Probably the toughest part of reviewing the is finding something to complain about. It does everything quite well. A 3.0-liter 225-hp inline six-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission (five-speed automatic overdrive also available) gives the "Sport Activity Vehicle" plenty of stopandgo zip, though it is equally capable of sustained, high-speed cruise. A pair of business day trips provided an opportunity to experience the latter, one of them in freezing rain and snow.
Here I was especially appreciative of the rain-sensing windshield wipers. The wipers automatically adjust stroke rate to keep up with road splash. The system works so well that I never gave it a second thought. I also like the aircraft-style, red-illuminated gages that don't hurt your night vision.
The X3 is glass smooth and whisper quiet at highway speeds, with just a hint of exhaust growl under acceleration. Handling as you'd expect is precise and predictable thanks in part to all-wheel drive. Ride quality is more like a performance luxury car than a sport-ute. An especially nice surprise is the decent fuel economy. BMW says to expect 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg highway. I got 26 mpg on the highway.
A firm but comfortable driver's seat with two-way adjustable lumbar support helps melt away the miles. The front-seat passenger is afforded the same luxury. Rear seating is comfortable as well. A six-foot-tall friend who rode in back reported he had plenty of legroom. I also hauled a 180-lb package in the rear cargo area, after having first placed my entire weight on the load floor to verify its integrity.
Our test model came with a navigation system, an $1,800 option. I'd suggest reading the manual first because it can be somewhat intimidating, and there are plenty of capabilities I never tapped. A pop-up map display tilts in precise increments with a button push to suit driver preference. Neat. An onboard computer and a great sound system all feed through the same display.
Actually, there is one thing tougher than trying to find fault with the X3 giving it up after a week. BMW engineers did their homework and it shows. The only bad news, if you can call it that, is the sticker price. A $36,300 base plus options brings the total to $42,170.