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2005 BMW X3 review: 2005 BMW X3

2005 BMW X3

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

5 min read

2005 BMW X3

The popularity of BMW's X Series proves that some people don't mind seeing BMW's classic twin grilles so high off the ground, and it shows that BMW can build performance at any altitude. All in all, the look of this sporty and small SUV hasn't changed much, and the sheet-metal appearance of BMW's sedans, coupes, and roadsters hasn't quite hit the 2005 BMW X3 yet, which for many people will be a good thing. BMW's engineering expertise also shines through the X3's sophisticated integration of the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, coupled with a 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder and mediated by a five-speed automatic transmission. Despite these high points, there were also disappointments. Although we know BMW can also make fine interiors, we didn't see that in the X3, even though our test vehicle was equipped with the $1,800 Premium Package. We found the audio system and leather of only adequate quality and felt the ride was a bit rough. An optional navigation system ($1,800), Xenon adaptive headlights ($800), and a front and rear Park Distance Control system ($700) are available, though our test vehicle didn't come with them installed. It did have Bluetooth integration, which paired up nicely with our Motorola V505, as well as a double-pane moonroof similar to the one we liked so much on the Subaru Outback 3.0. The total price for our test X3--including the Premium Package mentioned above ($1,800), as well as the Sport Package ($1,500) and the Cold Weather Package ($750)--came in at $42,345. Our BMW X3 sports a classic silver exterior that goes perfectly with the interior's black leather seats and rubberized dashboard trim. From a distance, the cabin looks rather elegant, but this impression is ruined once you take a closer look. The leather on the seats, though nice and thick, has a finish that gives it the texture of vinyl. On the upside, the seats are power adjustable, with a memory setting for the driver seat. We've never been disappointed by the lumbar support in BMW seats, and the X3 didn't let us down either. Rear leg room is a little cramped, but with only two people in back, there's room to fold down the drink-holding console in the center. Unfortunately, the console's construction feels a little cheap.


2005 BMW X3

The Good

Bluetooth phone integration; double-pane moonroof; elegant interior look.

The Bad

Jolty suspension; leather with the texture of vinyl; no ID3 info from audio system.

The Bottom Line

The BMW X3 is a little short on luxury and doesn't distinguish itself in any other significant way.

We were impressed by the 2005 BMW X3's Bluetooth integration, which is controlled from steering-wheel buttons. The button marked R/T puts the X3 into pairing mode, and we had no problems getting connected. Our Motorola V505 immediately paired with the X3, and the car loaded our address book. Steering-wheel buttons let you scroll through address book entries, which are visible on the single-line display below the stereo, and you can place calls with a single button-push. Even better, the car automatically mutes the stereo volume during phone calls.

The BMW X3's AM/FM/MP3 CD system sounds a bit thin through the car's eight speakers and doesn't display ID3-tag information.

The stereo lived up to the inauspicious title of Business CD, which is inscribed in its black plastic face. This simple AM/FM/MP3 CD system pumps out audio through eight speakers, but we weren't all that impressed with the quality of the sound. It could use a subwoofer to make the audio more enveloping. The simple single line display below the CD slot also doesn't show ID3-tag information off MP3 CDs, which was disappointing, but as with the phone controls, the stereo can be manipulated from the steering wheel.

Also in the center console is a hatch where a navigation system might go--had that option been installed. As it was, the hatch provided room for sunglasses and parking change. The onboard computer displays average miles per hour, average miles per gallon, miles until empty, and trip miles just under the speedometer. We like the material on the dash, with its slightly rubberized feel.

The BMW X3's double-pane moonroof features a motorized inside cover and can be opened to half or full positions.

As with the Subaru Outback 3.0, we really like the double-pane moonroof. The 2005 BMW X3 has a motorized inside cover to block out the view entirely, while the moonroof itself can be put into half- or fully open positions. The tinting keeps the sun from blasting out the interior on sunny days, but we would have liked to see a vent-position option to let a little air in on highways.

A 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder pumps out 225 horsepower to move the 2005 BMW X3's 4,023 pounds along smartly. Engine performance is improved by BMW's camshaft control system, dubbed double-VANOS. The X3 came up to freeway speeds easily, although we had to push it a little on the hills. The five-speed automatic transmission includes a sport mode and driver gear selection, although we didn't find a huge difference in feel between the sport and drive modes. The passing gear doesn't give quite the same rush as BMW's sedans, but it is working on a bit more weight.

The all-wheel-drive system in the 2005 BMW X3 puts all power to the rear wheels by default but can shift half the power to the front wheels if conditions require it. Although not a serious off-roader, the X3 comes with hill-descent control, which, combined with the gear-selection mode, lets it handle some difficult roads. Its stability control should keep it upright if the ruts get too deep.

We felt the suspension was a little rough for a car that's probably not going to face too many off-road situations. It didn't smooth over the rough edges of potholes or bumps in the road. The ride is mostly due to tuning, since the X3 employs a carlike unibody construction and independent suspension. Some of our staff felt the steering was too light as well, but that wasn't a universally shared opinion.

For air-bag protection, the 2005 BMW X3 includes front bags for the driver and passenger, plus front door-mounted side bags. The air bags use BMW's dual-stage deployment system to prevent unnecessary passenger-air-bag deployment. Dynamic brake control helps stop the car by adding braking power when the pedal is pushed quickly, and adaptive brake lights get brighter when the brakes are applied harder. The X3 also includes sensors that automatically unlock the doors and turn on interior and hazard lights when a crash is detected.

The warranty on the 2005 BMW X3 is 4 years/50,000 miles and 12 years for rust. It also comes with BMW's maintenance program, which covers any regular-service items, such as brake pads, for 4 years or 50,000 miles.


2005 BMW X3

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 6Performance tech 5Design 7


See full specs Trim levels 3.0iAvailable Engine GasBody style SUV