- Upgraded power
- Available manual transmission
- Revamped interior styling
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Panoramic sunroof
- Choppy styling
- Tight second-row seating
- Handling more SUV than crossover
features & specs
The 2008 BMW X3 gets much-needed improvements to its ride and its interior, but it's still more rugged--though not as refined--as the Acura RDX.
TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 BMW X3 to write this comprehensive review. Our car experts also drove the 2008 BMW X3 in Germany and in the U.S., to be able to deliver our definitive opinion on the car, to compare it with other cars in the class, and to help you decide which vehicle is right for you.
The 2008 BMW X3 is a far cry from the original X3 that went on sale in 2004. BMW's first stab at a compact crossover felt harsh and unrefined, and its interior was far below the usual BMW standards of quality.
With the 2007 model year, BMW made major upgrades to the X3, and the changes are all for the better. For starters, BMW transplanted a new powertrain under its hood. The major infusion of power comes from a standard 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine producing 260 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are standard equipment, while a six-speed Steptronic automatic is available as a no-cost option. Handling and ride are still biased toward the SUV end of the spectrum, but the harsh, jittery ride has been toned down.
The interior of the 2008 BMW X3 carries the new style introduced in 2007. There's more storage, the plastics are of a higher quality than those in the first X3, and overall, the styling is more like BMW's own 3-Series cars, with a bit of wood trim on the panels. A little more cargo room has been allocated, but the BMW X3's interior is still a bit tight for adults, particularly in the second row.
New features include a panorama-style roof, heated front and second-row seats, available heated steering wheel (cold weather package), side impact and curtain airbags, stability and traction control, park assist, and Bluetooth wireless technology. Second-row, side impact airbags are available optionally. The NHTSA has not yet tested the new BMW X3, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it "good" ratings for front and side impact protection and calls it a Top Safety Pick.
2008 BMW X3
The 2008 BMW X3 bears all the hallmarks of BMW styling, but it’s beginning to show its age.
The 2008 BMW X3 is BMW's compact crossover. Derived from the 3-Series lineup, it's a four-door with a wagon back, a taller ride height, and all-wheel drive. It's built in South Carolina, and it takes on the likes of the Acura RDX and the Land Rover LR2 as BMW's entry-level off-roader.
Edmunds says the X3 has an "athletic personality" and notes "this crossover sport-ute shares its platform DNA with BMW's perpetually praised compact sport sedan." Cars.com notes "the styling clearly says BMW, but it's the multi-paneled look of earlier models and it's beginning to show its age." They add that the X3 is slightly shorter than its prime competition, the Acura RDX. Motor Trend refers to the "freshened visual athleticism" that came with a redesign in the 2007 model year; for 2008, there are only a few minor changes. Last year also brought a "new front bumper that frames a new, slightly larger twin-kidney grille," according to MyRide.com, and the grille now has "chrome vertical slats" to match the "chrome strip along the base of the side windows" and new LED taillights, according to Autoblog. Still, compared to brand-new entries from Acura and the coming Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK, the BMW X3 is "aging," Cars.com suggests.
Inside, "the cabin of the X3 is well thought out and beautifully executed," says Edmunds, adding "function takes priority over opulence." MSN Autos calls it "quiet, airy and upscale." This BMW 2008 model "masks its compact dimensions well," says Cars.com, especially due to the telescoping steering wheel and power adjustment driver's seat. "Dark ash wood trim is now standard," but you can also get gray poplar or light natural poplar at no extra cost on the BMW X3, according to MyRide.com. The new "three-spoke steering wheel" and "the new look around the gauge cluster with the instrument hood integrated into the dash" are noteworthy style choices on the BMW X3.
2008 BMW X3
The 2008 BMW X3 brings typical German handling flair to its off-road-capable package.
The 2008 BMW X3 offers a single performance profile that combines soft-roading with good on-road handling, according to reviews from around the Web.
The standard engine in the BMW X3 is a 3.0-liter inline-six engine that puts out 260 horsepower, says Edmunds. It also provides 225 pound-feet of torque. MSN Autos calls the engine "venerable" and says it puts out "more immediate engine response" with a series of upgrades. Cars.com calls it "potent,." Motor Trend reports the engine has strong low-end torque, and capable of pushing the X3 to 60 mph in as little as 6.9 seconds.
BMW offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic met with complaints from some but MSN Autos calls it responsive and likes its "manual-shift feature", while it points out the automatic is a no-cost option.
"Power is sent to all four wheels through an all-wheel-drive system" on this BMW 2008 model, says Edmunds. The new xDrive system is closely teamed with the X3's traction and stability control. Motor Trend says it lets the driver choose more "wheelslip before the electronics kick in." MSN Autos simply says, "the all-wheel-drive system optimizes traction and enhances handling on slippery and dry roads."
When it comes to fuel economy, the automatic BMW 2008 model gets 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The manual version of the BMW X3 only gets 1 mpg less than the automatic, says Edmunds.
On a positive note, the "X3 readily swallows mile after mile of high-speed highway," says MyRide.com, adding it "shines on dusty, gravel-strewn back roads." 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." Many reviewers found the X3's steering somewhat heavy, but like Edmunds says, "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."
The 2008 BMW X3's "brakes are strong and resistant to fade," says Edmunds, while Cars.com finds "the X3's brakes are surefooted at their limits, though the pedal is on the grabby side."
2008 BMW X3
Comfort & Quality
The 2008 BMW X3 is built from high-quality materials, but second-row passengers might feel the squeeze.
Plenty of space and overall good quality come with each 2008 BMW X3, ensuring even picky drivers that they'll be riding in comfort.
"Comfort and support" from the "firm, well-shaped seats" is deemed "excellent" by Edmunds. And though the "standard seats are more comfortable than the Sport seats," says MyRide.com, the seatbelts are "properly tensioned" and the range of seat adjustment is "extensive." ConsumerGuide adds that there is "good legroom and ample headroom," but the "wide center tunnel" tends to limit foot space. ConsumerGuide also feels the "seats lack sufficient padding for ideal long-distance comfort."
The rear seats also do not offer comfort for adults in particular. However, the heated rear seats are a plus, and the space is good overall, though MSN Autos reports, "There's room for five tall adults, although four is a more practical number because the X3 is a little narrow, and the center of the rear seat is too stiff and high for comfort."
The storage areas are called "flexible" by MyRide.com. MSN Autos covers the rear cargo area, noting, "The one-piece tailgate has an interior pull-down assist and 6-foot clearance when fully open to reduce head-banging to those in a hurry to load cargo.
ConsumerGuide mentions the "interior materials are fairly nice, but some testers feel they're not as rich as they should be." The standard upholstery is vinyl on the 2008 BMW X3, which is a bit out of place, as the standard on most cars in this class is leather. Edmunds notes "function takes priority over opulence" with the BMW X3, but still calls the interior "well thought out." But MyRide.com mentions a bit of haphazard construction in that the BMW X3's two front cup holders look like "an afterthought" or "something cobbled together and glued in place" at the last minute. Plus, when closing the doors of this BMW 2008 model, the reviewer experienced a "hollow echo" rather than the "solid 'thunk'" that is typically expected of such a vehicle.
Wind noise in this BMW 2008 model is a bit louder than expected, says MyRide.com, but they attribute this to how quickly you can get up to speed without realizing it. ConsumerGuide concurs, after being impressed by the "low tire and wind noise" and noting the engine exhibits a "classy growl" during acceleration.
2008 BMW X3
The 2008 BMW X3 gets good IIHS crash-test scores and has advanced safety features; the NHTSA hasn’t tested one yet, though.
The 2008 BMW X3 scores well in insurance-industry crash tests, but federal tests have not yet been completed.
Frontal and side impact tests earned the BMW X3 the highest score issued by the IIHS in crash tests, according to Edmunds. In fact, the 2008 BMW X3 garners a coveted Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control." However, the BMW 2008 X3 has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Despite the lack of government crash ratings, Edmunds points out the many safety features that this BMW 2008 model possesses. Those features are: "Full-length side curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags, active headrests, antilock disc brakes and a stability control system." These are the primary standard features; however, there are additional features, including "automatic brake drying (whereby the rotors are lightly 'wiped' during wet weather conditions) [and] hill descent control."
Head restraints on each of the five seats in the 2008 BMW X3 and LATCH child seat anchors come standard as well, notes Cars.com. Rear side-impact airbags and front and rear parking sensors are also optional.
Finally, "Outward visibility is excellent," observes Cars.com, who says that getting a feel for the BMW X3's four corners is fairly easy.
2008 BMW X3
The 2008 BMW X3 contains plenty of convenience features, and a handful of useful options—among them, the infuriating iDrive controller.
Even in base form, the 2008 BMW X3 sports a long list of features that makes its nearly $40,000 price tag a little easier to swallow.
The BMW X3 is only available in one trim level, but with three major option packages available. Edmunds speaks of these major option packages on this BMW 2008 model, which are: "Cold Weather package," which includes heated front and rear seats, headlight washers, and a ski bag; the "Premium package" that includes leather seating and additional interior and exterior lighting; a "Sport package" with firmer suspension calibrations, 18-inch alloys, sport seats, and body styling accents; and a "Sport Activity package," which includes the 18-inch alloys, running boards, privacy glass, and blackout window frames.
Standard features on the BMW X3 include "automatic climate control with micro-filter and air recirculation; Sensatec leatherette upholstery; eight-way power adjustable front seats with two-way manual headrests and driver seat and mirror memory," and more, says MyRide.com. And Edmunds adds a few items to the list of BMW X3 features, including "17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, leatherette (a.k.a. vinyl) upholstery, full power accessories (including front seats), keyless entry and a CD player with an auxiliary audio input."
Besides the numerous standard features included on the 2008 BMW X3, there are several optional ones as well, including a navigation system. However, Cars.com says it is "a bear to use--even without BMW's much-maligned iDrive system," making this feature less than desirable.