Road Test

Road Test: 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i

March 14, 2011

BMW X3 2011_01The 3-litre straight six-cylinder twinturbo petrol engine is one of my favorites in the current BMW engine range. Luckily it is now available for the new X3 also. With BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, direct petrol injection and variable valve control it provides not just a a lot of power but is surprisingly fuel efficient also. The engine generates 306 hp which is available at 5800 rpm. With the help of the turbocharging, the engine provides a lot more torque than what we would get from a naturally aspirated engine. 400 Newton metre of torque is available on a wide engine range between 1200 and 5000 rpm. When you have a lot of torque available, it is possible to drive with surprisingly low revs. The average fuel consumption for xDrive35i in the EU test cycle is 8.8 litres/100 km and CO2 emission level is 204 grams per kilometre. On our test drive this also seemed quite realistic number, although low fuel consumption is probably not the main reason why you choose the xDrive35i. When giving it a bit more throttle, xDrive35i can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds, while the top speed is 245 km/h.

X3 xDrive35i is equipped as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The additional gears and closer spacing in this transmission reduce the engine’s rev interval between and makes it possible to shift gears very quickly and smoothly. You don’t really notice the shifts except from tachometer needle movement and by the engine sound, as the revs get lower or higher. At higher speeds, the long eighth gear reduces the number of revolutions per minute, which results in quieter running and helps fuel efficiency. If you like to change gears yourself, you might consider having the sports automatic transmission with shift paddles on the steering wheel. The sports automatic transmssion is available as an option for the xDrive35i.

The new BMW X3 features completely redeveloped suspension technology. It has a double-joint spring-strut axle at the front and a multi-link rear axle. The new X3 feels surprisingly agile and to me it is clearly sportier than the bigger X5. Pretty great feature for the new X3 is the Dynamic Damper Control, which is available as an option. The DDC has electronically controlled dampers that adapt to road surface conditions and the driver’s style of driving. Driver can choose between the “NORMAL”, “SPORT” and “SPORT+” driving modes using a button on the centre console. In addition to the damping behaviour, it changes other features as well. With SPORT mode the damping is firmer, engine response faster to the throttle and automatic transmission keeps the revs a bit higher. There is a noticeable difference in car’s behaviour between NORMAL and SPORT modes. When you’re driving with NORMAL mode and start to accelerate suddenly, it takes a short moment for the automatic to drop a few gears down and the engine to get more revs, before the car starts to collect more speed. While with the SPORT mode, the X3 feels like it’s always ready to go. Just give a bit more pressure on the throttle and the SUV instantly jumps forward. The NORMAL mode works great on daily driving, while the SPORT mode is great when you want to enjoy more of the car’s performance. The SPORT mode turns the X3 much more aggressive and sportier SUV. The SPORT+ mode changes also the response of the Dynamic Stability Control.

EPS (Electric Power Steering) including the Servotronic function for speed-dependent power steering is incorporated in the X3 model for the first time. The steering in X3 is as good as it should in the BMW. The steering feels accurate and gives you nice amount of feedback making it enjoyable to drive even on slippery winter roads. The new variable sports steering is available as an option. It reduces the degree of steering movement necessary to turn the front wheels. For example, less steering effort is required when parking or during cornering. To make sure that there is always enough traction the X3 comes with permanent four-wheel drive technology, xDrive as standard. This electronically controlled system ensures variable distribution of drive torque to the front and rear axles. The intelligent four-wheel drive technology optimises not only traction, but also handling in bends. Even during steady cornering, a higher proportion percentage of drive torque is transferred to the rear wheels. Optional Performance Control enhances the BMW X3’s agile handling even further. Targeted braking of the rear wheel nearest the inside of the bend together with a simultaneous increase in drive power ensure the vehicle’s exceptionally agile steering behaviour.

The X3 looked good in pictures and even better in real life. I’m not so sure about the front design, but from the rear it looks great. It has a bit same looks as the bigger X5, probably because of the same kind of rear lights. This new X3 is also a surprisingly big car. Compared to the predecing model the wheel base is widened by 15 mm to 2810 mm and a track width is  increased by 92 mm. With increased exterior dimensions the driver and the passengers can enjoy from increased interior width. For rear seat passengers there is significantly more leg and elbow room. Both at the front and at the back, the new X3 has a multitude of large storage spaces and shelves. Large side pockets in the door panels provide space for 1.5-litre bottles at the front and 1-litre bottles at the back plus the cupholders can be found from the centre console. The rear seat backrest can be split at a ratio of 40/20/40 and the three segments can be folded down either individually or together. Folding down the rear seat backrest the luggage compartment volume can be increased from 550 to 1600 litres.



  • Petrol
  • 6-cylinder
  • 2979cc
  • TwinTurbo


  • 225 kW (306 hp) / 5800rpm


  • 400 Nm / 1200-5000rpm


  • 8-speed automatic
  • AWD

0-100km/h / 0-62mph

  • 5.7 seconds

Top speed

  • 245 km/h

Fuel consumption

  • 8.8 l/100km

CO2 emissions

  • 204 g/km

BMW X3 2011_07