2011 BMW X3

Based on the proven 3 Series platform, the BMW X3 has always set the standard for athletic handling among entry-level luxury crossover SUVs. However, the first-generation X3, which wrapped up production in 2010, had a few shortcomings that limited its mainstream popularity. Tops on this list was the X3’s stiff ride, which didn’t sit well with some luxury-crossover shoppers. BMW’s first “cute ute” was certainly a capable and attractive vehicle, and it had one of the smoothest six-cylinder engines on the planet. Still, BMW knew there was room for improvement.

With the new, second-generation X3, BMW has taken some decisive steps toward broadening this crossover’s appeal. If you’re looking for a vehicle like this, chances are you’ll appreciate what the unusually well-rounded X3 lineup has to offer.

Here are AutoTrader’s five reasons to buy the 2011 BMW X3:

  1. Smooth Ride: The new X3 rides on an updated platform based on the latest 3 Series, and it’s been tuned for the kind of comfort shoppers in this segment expect. Don’t get us wrong– the X3 still handles very well for a tall wagon, if you care about that sort of thing. But the takeaway here is that BMW really dialed up the suppleness this time around. Your chiropractor will lament the lost business.
  2. Two Great Powertrains: The original X3 made do with one engine, albeit an excellent one. The new X3 offers two choices: a naturally aspirated inline-6 with a perfectly adequate 240 horsepower, or a turbocharged inline-6 cylinder with a robust 300 horsepower. Both engines are vibration-free and have a great sound. The sole transmission is a stellar eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers remarkably quick and smooth shifts. What’s more, fuel economy is pretty good, checking in at 21 miles per gallon with either engine.
  3. A Whole New iDrive: You’ve probably heard about how bad iDrive used to be, but you may not have heard that the latest version is much more user-friendly, thanks to additional console-mounted buttons and a more intuitive menu system. Good thing, too, as it’s standard on every X3. The icing on the cake is the wide, colorful display screen, which puts most rival displays to shame.
  4. Spacious Rear Quarters: Vehicles in this class are sometimes referred to as “compact luxury crossovers,” but there’s nothing compact about the X3’s backseat. Four six-footers can cruise all day without complaint in this vehicle. Unlike the certifiably compact 3 Series sedan and wagon, the X3 offers a high, chair-like seating position in back, which improves thigh support and maximizes legroom.
  5. Good-Looking Practicality: Crossover SUVs have become the primary way for wagon-hating Americans to have their cake and eat it, too, and the X3 is a fine illustration. It looks muscular and sporty on the outside, but inside it’s basically a box, just like those big wagons of yore. That means all you have to do is flip down the rear seatbacks, and presto–you’ve got yourself a miniature moving van. A 3 Series sedan would be overwhelmed by a trip to Ikea but the X3 says, “Bring it.”
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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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