2010 BMW X3 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 4, 2010

The 2010 BMW X3 beats other luxury crossovers in handling and gutsy performance, but it's still less satisfying than BMW's own 3-Series wagon.

TheCarConnection.com' editors have driven the latest BMW X3, and have written this road test from that hands-on experience. Reviewers have compared the 2010 X3 to competitive crossover vehicles from luxury brands as well. Finally, editors have written a full review of opinions from other Web sites to provide you with the most comprehensive BMW X3 information available.

The 2010 BMW X3 is a compact crossover vehicle with luxury features, the most important of which may be the BMW badge on its nose. A four-door with tight backseat space, the tall-bodied X3 has some traditional BMW handling zest infused into its all-wheel-drive body. Priced from about $40,000, the 2010 X3 takes on the likes of the Cadillac SRX, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35, Land Rover LR2, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60.

There's nothing wrong with the 2010 X3's exterior or interior styling, except that newer crossovers like the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 have made its clean, flat body panels and dash look dated. It doesn't help that the X3 shares many cues with the larger, more staid-looking BMW X5 and with the new small 2011 BMW X1. What it lacks in distinction, the X3 makes up in balance: The side view is neat and tidy, there's little wrong on the rear end, and even the smallish grilles on the nose don't disrupt its look It's simply in a no-ute's-land, flanked by the bluff-looking Benz GLK and Land Rover LR2 on one side and the sleek Audi and Volvo on the other. Inside, the BMW X3's stark black dash frames big dials and is punctuated by small rectangular buttons, in the old BMW idiom that's being revamped in the newer vehicles coming from the company.

The 2010 X3 is offered with a 260-horsepower, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. 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. The drivetrain delivers on the expected BMW traits; it's a brisk performer, and with either gearbox, the X3 is responsive and eager. The independent suspension, taller tires, and high 8 inches of ground clearance, however, 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 most competitors. 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. 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.

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At 179.9 inches long, with a 110.1-inch wheelbase, the BMW X3 sounds big, but in reality, the space allotted to passengers and cargo is somewhat tight. Front-seat occupants get comfortable, supportive seats and plenty of room, but adults in the backseat will likely find their knees mashed up. The interior's recent update added more storage spaces for smaller items, but the cargo space in back is still only average, at 30 cubic feet behind the second row and 71 cubic feet when the rear seats are lowered. The Acura RDX has nearly as much space with a wheelbase half a foot shorter-and the inexpensive Hyundai Tucson has more interior room at half the price. The X3 has very good fit and assembly quality, but some finishes look inexpensive, particularly the hard plastics around the shifter and on the door panels. There's also considerable tire noise heard in the rear seats.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has not crash-tested the 2010 BMW X3, but the IIHS gives it "good" ratings for front and side impact protection and calls it a Top Safety Pick. Front side and side-curtain airbags are standard, along with electronic stability control. Rear seat-mounted side airbags are an option. BMW offers parking sensors, but not a rearview camera.

The 2010 BMW X3 has some luxury features in its list of standard equipment, but it's shy of the standard set by some other brands. Mostly, that's because BMW fits all-wheel drive standard and offers an automatic transmission as a no-cost option. All 2010 BMW X3 crossovers come with automatic climate control; dual front power seats; vinyl upholstery; an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with HD radio and an auxiliary port; 17-inch wheels; and heated mirrors. Nifty options include a panorama-style sunroof; heated front and second-row seats; 18- or 19-inch wheels; a sport suspension and sport seats; a premium audio system; a heated steering wheel; Bluetooth connectivity; Sirius Satellite Radio; and an iPod connectivity kit. A DVD navigation system is available, but can seem fussy to operate.

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2010 BMW X3

Styling

The 2010 BMW X3 created the compact-luxury crossover mold-but Audi, Volvo, and others have broken it with smoother, more appealing shapes.

While the 2010 BMW X3 is attractive in an unadorned way, it's not the most handsome luxury compact crossover. Edmunds finds it has an "athletic personality" and Motor Trend says it has a "visual athleticism." It's simply beginning to show its age. While there's nothing wrong with the 2010 X3's exterior or interior styling, newer crossovers like the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, with their own curvy lines, make its clean, flat body panels and dash look dated. Cars.com agrees: "the styling clearly says BMW, but it's the multi-paneled look of earlier models and it's beginning to show its age," they observe. It doesn't help that the X3 shares many cues with the larger, more staid-looking BMW X5 and with the new, small 2011 BMW X1. What it lacks in distinction, the X3 makes up in balance: The side view is neat and tidy, there's little wrong on the rear end, and even the smallish grilles on the nose don't disrupt its look, which Autoblog and Motor Trend note was updated in the 2008 model year.

The BMW X3's cabin is likewise an uncomplicated, subdued environment. Its stark black dash frames big dials and is punctuated by small rectangular buttons, in an old idiom that's being revamped in the newer vehicles coming from the company. The X3 "masks its compact dimensions well," says Cars.com, and Edmunds deems the cabin of the X3 "well thought out and beautifully executed"-while noting "function takes priority over opulence." MyRide.com points out that "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.

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8

2010 BMW X3

Performance

The 2010 BMW X3 is a confident performer, with a touch of roughness at its ride limits.

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."

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2010 BMW X3

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 BMW X3 has good accommodations for front passengers, tight ones for adults in the rear; storage space is only average, and some materials look less than expensive.

At 179.9 inches long, with a 110.1-inch wheelbase, the BMW X3 sounds big, but in reality, the space allotted to passengers and cargo is somewhat tight.

Front-seat occupants get comfortable, supportive seats and plenty of room. The "firm, well-shaped seats" are deemed "excellent" by Edmunds, and MyRide.com notes that the "standard seats are more comfortable than the Sport seats," adding that a "six-footer can enjoy major amounts of headroom and actually put the steering wheel and forward footwell well out of reach." ConsumerGuide points out "good legroom and ample headroom," but says the "wide center tunnel" tends to limit foot space; they also observe the front "seats lack sufficient padding for ideal long-distance comfort" and the "manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel may not offer enough reach for some drivers."

Adults in the backseat will likely find their knees mashed up. MSN Autos states, "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." However, the heated rear seats are an unusual, nice feature.

The interior's recent update adds more storage spaces for smaller items, but the cargo space in back is still only average, at 30 cubic feet behind the second row and 71 cubic feet when the rear seats are lowered. The Acura RDX has nearly as much space with a wheelbase half a foot shorter-and the inexpensive Hyundai Tucson has more interior room at half the price. MSN Autos notes the "rear seatbacks sit mostly flat when flipped forward to enlarge the moderately sized cargo area, and their head restraints need not be removed." Edmunds adds that there are "plenty of storage cubbies," and when the rear seats are folded forward, "a healthy 71 cubic feet of cargo space" is available. MyRide.com points out the storage areas are "fitted with netting that stretches to accommodate odd shapes and medium-sized water bottles."

The X3 has very good fit and assembly quality, but some finishes look inexpensive, particularly the hard plastics around the shifter and on the door panels. There's also considerable tire noise heard in the rear seats. MyRide.com feels the two front cup holders look like "something cobbled together and glued in place" at the last minute, and observes the doors make a "hollow echo" rather than the "solid 'thunk'" typically expected of such a vehicle. ConsumerGuide comments 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 2010 BMW X3, which is a bit out of place, as the standard on most cars in this class is leather. Reviewers from MyRide note the X3's wind noise, while ConsumerGuide balances that out with the "classy growl" of the engine.

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9

2010 BMW X3

Safety

The 2010 BMW X3 protects passengers from harm's way; federal crash test data is not yet available.

The BMW X3 has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the insurance-industry engineers at the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) give the 2010 X3 "good" ratings for front and side impact protection. However, due to changes in the IIHS' methodology-roof-crush standards are now included in the awards-the 2010 X3 does not retain its designation as a Top Safety Pick.

Safety equipment in the 2010 X3 is substantial. Front side and side-curtain airbags are standard, along with electronic stability control. Edmunds points out the safety features include "active headrests" and "antilock disc brakes" as well. Rear seat-mounted side airbags are an option. BMW offers parking sensors, but not a rearview camera.

Auxiliary features include "automatic brake drying (whereby the rotors are lightly 'wiped' during wet weather conditions) [and] hill descent control," according to Edmunds.

"Outward visibility is excellent," observes Cars.com, which says that getting a feel for the BMW X3's four corners is fairly easy.

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8

2010 BMW X3

Features

The 2010 BMW X3 omits some standard luxury features in favor of hardware, but offers most of the expected bling in option packages.

The 2010 BMW X3 has some luxury features in its list of standard equipment, but it's shy of the standard set by some other brands. Mostly, that's because BMW fits all-wheel drive standard and offers an automatic transmission as a no-cost option.

All 2010 BMW X3 crossovers come with automatic climate control; dual front power seats; vinyl upholstery; an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with HD radio and an auxiliary port; 17-inch wheels; a panoramic sunroof; and heated mirrors. Edmunds notes standard features include "automatic headlights," "leatherette (a.k.a. vinyl) upholstery," and "full power accessories (including front seats)." There's also "eight-way power adjustable front seats with two-way manual headrests and driver seat and mirror memory," reports MyRide.

Nifty options include heated front and second-row seats; 18- or 19-inch wheels; a sport suspension and sport seats; a premium audio system; a heated steering wheel; Bluetooth connectivity; Sirius Satellite Radio; and an iPod connectivity kit.

A DVD navigation system is available, but can seem fussy to operate. Cars.com says it is "a bear to use-even without BMW's much-maligned iDrive system." Many drivers will want to skip this option in favor of an aftermarket navigation system.

The BMW X3 is available in only one trim level, but it comes with three major option packages that group together popular options. Edmunds explains the packages include a "Cold Weather package" of heated front and rear seats, headlight washers, and a ski bag; a "Premium package" with 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.

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April 13, 2015
For 2010 BMW X3

A good car with some small flaws.

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Bought this car brand new. It has the 3.0 and of course is X drive. Bought it as I have run BMWs before and always liked them - we needed this "SUV" to haul our granddaughters and our large dog... and it does... + More »
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