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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
top-notch road manners
quick reflexes, brilliant steering, outstanding power delivery
Allows the driver to choose a higher threshold of wheelslip before the electronics kick in
Great steering and acceleration bring the 2010 BMW X3's road manners to the front of the pack, but ride quality is less settled and fuel economy is middling at best.
The 2010 X3 is offered with a 260-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine.
The drivetrain delivers on the expected BMW traits; it's a brisk performer, and with either gearbox, the X3 is responsive and eager. Cars.com calls the engine "potent, starting off with adequate power and coming on much stronger at higher revs," while Edmunds attests "the spirited engine always has plenty of smooth thrust on hand." MSN Autos calls the engine "venerable" and says it now has "more immediate engine response" after a recent update.
BMW still offers a six-speed manual transmission with the X3-because it sells many in other markets-but all-wheel drive is standard. A six-speed automatic is a no-cost option. MSN Autos praises the X3's "responsive six-speed automatic with an easily used manual-shift feature" and points out that it's a no-cost option. Cars.com, however, is disappointed with the automatic, noting it "repeatedly bogged down in lower gears, offering premature shifts before the engine could hit its stride." This makes for "awkward starts" and sudden "bursts of unsolicited power," causing an uncomfortable ride in stop-and-go traffic. Motor Trend reports the combination of engine and manual transmission in the 4,100-pound X3 "claim 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds with the six-speed manual and 7.1 seconds with the no-cost optional six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic." The 2010 X3's fuel economy is mildly disappointing at 17/24 mpg, in a class where the Cadillac SRX earns 17/25 mpg and the Volvo XC60, 16/27 mpg.
The independent suspension, taller tires, and high 8 inches of ground clearance in the 2010 X3 translate into driving feel that's not what BMW sedan drivers might expect. It's not as sharp or as balanced as the distantly related 3-Series, but it is crisper than its crossover competition. While some reviewers find the steering of the 2010 BMW X3 to be somewhat heavy, Edmunds declares, "the ultra-communicative and precise steering is simply the best." Cars.com refers to the X3's "top-notch road manners" and asserts it has "more road feel than many cars." MSN Autos reports "the nicely sized X3 has good maneuverability in tight parking situations and is among the sharpest-handling SUVs, with little body lean when snaking through curves." MyRide.com thinks the X3 "feels confident in the wet, and really shines on dusty, gravel-strewn back roads and slushy boulevards." BMW's xDrive system gets much of the credit for the nimble feel. Motor Trend observes, "Quicker in response to traction issues, it also offers, for the first time in a BMW sport/ute, Dynamic Traction Control that allows the driver to choose a higher threshold of wheelslip before the electronics kick in." BMW tones down the harsh, jittery ride of previous editions, but opting for the big 19-inch wheels hardens the X3's responses a bit.
Edmunds says the X3's "brakes are strong and resistant to fade," and Cars.com agrees, calling them "surefooted at their limits, though the pedal is on the grabby side."
The 2010 BMW X3 is a confident performer, with a touch of roughness at its ride limits.