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Review: 2012 BMW xDrive28i

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On: Thu, May 3, 2012 at 1:24PM | By: Chris Salamone

Review: 2012 BMW xDrive28i

Starting with the classic model 2002, BMW has produced and sold a number of exceptional German-engineered sport vehicles. And, with a few exceptions, these thoroughbreds have been worth their hefty price tags. Since the X3’s inception in 2003, auto critics have wondered if the small CUV really ‘fit’ into the BMW brand image. Mixed within a lineup of luxury sport vehicles, the original X3 wasn’t particularly luxurious or sporty. But as the years have passed, nearly 10 in total, the X3 has evolved into a reasonable little ‘ute – highly prized amongst the young scions of America’s upper class.

After a full weekend behind the wheel, logging a few hundred miles, the X3 seemed to have become something more appreciable. The vehicle zipped through and hugged the curves of Chicago’s endless suburbia, tackling all obstacles. Nevertheless, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: this was a car which costs at least 25% more than it should.

The test vehicle was a 2012 X3 xDrive28i. BMW also offers the xDrive35i, but the sticker jumps from $38,500 to $43,600. On paper, the smaller engine 28i supposedly has plenty of get-up-and-go. The company suggests a 0 to 60 time of 6.6 seconds. Unfortunately, the tester car felt a lot slower than that, struggling to launch while entering the highway or passing a fellow motorist, which isn’t too surprising when you add an all-wheel drive system to the CUV’s 8 speed automatic transmission that features gear ratios optimized for smoothness and fuel efficiency. In short, the X3 can hop off the line at a stop light but prefers to stroll once at speed.

And although the X3 has an incredibly smooth 8 gear automatic transmission, fuel efficiency is below average for the field – 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 highway. This is a vehicle which costs, at least, $12,000 more than a new Subaru Outback but has worse gas mileage, more sluggish high speed responsiveness, less practical storage space, and a user interface which could confuse even the most highly-trained fighter pilot.

Don’t get the wrong idea. The 2012 X3 is a blast to drive, making short work of twists and turns, but drivers should expect to pay a pretty penny for certain intangibles. If a potent nameplate, over engineered interior controls, and an astoundingly comfortable steering wheel are your thing, the X3 is a car you might be able to justify spending some extra cash on. But for everyone else, this is not a car which prizes substance over form.

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