Reviews

2011 BMW X3 Walk Around

The crisp new lines of the 2011 BMW X3 seem more familiar than novel at first sight, but the design soon dates the previous car, and you need to see old and new side by side for the full import of the new look to be absolutely clear. Up front is the usual forward-leaning BMW kidney grille. The headlight assembly is large and emphatic, and is integrated with a detailed front apron which uses contrasting colors and various apertures to provide plenty of surface excitement. There are six contour lines sweeping down to meet at the kidney grill for a sculpted appearance.

BMW says the twin round headlights combined with the round fog lamps form a triangular light pattern that is characteristic of its SAV design. (BMW calls its SUVs Sport Activity Vehicles.) The upper edge of the headlight assembly is accented by a chrome trim, and BMW's signature Corona Rings are again used as the daytime running lights. When equipped with the optional Xenon headlights, the Corona Rings and daytime running lights are provided by bright white LEDs.

The profile of the new BMW X3 is characterized by flared wheel arches and short front and rear overhangs. Three creases in the car's side add detail to the silhouette, with the X3's signature upper contour line (at door-handle level) rising steeply from the front wheel arch area, then tapering toward the rear light clusters. This line is echoed by two subtle lines following the contour line above the wheel arches.

Horizontal lines abound at the rear, with contrasting angles at the rear glass and lights providing perspective. The designers have used concave planes and a recessed license plate area to alter the reflective dimensions, adding a sculpted effect. The taillights are positioned well to the outside, and have a distinctive mushroom shape that allows the outboard lenses to be substantially larger than the shapes in the tailgate. LED light bars are intended to create a distinctive BMW nighttime design signature.

When compared to its predecessor (pre-2011), the new X3 is a half-inch taller, 3.36 inches longer, 1.1 inches wider, and features a half-inch more ground clearance. It rides on a wheelbase that is just 0.6 inches longer, at 110.6 inches.

Interior

The interior of the new 2011 X3 is welcoming, with tasteful surfaces and a very tidy arrangement of all necessary components. Typical BMW dark dashboard moldings contrast with lighter lower sections and carpet colors. High-grade wood trim accents are used sparingly on the center console, door cappings, and above the glovebox.

The view out through the windscreen is commanding, and big mirrors provide a good spread of rearward visibility to deal with the inevitable blind spots that occur in cars with vertical D-pillars.

A fourth-generation iDrive multi-media controller keeps control-button proliferation to a minimum, and the dashboard seems tidily organized.

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with BMW ergonomics will have everything working within seconds; strangers may take a few minutes more, but they'll doubtless appreciate the quality feel of the switches and controls. A fat-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel incorporates various satellite switches for the audio system and cruise control, and the ambiance is at once functional and luxurious. The optional navigation system uses an 8.8-inch high-resolution display featuring a trans-reflective screen said to be the largest in the vehicle segment. Storage compartments and cupholders are present at every turn.

The three rear seats are certainly roomier than in the previous car, and the luggage compartment provides between 19 and 56.6 cubic feet of space depending on how the rear seats are arranged. Rear-seat backrests split 60/40 and can be folded separately or together. The rear seats that come with the optional ski pass-through have three segments (40/20/40) that can also be folded down individually.

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