The X3 was completely redesigned for 2011, to become longer, wider, and more physically impressive than before. It also found more in common visually with other BMW vehicles, in addition to the larger X5.
Rugged and blocky are out, insofar as the X3 is concerned, while the X3's look, if we had to sum it up, would be lean, pert, and graceful. The sweeping character lines that distinguish its doors now wouldn't be out of place on a 3-Series wagon. The nose tapers low, gently, avoiding the tall, blocky trap set by some other compact crossovers as they attempt to ape "real SUV" cues. The tail is capped with small, LED-lit taillamps shaped like those on a 5-Series or 3-Series sedan.
All of it--and the key to the X3's high-class look--is infused with more attention to detail and more attention to surfacing than before, without going overboard on functionless style, as BMW's seen in its recent past.
The instrument panel won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been in a BMW vehicle in recent years. The dash arcs to envelop controls and angles them at the driver, adding to the more sedan-like air surrounding the new SUV. But perhaps more importantly is that it's fitted completely with soft-touch surfaces; everything from the middle of the doors on up is soft to the touch and nicely grained.
The way it all comes together is not just calming, but de-cluttered an at ease with its mission. Audio and climate controls are simplified, with the off-centered iDrive controller just down from a large LCD screen that links into the connected-driving zeitgeist.