lifted its game with the new X3. The existing X3 is not very good.

The first X3 seemed like a model rushed out to capitalize on the success of the X5 that was cheaper than that model but nowhere near as good. It didn’t handle all that well, the interior looked cheap and design was ugly, especially when it first came out.

BMW improved it with facelifts, but it still fell short of expectations. The new car appears to change that.  It looks a whole lot better, especially when you see it in the metal. The handling has been improved substantially, although our cars had the optional adjustable dampers, the steering is sharper and the ride is more comfortable.

The diesel is quite strong and it is not too loud. It isn’t much fun with a manual thanks to the traditional narrow diesel torque band that means you have to change gears almost constantly.  The turbo petrol engine is a ripper and the automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly.


We will have to wait to test the exact model that will come to Australia, but it is clear that the new X3 marks a significant improvement over the existing model. The X3 used to be the poor cousin of the X5, but now it is more like a younger and smaller brother.


Prices: TBA
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 135kW at 4000 revs
Torque: 380Nm at 1750-2750 revs
Transmission: Eight speed automatic
Fuel consumption: 5.6 litres per 100km (claimed)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • Of course, I should have been more clear.  What was meant was that Ford’s Panther cars have outsold any car sold in England or Australia, probably ever.  My point though that Mr Stanford slanders a car good enough to have sold in the millions remains.  If no one minds too much, here’s a quote that’s a recent response to a similar damming Edmonds Inside Line article about the Grand Marquis:  The GM is no Marauder, but it could and should have been updated with the latest tech and a fresh interior.  There may never again be a uniquely American-style body on frame sedan like this one.  It’s a sure bet that nothing will adequately replace these cars for police, taxi, and limousine duty.  Name one other car that gets similar mileage combined with such reliability, durability, comfort, safety and repairability in the event of an accident.  Nothing else even comes close.  Remember that these cars often hit 300K miles in the hands of drivers that abused the living daylights out of them.  Nothing beats up a car like police and taxi duty.  Many never even have the engine turned off except for oil changes and major maintenance!  Regardless of the fact that the GM, Crown Vic, and Town Car are unloved by auto journalists and scoffed at by some, they are just about as well engineered and rock solid as cars can be.

    Chris Lynch of Mpls MN USA Posted on 06 April 2011 5:54pm
  • Reply to Chris Lynch: By what names do these cars sell over here in Australia? Cars made in the US are not regarded highly here. Perhaps some Euro badged cars made in the US sell here, but definitely not anything American companies make.

    steveo of innerwest Posted on 16 March 2011 9:31pm
  • I came across your hatchet job on the Mercury Grand Marquis (Nov), and all I can say is is that you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about, generally or specifically as regards my Merc or even in this article.  Since there was not an option given to respond to your laughable remarks in the Grand Marquis article, my response here will have to do.  Maybe you know something about rich peoples’ cars, but you gloss over the fact that so many cars are so overpriced, overwrought and unnecessarily over-teched these days.  In my opinion, it’s a waste of money to overspend on needlessly fancy cars that go in and out of style like popular styles in music.  Most people don’t have 60 or 100 grand to waste on fancy fussy so-called “works of art” cars.  Most want practical transportation, and yet I’ll grant we all dream a bit about something a little nicer maybe.  No harm in touting “artsiness”, but let’s also not over-exaggerate flaws in valid and solid examples of American car design.  The Grand Marquis and the other Ford Panther cars have way outsold all cars in England and Australia for a reason.  They are (or were) rock solid, dependable, economical, well-engineered and comfortable.

    Chris Lynch of Minneapolis, MN 55411 USA Posted on 04 December 2010 6:20pm
  • Why would anyone looking for a BMW hatch, buy an X5 or X6 when they are so big and bulky around city shopping centres where they are predominantly driven? Also, the X3 is the perfect size being just as spacious inside as the X5 and has that X5 ouside skin design and is 20k to 30k cheaper with the same motor and features! The interior build on the MK2 will also be the same as it is assembled in Spartanburg USA. To all those critics the X3 has sold 600,000 vehicles to this day so it must be doing something right.

    X3 Fan of Australia Posted on 16 November 2010 11:49am
  • Phil -  BMW must have really given you a bad time!

    andrew of melbourne Posted on 12 November 2010 5:35pm
  • I think its UGLY
    Wannabes buy it for the badge!

    Mic of Sydney Posted on 10 November 2010 11:24am
  • Andrew White you are very wrong, the original X3 is a DOG , a 5 year old Hyundai drives better, of course they have bagged the old one as it was CRAP ,seriously , some people bought it it coz it had a BMW badge , I do hope you really enjoy it , but compared to other yuppie AWD they are NOT a good thing PS I work on BMWs in case you think I have no idea , ALL of Germany have sucked in you consumers thinking they make awesome cars ,  they are unreliable , expensive to fix and as boring as Aunt Betty at a 21st birthday !!Phil

    Phil de-Ath of Melbourne Posted on 09 November 2010 5:29pm
  • @small-car-dude of WA.  Which “BMW X3” are you looking at?  AUDI (VW) copies others,nobody cares about ugly Q5 (tiguan)  or Q7s (Touareg).

    The car looks fine, BMW is being conservative so as not to cannibalise the X5 sales.

    King Charlie of Marung Posted on 09 November 2010 5:12pm
  • That design screams out Audi Q5 to me…
    Come up with something original, BMW. Don’t mimic your opposition.

    small-car-dude of Western Australia Posted on 09 November 2010 12:51pm
  • As is typical of any new model review you seem to bag the previous model as “the existing X3 is not very good” yet all the reviews at the time praised it for its handling etc. I drive a 2007 3.0D and am very happy with its power, economy and handling. It is a nice package. It seems the new model is an evolution rather than a revolution and that can’t be a bad thing. Hopefully the build quality will be OK now that its bolted together in the US. The one change I hope BMW makes is a softer leather on the seats - the leather on mine is hard and slippery. I also understand that the new version of iDrive is available which would be good. Looks good so far…..

    Andrew White of Blue Mountains Posted on 09 November 2010 12:08pm
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