First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by James Hunter

Munich, Germany – The original X3 was introduced to the masses in 2004 to a rather tepid response. It was criticized for its harsh ride, poor interior quality and lack of off-road ability. It was thought of as the poor stepbrother to the X5 instead of a running competitor in the luxury crossover segment with the likes of the Nissan Murano and Lexus RX.

The 2007 X3 is something altogether different: it offers a smooth, well-damped ride enhanced by a raised driving position that allows for the perfect vantage point of the road ahead. The X3′s handling, vehicle dynamics and rock-solid poise are impressive. The interior, offered in an array of colours in cloth and leather, is sophisticated and handsome, pulled together with accents of matte titanium and wood. The material used to upholster the seats is also found on the centre console, arm rests and door linings – keeping things uniform and together. And as for off-road capabilities, the X3 proved very capable on an arranged test trail. The Hill Descent Control (HDC) system enabled the vehicle to tackle steep declines with ease, keeping the X3 moving at a crawling pace. When HDC is active, the driver can ignore the brake and gas and adjust the speed using the plus/minus buttons on the steering wheel.

First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

The 2007 X3 is available in two models – the 3.0i and 3.0si – the former offering a not-too-shabby 3.0-litre 24-valve, inline-six with 215 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, a considerable improvement over last year’s 2.5-litre I6 with 184 hp @ 6000 rpm and 175 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm. The 3.0si model offers 260 hp and 225 lb.-ft. of torque, up from 225 hp and 214 lb-ft in last year’s top-line engine. I found the difference in performance between the two new engines to be negligible: the 3.0i performed nearly as well as the 3.0si. When it comes to fuel, the base engine averages around 14.3/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway). Drive gingerly and the numbers improve drastically.

Unique to the X3′s class is the availability of a manual transmission, and it adds the fun factor of shifting a little later than the automatic, allowing for excellent acceleration at any time for quick passes. The six-speed automatic transmission, available as an upgrade at no extra cost, comes complete with a Steptronic manual shift option, but it isn’t quite as enjoyable as the conventional manual gearbox.

First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

In the Munich countryside, the X3 devoured corners and hills with ease. The handling is as you would expect from BMW (not surprising, considering the X3 is built on a 3-series platform), and if you have driven the roads of the Bavarian countryside, then you are aware of the endless hairpin turns and narrow widths.

The X3′s sure-footed handling is the result of a combination of BMW’s xDrive system and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Its xDrive system variably distributes torque between the two axles, a simple concept that has the power to turn even the trickiest roads into a pleasure to drive. The engine power is translated onto the road optimally in every situation – tight bends, steep inclines or road surfaces with varying grip. BMW claims that the system uses DSC sensors to constantly evaluate the steering angle and wheel revolution speed so it can instantly recognize and correct understeer and oversteer.

First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the centre console, although aesthetically pleasing, kept my attention off the road as my driving partner and I tried to solve the riddle of how to operate the optional navigation system. Everything on the centre console is clearly marked, except the navigation controls.

The centre storage compartment didn’t offer much in the way of space, but the large side-door storage compartments is where you’ll ultimately have to keep your CDs and anything else you don’t want rolling around the front cabin. The powerful and crisp-sounding AM/FM/CD audio system with eight hi-fi speakers and two sub-woofers) was a nice surprise. When the volume was really cranked, nothing distorted or bled; highs were highs and the low end was really bass heavy.

Another pleasant feature of the sound system is the auxiliary output for an MP3 player at the back of the centre console. Not only does this give you the opportunity to listen to five gigabytes worth of your favourite tunes, but it also keeps you from searching for places to store your CDs.

First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

Last, but certainly not least, is its cargo capacity. The X3 seats five adults comfortably, and if you have to haul a major load, the asymmetrically folding rear seats offer more than enough space to transport two mountain bikes (with the optional bicycle holder accessory, standard on the 3.0si) or whatever you have to carry. It’s not the largest vehicle by any means, but it is well packaged.

The X3 3.0i is on sale now across Canada for a base price of $45,300 (up from $44,900 for the 2006 X3 2.5i). For an extra $3,000 you can upgrade to a variety of packages including the Premium Package, which includes a heated steering wheel, panorama sunroof, Xenon headlamps and privacy glass. The Sport Package, available for an extra $1,000, sets your X3 up with a sport suspension, three-spoke leather steering wheel and great-looking 18-inch aluminum alloys.

First Drive: 2007 BMW X3  luxury cars first drives bmw
2007 BMW X3. Click image to enlarge

The 3.0si is priced at $50,900 (up from $50,200 for the 2006 3.0i) and is the only model available with the optional navigation package. You can also exclusively upgrade the 3.0si to the M Sport Package, which gives you a sport suspension, sport seats, and M leather sport steering wheel and 18-inch double spoke alloy wheels.

The 2007 X3′s subtle styling revisions make it look more sophisticated, while its interior is a big improvement over the previous generation. And now it’s one of the most entertaining entry-level premium sport-utes on the market to drive, thanks in part to its fun, manual transmission.


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