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      10-15-2010, 07:53 PM   #1
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Post Road and Track 2011 BMW xDrive35i Driving Impressions

2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i - Driving Impressions
A standing ovation—or just polite applause—for the X3’s second act?
By Douglas Kott

October 15, 2010

Full review and photos:

Smallish sport-utes didn’t start out with especially rewarding driving dynamics or posh interiors, but BMW aimed to change both with its X3. Introduced in 2004, the X3 found a market niche unto itself, and initially reaped Midas-like sales…until competitors like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK elbowed in on the action. And by this point, the X3 was starting to show its age with its somewhat slab-sided contours, tippy-looking proportions and only so-so power. What to do to reclaim the “gold standard” status?

Well, that vehicle is here, churned out on a freshly minted assembly line that’s part of a $750 million expansion of BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant. It’s about 4 in. longer (actually about the same size as the first-generation X5), about 1.1 in. wider, and has a rear track that’s a full 3.6 in. broader. The body sides no longer resemble pool table slate, with the stylistic swagger of plastic-edged flares and a prominent door-handle-height ridge that dives dramatically toward the front wheel opening. Up front, the newly slanted “corona ring” light clusters flank a bolder pair of grille openings, while in back the bolder T-shaped taillights angle to echo to headlight treatment.

The new X3’s stylistic huevos find an equally energetic counterpart in the engine bay. While the base xDrive28i 3.0-liter inline-6 has a perfectly respectable 240 bhp, the top model that we drove—the xDrive35i—has the N55 3.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged six that packs a lusty 300 bhp, a significant 40-bhp increase from its predecessor’s top engine. Each is paired with an all-new 8-speed automatic (which weighs no more than the 6-speed it replaces) and coupled to standard all-wheel-drive system whose center electronically controlled multiplate clutch normally apportions torque in a 40/60 front/rear ratio, yet can send 100 percent to the rear axle in certain cornering situations.

Suspension is new as well, the rear 5-link setup derived from the 3 Series line, while the front MacPherson-strut suspension eschews the “boomerang” lower control arms for independently jointed links, for both a tighter turning radius and better steering axis geometry.

Our test vehicles were loaded with options, including Electronic Damping Control with Normal, Sport and Sport + modes, which includes what’s called the Performance Control feature that helps turn-in and cornering balance by applying the inside rear brake while simultaneously applying extra power to overcome the brake drag.

So how does it all work? In a word, satisfying. BMW claims a 0–60 lunge of just 5.5 seconds, which is entirely believable. The new 8-speed is a jewel…when in Sport + mode and shifted via the optional steering-wheel paddles, the response times are gratifyingly quick. The new Servotronic electric-assist steering feels natural and well-weighted; while it falls short of 3 Series levels of communication, it’s excellent for the class. Given the vehicle’s height, body roll is extremely well controlled, and even in Sport + mode, the X3 lacks the primary-ride impact harshness of its predecessor, and feels downright comfortable in Normal. Big 245/50R-18 Pirelli P Zeros complement the chassis’ tidy handling with sport sedan levels of grip.

Inside, there’s a typical no-nonsense BMW gauge cluster, generously bolstered seats, a choice of three interior leather colors with contrasting stitching (Leatherette standard) and two wood trim choices (aluminum standard) and a pair of amply sized cupholders in front of the shift selector. Even more paint color/trim options are available if you custom-order an X3, with a typical waiting period of 3–5 weeks. Head room abounds in both front and rear, and 6-footers should be able to sit in back without their knees touching the front seatbacks. A 60/40 split/fold rear seat is standard, and there are inset aluminum tie-down rails in the load floor. BMW’s much-improved iDrive system is now included in the base price for both models, as is Bluetooth capability and iPod integration.

So there’s a value story here as well, with the X3 xDrive28i listing at $37,625, some $2100 less than last year’s X3 yet with significantly more equipment. The X3 xDrive35i at $41,925 seems worth the premium merely on horsepower increase alone, along with other niceties such as standard xenon adaptive headlights. Both versions should be in dealer showrooms by January.

Full review:

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      10-16-2010, 04:08 AM   #2
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Nice, I just hope they rush the X4 to market!

I need something with a little more punch!
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      10-16-2010, 03:36 PM   #3
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Euro specs

Sadly most of this standard features are not making it in Europe, in addition to the Euroland prices. Even the 3.5i model does not have xenon lights without extra charge the only thing they are giving it is an automatic transmission (for the upcoming 3.0d model as well). STILL A GREAT CAR BMW!!! I hope to place my order in January 2011. If someone bothers to read this, I have a question, is this electrical steering an option or it has to be taken?
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      10-17-2010, 06:03 PM   #4

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definately buy a 35i used to replace my glk in a few years....
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