Wade Ozeroff

BMW's little ute worthy of 3 designation

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i

BMW's little ute worthy of 3 designation

Car Review

Overall rating:

6/10

Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 6/10

  • Performance: 6/10

  • Comfort (front): 7/10

  • Consumption: 6/10

  • Look: 6/10

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i

Ensconced in a feeling of déjà vu is what I am, piloting the smaller of Stuttgart luxury-maker BMW’s entries into the crossover-utility market, the 2013 X3.

The little ute shares a lot with the company’s latest 3 Series, which I drove recently and in similar conditions; and it feels a lot like the likeable entry-lux sedan.

Available trims for the 2013 BMW X3

An identical powertrain brings an identical output from the vehicle’s 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbo engine (241 hp and 258 lb.-ft., respectively), and an eight-speed automatic transmission puts it smoothly to the wheels.

The wheelbase is the same, but the X3 sports a wider tread, and its xDrive all-wheel drive system makes it a capable crawler on the ice-encrusted roadways. A little more robust a conveyance for the conditions, to be sure, and certainly the X3 is more ready for light-duty offroading than the 3 Series, with a higher ground clearance.

It is more cargo-friendly as well, hatchbacked family hauler that it is, and the ride height (and elevated sightlines) give it an edge, as does the improved entry-and-exit height that is one of the major selling points of any utility vehicle.

A black-on-black interior is illuminated by a panoramic glass expanse overhead, with BMW’s minimalist styling of the dash and instrumentation set off by metallic accents around the gauges and center console. The console houses the unusual-looking, club-head shifter and user interface selection knob.

A driver rotates through the menus of onboard functions through this central control, a twiddle-and-poke affair that allows you to access the navigation, stereo, and hands-free-link setup menus, and includes handy ‘back’ button and default menu button in case you are as clumsy as I, and inadvertently select the wrong item on the first try.

It isn’t as bad as I may be making it sound, though, there isn’t anything here someone couldn’t get used to; and in fact I like the stereo interface (which, similar to what you find in a number of rival German products detects and displays all the channels in range, for easy setup), and the Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy.

Firmly suspended and stiff-bodied, my X3 is in touch with the road, for better and for worse – I live in a city famous for its potholes, and I feel every one of them in my driver’s seat.

Naturally, the driving dynamics feel different from the 3 Series I recently drove – the bigger body and taller nature of the X3 make it behave as you would expect in a compact ute, though without the tippy feel or spring compression more noticeable in crossovers from less-sport oriented manufacturers.

The X3 brings everything you might expect in its handling and steering feel – its tight and responsive, and even with the smaller engine choice employed in my test model (the X3 can also be had as the 35i, with a 3.0 litre six-cylinder) it allows for energetic acceleration that makes it more-than-adequate for daily driving situations.

The fact is, any complaints I have about the X3 28i are pretty much the ones I found in the 3 sedans, with a couple of additions. The lack of adjustable lumbar support and lack of digital speed display, and the fact that instead of a backup camera, you get a weird cartoony representation of objects nearby that the vehicle detects. While my X3 was equipped with keyless start (yay!) it still forced me to take the key out of my pocket to remote-open the door when entering.

Ultimately, it boasts a similar appeal to buyers who may be considering a 328, and with the optional equipment of my test vehicle, a similar price.

If it were me doing the buying, I would be tempted to compare it to the latest Touring model as well, but only because I like the lower, carlike height.

As driven, my X3 with xDrive came to a nice, round 50K, before freight and taxes.

Fact file

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i

Price as tested (before taxes): $50,000

Options on test vehicle: Premium package ($3,600) includes: Panorama roof, auto-dimming mirrors, parking distance control; Technology package ($2,200) includes: extended Bluetooth integration, onboard navigation; BMW Apps ($300); through-loading system ($200), metallic paint ($800), satellite radio ($450)

Freight/PDI: $2,095

Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive

Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cyl/ 8-spd automatic

Power/torque: 241 hp/ 258 lb.-ft.

Fuel (capacity): premium (67L)

Fuel economy ratings: 9.5 L/100km city; 7.0 L/100km hwy

Observed fuel economy: 10.8 L/100km over 248 km

Warranties: 4 years/80,000 km (comprehensive)

Competitors: Audi Q5; Infiniti EX37; Mercedes-Benz GLK350

Strengths: good brakes and steering feel; cargo capacity

Weaknesses: no digital speedo; no adjustable lumbar support; fiddly tech interface