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Key Specs

of the 2011 BMW X3. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Improved ride comfort
  • Dynamics
  • Stout power from base engine
  • Visibility
  • Gas mileage

The Bad

  • Off-the-line hesitation
  • Kickdown lag
  • Stops can be jerky
  • Inconsistent materials quality
  • Quality of optional leather
  • Limited backseat thigh support

Notable Features of the 2011 BMW X3

  • Redesigned for 2011
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Choice of six-cylinder engines
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Optional panoramic moonroof

2011 BMW X3 Road Test

Mike Hanley

The BMW X3 may have been a pioneer among compact luxury crossovers, but a number of competitors — including the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volvo XC60 — have entered the fray since its debut as a 2004 model. Now, with the second-generation X3, BMW has new metal to take them on.

The 2011 BMW X3 is still the small luxury crossover of choice for driving enthusiasts, but its substantially more forgiving suspension tuning should make the new version far more appealing.

I tested the base xDrive28i, which starts at $36,750; with options, our test car's sticker price was $43,875. For a side-by-side comparison with the competitors mentioned above, click here.

Ride & Handling
One of my lasting memories of the prior-generation X3 was its extremely firm ride, which led to a choppy driving experience on rough roads. It was disappointing, to say the least, because BMWs often strike an impressive balance between decent ride comfort and top-tier handling. In the old X3, such comfort was nowhere to be found.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the new X3, and the experience is significantly better. The redesigned X3's suspension is much more forgiving on potholed pavement — much the same way a 3 Series is — but maintains the balanced handling that earns BMW respect in enthusiast circles. Toss the X3 into a corner, and after some initial body roll it steadies itself and gives you confidence to go faster. There's no getting around the fact that the X3 isn...

The BMW X3 may have been a pioneer among compact luxury crossovers, but a number of competitors — including the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volvo XC60 — have entered the fray since its debut as a 2004 model. Now, with the second-generation X3, BMW has new metal to take them on.

The 2011 BMW X3 is still the small luxury crossover of choice for driving enthusiasts, but its substantially more forgiving suspension tuning should make the new version far more appealing.

I tested the base xDrive28i, which starts at $36,750; with options, our test car's sticker price was $43,875. For a side-by-side comparison with the competitors mentioned above, click here.

Ride & Handling
One of my lasting memories of the prior-generation X3 was its extremely firm ride, which led to a choppy driving experience on rough roads. It was disappointing, to say the least, because BMWs often strike an impressive balance between decent ride comfort and top-tier handling. In the old X3, such comfort was nowhere to be found.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the new X3, and the experience is significantly better. The redesigned X3's suspension is much more forgiving on potholed pavement — much the same way a 3 Series is — but maintains the balanced handling that earns BMW respect in enthusiast circles. Toss the X3 into a corner, and after some initial body roll it steadies itself and gives you confidence to go faster. There's no getting around the fact that the X3 isn't as rewarding to drive as are BMW's cars — its taller stance degrades the driving experience — but it's one of the most fun-to-drive compact luxury crossovers available today.

Contributing to the driving experience is the X3's standard rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive. The system does a good rear-wheel-drive imitation when accelerating out of a corner; the X3 squats a little over its outside rear wheel and holds the line it's on.

There was a time when you could bulk up your forearms just by commuting in a BMW, but today they have much more power-steering assistance, resulting in lighter, easier steering; driving up and down the spirals of a parking garage is a breeze. While this comfort-oriented nature may draw scorn from BMW purists, it's the right choice for a luxury crossover.

Going & Stopping
The xDrive28i's 3.0-liter, inline-six-cylinder engine is unexpectedly stout, and it makes this two-ton crossover pretty quick; BMW cites a zero-to-60-mph acceleration time of 6.7 seconds, and you never get a sense that the engine's working hard. A more powerful xDrive35i with a turbocharged six-cylinder is offered, but the base model is by no means underpowered.

Contributing to both acceleration performance and fuel economy is the X3's new eight-speed automatic transmission (a manual gearbox isn't offered). The addition of two more forward gears versus the old X3's automatic results in more optimized ratios, and the drivetrain gets an EPA-estimated 19/25 mpg city/highway. That's ahead of the all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz GLK350 (16/21) and the base engine in the all-wheel-drive XC60 (18/24), but it trails the base turbo four-cylinder in the Q5 (20/27).

Not all is well with the drivetrain, however, as more than one editor complained of accelerator lag, primarily during standing starts. Kickdown response is also lacking; there's a noticeable pause from the time you floor the gas pedal until the transmission drops a few gears for passing power. A Sport mode is included, and it helps enhance the drivetrain's responsiveness by keeping the transmission in lower gears longer.

Despite decent pedal feel, it's difficult to come to a smooth stop in the X3. Whether it's the fault of the automatic transmission stepping down through the gears or the crossover's standard Brake Energy Regeneration system, the result is jerky stops.

The Inside
The X3's redesigned interior continues the sparse, minimalistic design approach that BMW favors, but it does a better job of integrating the center screen, which serves as the display for the standard iDrive system.

Unfortunately, the quality of the materials inside degrades the lower you look. While our test car was fitted with a nice-looking upper dashboard and classy optional wood trim, the center control panel was plain. As your eyes move down to the door pockets, you see they're made of cheap-looking shiny plastic, complete with rough edges that say "economy car" more than "luxury crossover."

Another aspect our editors panned was the X3's optional leather upholstery, which lacks appropriate richness. In terms of cushioning and support, though, the front bucket seats are comfortable.

It's nice to see the X3 bucks the trend of decreasing visibility that plagues many new cars. It has thin roof pillars and lots of glass, resulting in good all-around views.

Backseat legroom is acceptable for adult passengers. The seat cushion, though, is too low to the floor, leading to a knees-up seating position that reduces thigh support. Unfortunately, the 60/40-split backrest doesn't recline.

Safety
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side curtain airbags, active head restraints for the front seats and an electronic stability system.

For a full list of safety features, visit the Standard Equipment & Specs page. To see how well child-safety seats fit in the X3, check out MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check.

X3 in the Market
The compact luxury crossover segment has undergone a revolution since the first-generation X3 debuted. Both the Q5 and GLK-Class have become popular sellers, while X3 sales have lagged behind.

The redesigned X3 puts BMW in position to retake some of the market thanks to its more forgiving ride. Despite some shortcomings, it's still luxurious enough to cut it in this segment, and its more competitive starting price that's about $2,000 less than the 2010 X3 won't hurt, either.

Send Mike an email  



2011 X3 Video

Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2011 BMW X3.

Latest 2011 X3 Stories

Consumer Reviews

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

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Stylish, safe and reliable

by Andrea B. from Naples, FL on August 5, 2018

I absolutely love this car, is the perfect size for a small family, it drives so smooth, the radio and air conditioner work perfectly, it never gave us any trouble, we are very happy with it, the only ... Read full review

(5.0)

very comfortable car

by raphy from old bridge on June 19, 2018

excellent car. my loves it!! she is been driving for the last three weeks, and my wife is very pleased with this vehicle. i will recommend it to any person that looks for a reliable car and very ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2011 BMW X3 currently has 4 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2011 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.

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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