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Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 BMW X3 xDrive35iBigger and more Googley than ever!
-In its second generation, the X3 is almost as big as the original X5. Did BMW make it better or just bigger? Let's drive the 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i and check the tech. This is only the first major redo of the X3--a compact sports activity vehicle in BMW-speak--and it speaks with a different accent than the first generation X3 because it's now made in South Carolina at a BMW plant instead of in Austria by a contract partner of BMW, for what it's worth. Now, I'll say this, I drive a lot of cars every year and this one got more comments than 90% of them. A lot of folks either knew there was a new X3 on the market or they just took one look at it and said, "That must be a new X3." It's a very different-looking vehicle. This one's got all kinds of contour lines, stuff going on here that's pure fashion. The front end, the headlights are much more stylized in keeping with the rest of BMW's line. So, they've clearly moved the whole vehicle up market in terms of what it says as it drives by. Well, let's get on to what's really new in this car. It's quite a few things actually. First of all, BMW Assist. That has always been their telematics platforms, but there's a lot more to it now. You can drop down here to BMW Search, hit the "OK," and now, even with my phone not connected (I'll prove it, battery out), I'm gonna get online. It'll take all damn day, but I'm gonna get online. The car has a built-in wireless radio, a cellular data radio. Once a few bits of data make into the car, here's what you've got. You've got some business quotes on the top that's Bloomberg-powered. You've got business search. This will let you do a free form search powered by Google for a business you might wanna navigate to or call. But as you can see, with all this stuff, slow does matter. It's not just a matter of degree. It's a matter of impatient beyond my level of distraction comfort. When it takes that long, I'm not gonna use it, and here are my results. Notice this stuff is all POI or point of interested oriented. It's not a wide open Google search. If I put Lady Gaga in there, it's gonna go find local concert dates, not pull up pictures of her. This is one of the first Beemers to offer BMW apps. That means support for Facebook, Twitter, and Web radio right in the iDrive interface. Under the hood of this technology is also iPod Out support, which should mean your iPod or iPhone can stream video to the dash and, in the future, even echo its interface there as well, should BMW let it. New X3 is with nav, also supports some BlackBerries for e-mail integration. The e-mail is displayed on the screen and/or read to you with text-to-speech. I would have tried it but nobody I know carries a BlackBerry anymore. Now, for your audio choice, there's a lot of things that are familiar here. You've got AM, FM, and HD radio. BMW has been pretty warm to that technology even if consumers aren't. Under our CD multimedia category, we of course have CD or DVD playback when you're parked, through our single slot right here on the console. Music collection takes us to our hard drive. External devices, I've got my iPod plugged in right now to the USB port here in the console and new-ish for BMW's Bluetooth audio, not just Bluetooth for hands-free calling. These guys were kind of late to the game on this compared to some of their competitors, particularly the Asian ones. Now, we have a rear view camera on this car. As you can see, I've got trajectory lines. I've also got zone markings. See those yellow boxes right there? They tell me when there's something in the way. I've also got sonar on the right-hand panel. So, you see it's picking up things like garbage cans and that-- and that pole over there. And not totally tech, more mechanical tech, is this panoramic roof. It's a la carte, not part of package. You don't have to get this but I love these when they're done well, and this one is. It's pretty wide and you've got a fixed panel on the second row, moving panel here. Although like all of these, when you move the front panel back, it kinda parks in a convoluted mess of dividers and bars over the second panel. Someone's gonna crack that code and it's gonna be a breakthrough. All right. Because we have the xDrive35i, we get the hotter motor. Same size displacement as the 28, but this guy's got the twin-stage turbo; one turbo, but it's a twin scroll internally. So, it can operate efficiently at different RPM ranges. Bottom line: you've got 300 horsepower, 300 foot pounds of torque (very even, easy to remember), gets this guy up to 60 in about 5-1/2 seconds while delivering 19/26 MPG. Now, all X3s are all-wheel drive, which is the xDrive part of the name, and one choice on the transmission, 8-speed automatic, highly electronic even from the controller, which is this paddle that just move switches around. No mechanical linkage there. Now, driving the X3 is a more refined proposition than it used to be. Again, everything has been smoothed out, made a little more luxurious, a little more sophisticated feeling. I did find tossing this thing around on little nice country roads like this. It felt a little jouncy and/or a little tippy, not, you know, in a really incompetent way but, I don't know, more than I expected. Other than that, you've got the 8-speed automatic here. As I mentioned, the paddles here it's up shift on the right, down shift on the left. They're on the wheel, so they're basically a gimmick. You got your rocker switch here for Sport, Normal, and Sport Plus; no comfort mode. This car doesn't go there to a really soft, cushy situation. With the amount of suspension travel it has, I'm not sure it needs that. As I said, this thing's got a lot to give already. The power generally comes on well as it always does in these N55 BMW motors, although I seem to find this one is a little more, I don't know, a little flat footed than some of the other cars, like the 3 Series with this. It's always hunting its top gear. I'm detecting more either down shift delay, or turbo spooling lag, or both. So, it was not a fun car to cut and thrust in city traffic with, unless you had it down here in the Sport gate and were running your own gears. Then, you're in good shape. It's really quite manual then. But in any of the Sport modes of automatic, I don't know. It's a car that feels a little bit disconnected sometimes, not horribly, just more than you might expect from a car that says it's this sporty. Well, you may have noticed all the efficiency dynamics stuff on the car. On an X3, that means it has electric power steering and brake regeneration. Both techniques reduce parasitic drag on the engine by eliminating one rotating accessory (a steering pump) and lessening the load on the other (the alternator). That, in turn, increases MPG. Okay, let's price this guy. This may take a while. It's a BMW after all. Starting off at $42,000 base for a 35i, the turbo motor, to go CNET style, you gotta add $3200 for the tech package. That'll get you a hard drive GPS, hard drive space for audio, the rear camera. The panoramic roof is not included by the way. That's $1350 more. The tech package also rolls in the BlackBerry stuff and also the Google search, but not the apps. Those are $250 extra, a measly $250, and an insulting a la carte move by BMW. Add $1300 for the head up display. It's pricey, but it's the best in the business. And finally, a lot of folks like the M Sport Package, which includes that performance handling stuff, and some fancy wheels, and some different trim. That's $3000 more.