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      07-10-2011, 11:51 AM   #1
BahnRaider
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Buying an X3? My view after 3 months & 2000 miles

I have owned a BMW X3(F25) 2.0d SE for about 3 months and done 2000+ miles.
Albeit mostly autobahn mileage. I came from an 2010 520d (E61) M Sport, so I will admit to being a bit picky, but this is not a cheap car.
So far I have been a bit underwhelmed by the X3. It is a good car, it does most things really well and is a good family transport for 4 of us and a gundog. But this is a 35,000+ car and I can see where they savings/profit is made. But it is a BMW so we can afford to be a bit picky.
Thankfully I got a substantial discount as I go through BMW Group International & Specialist sales division.
Firstly the spec:
Its an SE (leather, climate control, PDC, cruise, auto wipers, auto headlights).
Vermillion Red. I added:
Dynamic Package – Performance Control (basically a limited slip diff), Sports seats, style 308 18” alloys, sports steering wheel.
xLine package – some expensive plastic trim.
Automatic Gearbox – 8 speeds
Service Pack – 5yrs servicing

The car looks pretty good, its nicely proportioned. It looks like an X5 that's shrunk a bit in the wash. There are no flat panels and in looks pretty good in red. I'm not a big fan of the rear light clusters as they look a bit too small. The E61 and the 5GT have really cool looking lights using rods and LEDs, which look far better.
Inside it is comfortable and refined, but at higher speeds you get a fair amount of wind noise and it is not as refined as my old 5. The engine noise is a bit more intrusive, but the car pulls well at all speeds (from standstill through to 100mph), gear changes are almost imperceptible.
I'm getting about 35mpg at the moment, I've had 128mph out of her so far (sat nav reading not speedo).
The run stop system in conjunction with the auto hold (handbrake) is excellent, so soon get used to it. The seats are comfortable but, if you have shorter legs you will find that three of the seat adjustment controls protrude from the front of the seat and will poke the back of your legs.
The idrive works well, the sound system is good but does err on the side of Bass.
The TP system will now tell you which tyre is going flat.
The cruise controls are now on the steering wheel,it now requires pressing 2 separate buttons to set it, but I preferred the stalk system in the E61.
It handles like a 4x4 has no right to. I can come off the 'Bahn or carve through B road bends and it corners and steers with absolute precision. Hit the top of the slip road at 120 and you can scrub the speed off and hurl her into the corner with aplomb. I did so and gave a Golf Gti chasing me quite a shock.
Now my main issue with the X3. I would opt for the variable dampers if I was buying again. I like the sports suspension on the E61 so that's why I plumbed for it again, but it is far, far too hard on the X3. Whilst on most roads it gives excellent handling the ride has suffered. Belgian motorway really shows this, but more alarmingly high speed cornering on a rough surface can leave you a bit nervous. Example, doing about 120mph on a sweeping right hand autobahn corner, the tarmac was a bit broken up this resulted in a feeling as though the car was skipping left, very disconcerting. In my E61 I have done 140mph flat out and set the cruise at 120, it felt like it was made to do that. (it is). 100+ in the X3 requires a bit more work, because of the raised CoG it feels quite different, and is certainly much less composed at high speed.

The boot is excellent, with some really useful storage cubbys. There is very little underfloor storage, and the floor doesn't raise up on struts. There is a HUGE compartment on the left which is excellent. The doors also have huge storage pockets which are excellent. The plastic lower trim on the doors is a bit cheap but it is robust and a bit of a nod to off roading/lifestyle activities. I like the puddle lights in the doors and under the door handles as well as the footwell lights. There are also LEDs in the inside door handles and centre console storage.
I wish I had specified whatever package would have given 12v power sockets for the rear seats! Else you only get a socket in the front and one in the boot, not very good for charging Dsi/DS and running the DVD players etc. But the vents for the rear seats are very good, there is excellent head and leg room.

Overall it is a very good car and there are more good points than bad, and my view would probably be different had I not come from the 5 series. Indeed maybe my view might change in a few more months, but currently would I buy one again? no.

So if anyone wants to buy an X3 in about mid-April 2012, drop me a line...............
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      07-10-2011, 12:21 PM   #2
Bill S
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Interesting comparison!
My X3 is very similar spec. but I do have the VDC - I agree; well worth having - it does make a big difference on rough roads.
I have the 3.0d - but my 5 series is the 535, so the comparisons are similar.

I would not say that I am underwhelmed. And I can see me keeping the X3 well past 2012...
OK - it is not the same as the 535 - but then its a lot less expensive and quite a different vehicle. The 535 is appalling in the snow and ice - I'm looking forward to winter in the X3. But for summer autobahn or motorway runs, I would guess that the X3 would not be the car of choice over the 535.
Only done about 1600 miles - auto hold is great but still not got used to run-stop. It is far too unpredictable.
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      07-10-2011, 12:43 PM   #3
BahnRaider
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Agreed, maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but it just doesn't seem to have the same presence as my 5 did. Maybe I should have waited and opted for the M Sport trim, but when I ordered mine the choice was, 2.0d SE with auto, or 2.0d SE without.
It is a very good car and I am being very picky.
But when I park it up in a sunny car park and walk away I don't glance back at it like I did with the M Sport.

Can I humbly offer a bit of advice, don't bank on the X3 being better in snow and ice.
4x4 gives you better traction not better grip.

To my 5 series I the fitted Dunlop SP wintersports (full winter tyres), they are part of the winter tyre and alloy pack for the E61. It was truly brilliant even in proper German snow. As long as you drove sensibly I would say it was as easy to drive on snow as it was to drive my Grand Cherokee on its Wrangler HP (all season tyres), certainly the grip on offer was about the same, and to break traction took some deliberate action (a big wide open car park.....who wouldn't go drifting?) Albeit took more effort to get the Jeep sliding than the 5 series.

When winter comes I will be fitting winter tyres to the X3.
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Last edited by BahnRaider; 07-10-2011 at 12:53 PM.
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      07-10-2011, 02:41 PM   #4
clivem2
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Thank you for you detailed and thoughtful report. On the dampers, wouldn't VDC be much the same as sport suspension on high speed corners (ie they would be on their hard setting). Around town driving gently is when you'd get the benefit of softer damping?
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      07-10-2011, 04:04 PM   #5
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What exactly is SE?
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      07-10-2011, 04:34 PM   #6
BahnRaider
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sard, SE is the level of trim. In europe the X3 comes in SE or M Sport trim.

IIRC, it used to mean Special Equipment.

clivem2, thats true. I'd be interested to see if sport mode on VDC is as hard as my set up. Either way, at least you can turn it off and soften it up. That said most reviews of the X3 reckon its pretty good if you just leave it in normal.
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      07-10-2011, 04:47 PM   #7
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Thinking more about your comments on the car skipping, this sounds like the effect I get with my current car, most of the effect is due to the RFTs though softening the suspension presumably would help. Some of those Belgian motorways are pretty rough!
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