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#6

in 2011 Luxury Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $27,363 - $29,801
Original MSRP: $36,750 - $41,050
MPG: - TBD - City / - TBD - Hwy
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2011 BMW X3 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

If you want a compact SUV that can perform like a sports sedan, the 2011 X3 will suit you just fine. Reviewers are impressed with the 2011 X3’s new eight-speed transmission and revised suspension. The new suspension gives the X3 a ride that is nimble and athletic enough to entertain the driver, but isn’t so punishing that you couldn’t use it for commuting or running errands. Fuel economy has also improved.

  • "There's not one aspect of this BMW that hasn't been improved: the electromechanical power steering, which can be specified with Dynamic drive, is more positive and gives improved feedback. What's more, the 3.5-liter inline-6 displays considerable gusto." -- Road and Track
  • "But the 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i can be a maddening daily driver, with slow throttle response plaguing its low-speed character in city driving. The Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Infiniti EX35 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 all offer a more direct connection to the drivetrain and thus more intuitive performance." -- Edmunds
  • "The X3, more so in this second-generation, is truly a taller 3 Series Sedan. And we mean that in a very positive way. With a sporty (but less harsh than the first generation) ride, great steering feel and the same 2.8-liter and twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6s found in the 3 Series Sedan, this crossover is sure to please the enthusiast in your soul." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 BMW X3 has a choice of two engines, both of which come standard with all-wheel drive. The xDrive28i has a 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower. The xDrive35i has a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder than makes 300 horsepower. The big powertrain news for 2011 is that a manual transmission is no longer available. In its place is an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually. Reviewers aren’t too disappointed because the new transmission is tuned for performance. It can drop directly from eighth gear into second gear for maximum power in passing maneuvers.

These changes to the powertrain have bumped the X3’s fuel economy ratings up a few notches. The base model gets 19/25 mpg city/highway, up from the 2010 model’s 14/24 mph city/highway. The xDrive35i has slightly better fuel economy ratings of 16/26 mpg city/highway.

Both engines have power output that’s pretty normal for the class, though the xDrive35i makes more horsepower than most of the competition. If you need 300 horses and aren’t sure about the X3, go for the Infiniti EX or Cadillac SRX.

  • "Between both of the available six-cylinder engines and the drive wheels, there's a smooth shifting and fuel economy boosting 8-speed ZF automatic transmission with a handy manual-mode and optional paddle shifting." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "In the new X3, the eight-speed’s manumatic function is remarkably prompt and never harsh, with reduced shift times in the sport and sport-plus modes. There are dual-clutch systems that might be a little quicker, but as torque-converter automatics go, shifting for yourself in this one goes better than most." -- Car and Driver
  • "The manual transmission has been dropped for this generation, but the eight-speed automatic is no slouch, and offers paddle shifters along with Sport and Sport plus driving modes (which also adjust the chassis and throttle/steering responses) for those looking for a little more sportiness in their life." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "That aside, gear changes are still smooth as butter and unlike other eight-speed automatics, the X3 makes the most of its low-end torque power to avoid the constant need to downshift when prodded to pass. The optional paddle shifters are a nice bit of added driver involvement, but we much prefer leaving the shifter in D and letting the X3 do the work itself, with eight gears to choose from, you'll be clicking the paddles an awful lot." -- Autoblog
  • "Lazy throttle response." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers say that the 2011 BMW X3 has exemplary handling that is much smoother than the 2010 model. But then again, it’s a BMW, so they’re not particularly surprised at how nimble and fun the X3 is. The X3 manages sporty handling without a punishing ride – a plus for people who want an exhilarating family car.

  • "The best news is that the punishing ride motions are gone. The suspension meets the bump and grind of bad road travel with a suppleness and compliance absent from the current X3. Potholes that send tremors through the old body structure are dealt with in a smooth, trauma-free manner. In back-to-back comparisons with the current X3, we also observed worthwhile brake system improvements. In contrast to the mushy feeling feel of the current model, the new X3's brake pedal is firmer, more communicative, and more responsive to pressure instead of travel." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "It took a while, but we’re pleased to report that the net result of a new multilink rear-suspension setup, revisions to the front struts, and general retuning of other suspension components is ride quality that is much more 3-series supple, with no discernible loss in agility.” -- Car and Driver 
  • "Brake feel and response inspire additional confidence in fast driving." -- Edmunds 
  • "On smooth roads in the Bavarian countryside, the X3 delivered a much more composed ride than its predecessor, and even on some pock-marked surfaces the firm suspension didn't result in the annoyingly choppy ride (with distracting vertical inputs) that flawed its predecessor." -- Road and Track