• (4.9) 7 reviews
  • MSRP: $11,938–$24,062
  • Body Style: Sport Utility
  • Combined MPG: 22
  • Engine: 240-hp, 3.0-liter I-6 (premium)
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel Drive
  • Seats: 5
2012 BMW X3

Our Take on the Latest Model 2012 BMW X3

What We Don't Like

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

Notable Features

  • M Sport Package
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Choice of six-cylinder engines
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Optional panoramic moonroof

2012 BMW X3 Reviews

Cars.com Expert Reviews

Editor's note: This review was written in April 2011 about the 2011 BMW X3. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2012, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

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.

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  


Consumer Reviews

(4.9)

Average based on 7 reviews

Write a Review

Great suv

by Exjraordinary from phoenix on September 11, 2017

SUV love my BMW always was a Toyota car guy then my friend got a BMW and I loved it. Just like my X3 so comfortable and roomy I fit in huge furniture moved house easily and got synthetic grass holds ... Read Full Review

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2 Trims Available

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Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2012 BMW X3 trim comparison will help you decide.
 

BMW X3 Articles

2012 BMW X3 Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

IIHS Ratings

Based on BMW X3 xDrive28i

Head Restraints and Seats
G
Moderate overlap front
G
Roof Strength
G
Side
G

IIHS Ratings

Based on BMW X3 xDrive28i

G Good
A Acceptable
M Marginal
P Poor

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
G
Overall Rear
G
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
G

Moderate overlap front

Chest
G
Head/Neck
G
Left Leg/Foot
G
Overall Front
G
Restraints
G
Right Leg/Foot
G
Structure/safety cage
G

Other

Roof Strength
G

Side

Driver Head Protection
G
Driver Head and Neck
G
Driver Pelvis/Leg
G
Driver Torso
G
Overall Side
G
Rear Passenger Head Protection
G
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
G
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
G
Rear Passenger Torso
G
Structure/safety cage
G
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. IIHS also evaluates seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

Recalls

There are currently 2 recalls for this car.


Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $3,000 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

Bumper-to-Bumper

48mo/50,000mi

Powertrain

48mo/50,000mi

Roadside Assistance Coverage

48mo/unlimited

Free Scheduled Maintenance

48mo/50,000mi

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained

Bumper-to-Bumper

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.

Powertrain

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.

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).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

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.

Other Years