Part of the fun of test-driving cars is they're a mystery upon first encounter. But the 2008 BMW X3 is one car that I never completely figured out.
The X3's interior has lots of buttons with icons - teeny-tiny icons - to tell what they do. I now have a basic idea of what it's like to decipher hieroglyphics. In the beginning it was kind of fun to try to figure out the buttons, but after awhile it became annoying - especially when I couldn't solve them without a magnifying lens.
My problems with the X3 don't stop at the buttons. I couldn't solve the riddle of the missing cupholder. There was only one cupholder in the center console. The second one was behind a secret panel by the passenger-side door. Nifty, yes - but without any other compartments for my phone or toll pass, I got flustered.
So how's a busy mom-on-the-go going to deal with this problem? Store everything on the passenger's seat, of course. When I did this, a mysterious beeping came from the vehicle. The indicator flashed that I needed to fasten my seat belt, but it was fastened and the kids were buckled in, too. I finally realized my heavy briefcase had tripped the passenger seat's weight sensor. I kept waiting for the beeping to stop, but it didn't until I took my stuff off the seat. I want to believe the X3 isn't as huffy as it seemed, but I don't.
I also had trouble finding the backseat cupholders. We looked and looked until we discovered them stashed in the center seat's headrest. When the seat was down, the back of the headrest opened up and - surprise - cupholders! Phew, at least one mystery solved.
The Latch connectors were accessible, but the seat belt buckles were so recessed that they were hard to use and easily obscured by the kids' boosters. This is a pain in the derriere and must be remedied for me to give the X3 a thumbs-up.
Despite the X3's cargo, icon and backseat issues, it still manages to be fun to drive. The seats are contoured and huggy, and it's nimble and speedy. The X3 is a fun, small SUV.
Two mysteries remain on the X3. The iDrive system (BMW's music, navigation and system controls manager) is impossible to use, and I can't understand why it hasn't been redesigned. But more frightening is that the rear side-impact airbags are optional. Yikes. If you are comfortable with these unsolvable mysteries, the X3 might be for you.
*For more information on the 2008 BMW X3 and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Some - Good Times
2008 BMW X3 SL
Base price: $38,600
Price as tested: $48,700
Engine: 260-hp, 3.0L inline 6-cyl.
Fuel: 19/24 mpg
Ground Clearance: 8.0"
Turning Radius: 19.2 ft.
Cargo space: 30.0 - 71.0 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: n/a
Passenger's side: n/a
Front occupant: n/a
Rear occupant: n/a
Rollover resistance: n/a
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