Amanda Salas: Whoever said first impressions are lasting impressions would have a hard time explaining how we feel about the new BMW X3. While the first generation was forgettable, the 2012 X3 has given us something worth remembering.
Craig Scime: The X3 is an entry-level five-passenger luxury crossover available in two trims, the xDrive28i and the xDrive35i.
Amanda: Compact, refined and well proportioned, the X3 is as dependable around town as it is enjoyable around the countryside.
Craig: Its weight is distributed almost equally over its front and rear axles, giving it great balance and sharp handling.
Amanda: The interior of this latest generation is much improved. The premium materials and the elegant styling of the dashboard layout are what BMW quality is all about.
Craig: You know, but it's just too bad that desirable options like navigation add so much to the price.
Amanda: But you know what really impresses me is this commanding view here in the driver's seat. BMW is definitely on target with that.
Craig: The tall seats and abundant glass provide excellent visibility all around.
Amanda: We also like the adult-size rear seats on the X3. A lot of compact crossovers skimp back there.
Craig: Unfortunately, the smallish cargo space with the rear seats folded is a disappointment. It really limits the X3's versatility.
Amanda: With the all-wheel drive on the X3, it really zips through turns despite being comparatively tall for a crossover.
Craig: And off-road, the all-wheel drive reacts quickly to inclines and changes in road surface. I wouldn't take it too far out back, but a little mud and gravel won't bog this guy down.
Amanda: Of the two trims, our preference is the xDrive35i. It's a real star attraction that turns in 0-to-60 times of 5.5 seconds.
Craig: You can thank its turbocharged three-liter inline 6-cylinder engine for that. It makes 300 horsepower, while the naturally aspirated three-liter inline-6 in the xDrive28i tops out at 240 horsepower.
Amanda: Both engines come with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission that gives the X3 some respectable fuel economy numbers.
Craig: What's interesting is that the turbocharged 35i outdoes the 28i in highway fuel economy.
Amanda: Pricing starts at $37,100 for the base xDrive28i. Expect to spend over $50,000 for a well-equipped xDrive35i with premium audio, navigation and sport seats.
Forget what you may have heard about the X3s of the past. The 2012 BMW X3 presents a smooth, refined and well-balanced ride.
Craig: Throw in the turbocharger, the Sport Activity package and navigation, and you've got the driver's choice among entry-level luxury crossovers.