The BMW X3 gets a much-needed update for the 2011 model year, benefiting from great strides in BMW technology since its launch seven years ago. The car gains some size, although the styling doesn't change much. More importantly, it gets BMW's latest power-train and cabin tech.

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Of course the new X3 has the distinctive kidney grille, and the headlights gain the light circle surrounds as daytime running lights. The shape is conventional for a small SUV.

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Like many of its model siblings, the X3 gets BMW's latest twin scroll turbo direct-injection 3-liter, six-cylinder engine. Using BMW's double-Vanos technology, it achieves excellent power while not being too thirsty.

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The SUV form is practical, offering seating for five plus a decent-sized cargo area. Visibility is good with the high seating position.

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The X3 not only has all-wheel drive, but also an active suspension system. In Sport mode, the suspension pushes the wheels into the road, increasing grip.

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The cargo area is not huge, but it's reasonably sized, and expandable by folding down the rear seats.

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A panoramic sunroof is a nice option in the X3, affording rear-seat passengers an open sky view.

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Soft-touch materials, leather, and wood combine to make the X3's cabin more luxurious than other BMW models, which tend to be more spartan.

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BMW uses an electric power-steering unit, which helps with power-train efficiency. The steering always feels very engaged, which suggests the car is only appropriate for people who really like to drive.

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Each steering wheel spoke carries well-integrated buttons for controlling cabin tech features. The voice command in this car is exceptionally good, as you can ask for music by artist and album name.

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The eight-speed transmission is a new feature for BMW. This one shifts hard in manual mode, eliminating torque-converter slush.

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BMW's iDrive interface relies on a simple list for its home menu, allowing easy expansion as new features come online.

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BMW puts the owner's manual on the car's hard drive, making it searchable, and eliminating the need to dig into the glove box and thumb through a paper manual. It includes pictures and animations.

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3D maps include topographic detail, showing hills and valleys. Cities show buildings rendered in 3D.

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Zooming out past the 1-mile scale changes the map to a satellite display.

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Traffic information is integrated into the navigation system, which will automatically reroute around jams.

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BMW added Bluetooth audio streaming as a source in the X3, something not previously available.

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The backup camera includes lots of helpers, such as trajectory lines and red object warning icons.

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