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Key Specs

of the 2010 BMW X3. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Handling
  • Interior quality
  • Gas mileage
  • Safety features

The Bad

  • Automatic transmission operation
  • Navigation system
  • Price with options
  • Some controls oddly placed

Notable Features of the 2010 BMW X3

  • 260-hp six-cylinder
  • All-wheel drive
  • Standard HD radio

2010 BMW X3 Road Test

David Thomas
Editor's note: This review was written in May 2009 about the 2009 BMW X3. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2010, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

There is very little about the 2009 BMW X3 that hasn't already been covered by Cars.com; the 2007 model that Kelsey Mays reviewed is essentially the same vehicle that's offered for 2009. What has changed, however, is the X3's competition, as a number of new luxury SUVs have debuted in the intervening years that BMW now has to contend with.

While the car's pros and cons haven't changed much, the X3 is showing its age in terms of technology features — especially when compared with newcomers that best it in both price and style.

Exterior
The exterior remains the same for 2009, and the X3 retains its awkward angles, disjointed taillights and odd lower bodywork. It's not unattractive, but it sure isn't as stylish as Mercedes' new GLK350, Audi's Q5 or the new Volvo XC60, which actually turned heads when I tested it recently.

Interior
Even though it's relatively unchanged for 2009, the X3's interior remains very upscale for this segment. My test car's dark brown leather upholstery and black dashboard made for an especially classy color combination. As usual, BMW's leather is of a higher grade than you'll find in other vehicles.

The front seats are comfortable and sup...

Editor's note: This review was written in May 2009 about the 2009 BMW X3. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2010, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

There is very little about the 2009 BMW X3 that hasn't already been covered by Cars.com; the 2007 model that Kelsey Mays reviewed is essentially the same vehicle that's offered for 2009. What has changed, however, is the X3's competition, as a number of new luxury SUVs have debuted in the intervening years that BMW now has to contend with.

While the car's pros and cons haven't changed much, the X3 is showing its age in terms of technology features — especially when compared with newcomers that best it in both price and style.

Exterior
The exterior remains the same for 2009, and the X3 retains its awkward angles, disjointed taillights and odd lower bodywork. It's not unattractive, but it sure isn't as stylish as Mercedes' new GLK350, Audi's Q5 or the new Volvo XC60, which actually turned heads when I tested it recently.

Interior
Even though it's relatively unchanged for 2009, the X3's interior remains very upscale for this segment. My test car's dark brown leather upholstery and black dashboard made for an especially classy color combination. As usual, BMW's leather is of a higher grade than you'll find in other vehicles.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and even the backseat isn't terribly uncomfortable. Backseat legroom overall is about average for the class, coming in at 35.8 inches, compared with 35.1 in the GLK350, 36.4 in the XC60 and 37.4 in the Q5.

The best part of the X3 is its utility. The cargo area is exceptionally tall compared with others in the class, which means you can stack things upright that you'd otherwise have to lay flat, like golf bags. The load floor is also nice and low, which makes Costco runs a lot easier on your back. The X3 bests the three models above in overall cargo room, and it only trails the Volvo when the rear seats are up.

Performance
For 2009, there's just one engine: a 3.0-liter six-cylinder that's good for 260 horsepower. It teams with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. All X3s have all-wheel drive. In our 2007 review, we thought the automatic's shift quality was imprecise and a bore. I also drove a family member's 2005 X3 and remember thinking the transmission wasn't the best. The 2009, however, shifted flawlessly and was much more enjoyable to drive around town. Power has never been a problem in the X3; even though we love BMW's twin-turbo six-cylinder, the X3's normally aspirated six is no slouch.

Steering is tremendously heavy and laborious, as is often the case in BMWs. While I appreciate such weighted steering in a performance car — and in the X3 when I'm driving at high speeds — I found it burdensome when navigating parking lots in this meant-for-the-suburbs SUV. That said, the steering is spot-on precise.

Ride comfort is a mixed bag. While highway driving was comfortable, the X3 hiccups around the pothole-strewn streets of Chicago and its suburbs at even the lowest of speeds. Believe it or not, this tester felt like an improvement compared with X3s I've driven in the past. I hopped into the XC60 after my X3 test week was over, and it had very similar road sensitivity. To my mind, the GLK350 is better in this regard. I haven't yet tested the Q5.

Features
The 2009 X3 starts at $39,700 and comes standard with leatherette upholstery, eight-way power front seats, a panoramic moonroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There are four option packages available. The $2,800 Premium Package, which my test vehicle came equipped with, adds upgrades like leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, a universal garage door opener and Bluetooth. All of this should be standard in a vehicle in this class. There are also Sport Activity ($1,400) and Sport ($2,300) packages available that add varying interior and exterior features, including larger wheels and, in the case of the Sport package, a different suspension.

Our tester also had a Cold Weather Package ($1,000) that included heated front and rear seats, as well as the optional navigation system ($1,800). The navigation system in the X3 is severely outdated and isn't operated via the company's iDrive controller. Not only is the screen hard to see in direct sunlight, but the system got one of our editors lost on a long test drive. And no, that doesn't happen often.

If you optioned out an X3 like our tester was equipped, it would have an as-tested price of $47,375, including an $825 destination charge.

The Q5 and XC60 start at $37,200, and the all-wheel-drive GLK350 is $35,900. Similarly equipped, the Q5 and GLK would both cost around $45,000, and the XC60 would come in at about $43,000. That means the X3 isn't just more to start, it's more when similarly equipped, yet it offers outdated features, like its navigation unit. The other models also have newer options like iPod integration, blind spot warning systems and more that the X3 doesn't offer.

Safety
The X3 earned a 2009 Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the agency's highest award. That means it earned top scores in IIHS' frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests. All X3s have standard electronic stability control and a full complement of airbags.

As of publication, the Q5, GLK350 and XC60 hadn't been tested by IIHS.

X3 in the Market
As you can probably guess by now, the market has caught up with and in many ways passed the X3. That said, if it weren't for BMW's initiative, this segment might not even exist today, let alone offer so many robust choices; Infiniti, Acura and Land Rover also offer competitors.

While the X3's performance chops are probably better than they've ever been, that might not matter much in this segment. Buyers are looking for a certain level of luxury and features, plus mild utility and a decent price, and the X3 isn't delivering.

Send David an email 



Latest 2010 X3 Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.7)
Performance
(4.8)
Interior Design
(4.9)
Comfort
(4.7)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

I LOVE THIS BMW X3

by GregE from Lehigh Valley, PA on April 14, 2018

Love this car and the more I drive it the more I love it Was Leary of BMW primarily because I’ve heard they can be expensive to fix and maintain but we went to test drive an x3 and found out that an ... Read full review

(5.0)

A wonderful test drive experience.

by Lola W from Spring Hill Tn on February 15, 2018

It has everything that I expected and more. It seems to be in great condition. I wanted the color pearl but I am seriously thinking about purchasing this one even though it’s black I still love it! Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2010 BMW X3 currently has 4 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2010 BMW X3 has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by BMW

Program Benefits

Comprehensive inspection by BMW technician, 24/7 Roadside Assistance, BMW Assist. Exceptional vehicles with exceptional coverage

  • Limited Warranty

    Unlimited Miles for 1-Year

    BMW Certified Pre-Owned: Covers you for unlimited miles for 1-year, after the expiration o f the 4-year / 50,000 mile New Vehicle/SAV Limited Warranty for a total of 5 years with unlimited miles. This includes up to 5 years and unlimited miles of BMW Roadside Assistance and BMW Assist (TM) on many late model BMW vehicles. Additional plans are available to extend your vehicle's coverage for up to a total of 6 years with unlimited miles. See your BMW Center for details.
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 60,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a Comprehensive inspection.

    See inspection details.

Change Year or Vehicle

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The X3 received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker