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#3

in Luxury Compact SUVs

MSRP: $39,800 - $44,900
Invoice: $36,615 - $41,310
MPG: 21 City / 28 Hwy
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BMW X3 Performance

Reviewers say the 2014 BMW X3's sharp handling and powerful turbocharged engines make it one of the most exciting SUVs to drive. Additionally, the X3 gets good fuel economy for the class.

  • "BMWs are typically known for providing an engaging experience behind the wheel, and that trait certainly holds up for the X3. While it's not quite as sporty as its smaller sibling, the X1, the X3 still provides much more feedback and entertainment through turns than the average luxury SUV." -- Edmunds
  • "In a segment that has grown since the X3's introduction in 2004 with an onslaught of luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX and Infiniti EX, the X3 stands out with a dynamic nature that makes it feel more like a sports sedan than a cumbersome SUV." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "The engine is vocal during acceleration, but it's a great sound. There's a bit more wind noise on the highway than we would like, but most other ruckus is well squelched." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "It rode calmly, steered neatly, accelerated briskly, shifted gears with decisive subtlety, and generally did all the things that inspire driver pleasure." -- Motor Trend (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The X3 xDrive28i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower, while the X3 xDrive35i has a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is up to an EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class.

Reviewers say both X3 models offer ample power for all driving situations, though most agree that the xDrive35i feels noticeably quicker than the 28i. Auto journalists also say that the eight-speed transmission delivers smooth shifts. One critic reports that the fuel-saving start/stop function doesn't always restart the engine as quickly as he would like, but the system can be turned off with the push of a button.

  • "Don't dismiss the 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i based on its four-cylinder power plant. Acceleration is very quick, and it's one of the most fuel-efficient models in the crossover segment based on EPA estimates. The auto stop-start function that comes with this engine can be an annoyance in heavy traffic, because the engine doesn't restart as quickly or smoothly as we'd like when transitioning between the brake pedal and the gas (fortunately, you can manually disable this feature). If your budget allows, though, the X3 xDrive35i will be hard to pass up, as its acceleration is very impressive, while fuel economy is still quite good in normal driving." -- Edmunds
  • "Take off up the road in a 2014 BMW X3 and the first thing you'll notice is that it's quick. And it doesn't matter which model and engine you have Even the base turbocharged 4-cylinder can propel the vehicle from 0-60 mph in the mid-6-second range. Step up to the more powerful turbo 6-cylinder, put the transmission into the second of two ‘sport’ modes, and you're looking at the same sprint taking place in the 5-second range, quicker than many quite sporty sports cars." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The xDrive28i has good pep overall, and it moves with gusto when you floor it. Unfortunately, BMW has not addressed, at least in 28i form, the X3's Achilles heel of non-linear throttle response. There is little engine response for the first third of gas-pedal travel, making X3 feel slow from a stop. After that point, power comes on too strongly, which is frustrating in moderate-speed suburban commuting." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "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." -- Autoblog (2011)

Handling and Braking

The X3 comes standard with all-wheel drive. Test drivers say the X3 feels agile through turns, and one journalist calls it one of the sportiest entries in the class. They note the ride is firm, but that the X3 is still comfortable enough for day-to-day driving. Most reviewers praise the steering, saying it is well-weighted, gives the driver a fair amount of feedback and is generally among the best steering in the class. The X3's brake system is also commended by test drivers for its good pedal feel.

  • "Take it around a turn with enthusiasm, and it feels light and nimble. As small luxury crossovers go, it's one of the sportiest, particularly with its optional suspension and drivetrain add-ons. And while the ride quality is definitely firm, most people will find the 2014 BMW X3 quite livable, whether commuting along city streets or taking long trips on the highway." -- Edmunds
  • "Steering is arguably as good as it gets in this class, the electrically assisted, vehicle-speed-sensitive power setup possessing a fair share of progressive heft and decent self-centering, but deep secrets regarding the next move of the chassis stay unrevealed." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • "X3 handles well for an SUV, but it doesn't quite match the sharp response of BMW's cars. Steering feedback is good, but some testers complain of some numbness when moving the wheel slightly off-center. Body lean is well controlled in fast turns, and the brakes have excellent pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
Review Last Updated: 5/16/14

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