For 2006, the BMW X3 undergoes only minor changes. The 3.0i receives partially-painted aerodynamic bumpers front and rear, which are fully-painted if the new Sport Package is selected; all models receive telephone pre-wire; and Servotronic steering is available as a stand-alone option on all.
The smaller of BMW’s two SUVs, the X3 comes as the 2.5i, with a 2.5-litre inline six-cylinder, or the 3.0i, with 3.0-litre inline six. Both base with a six-speed manual that can be optioned up to a five-speed automatic with Steptronic manual mode. Both use BMW’s superb xDrive all-wheel-drive, a torque-management system that switches seamlessly from rear-wheel to all-wheel-drive when necessary. Unlike many AWD systems that distribute power when one set of wheels slips, xDrive is proactive, using information from the dynamic stability control and other sensors to determine the possibility of wheel slippage and the need to power up or brake a specific wheel, before any wheels actually start to lose traction. It also locks the differentials on take-off until the vehicle reaches 20 km/h for maximum traction.
Features on the 2.5i include four-wheel vented disc brakes, automatic headlamps, fog lights, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer jets, tire pressure warning system, rear wiper, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, manual air conditioning, cruise control, eight-way manually adjustable heated seats, “leatherette” upholstery, power windows, and CD/MP3 player with eight speakers including two subwoofers.
The 3.0i adds Xenon headlamps, chrome grille bars, privacy glass, automatic air conditioning, eight-way power seats with driver memory, storage nets, luggage compartment parcel rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, reading and footwell lights, and reversible luggage compartment liner.
The X3 remains the odd man out in BMW’s line-up; although it’s got its brand cachet, it’s an expensive item in a crowded field of worthy midsize SUV rivals. It has a stiff ride that helps it handle very well, but that’s not enough trade-off for a ride that’s comfortable only on glass-smooth roads. The interior contains far too much hard plastic for an upscale vehicle, and the engine-turned metal accents just look weird. The 2.5-litre is a bit underpowered for this heavy trucklet; the 3.0-litre is a preferable choice. All things considered, a Honda CR-V, Lexus RX 330 or a move up to the slightly bigger and much nicer BMW X5 might be even better.