2007 BMW X3 3.0si First Drive
Three years ago, the BMW X3 was a novelty: a compact luxury SUV with impeccable handling. we liked it but we didn’t love it. Now newcomers like the Land Rover LR2, Acura RDX, and upcoming VW Tiguan come surprisingly close to matching what we remember most enjoying about the Baby Bimmer: gifted handling, abundant luxury, premium brand cachet—and they do. at prices that undercut the x3. Hmm. it’s time to give the bimmer a new look.
and something new we found. Technically, a revamped thing. For 2007, BMW gave its cute Ute a significant update, inside, out, and under the hood. but what remained to be seen was how far these changes would go to ingratiate us with the x3 to the point where we could actually love it, not just accept it. Also, would they help justify the ever-increasing price of the x3?
Reading: 2007 bmw x3 review car and driver
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well, it looks better. or at least something better. Now that every other BMW, including the larger, all-new X5, has embraced “flame surface” proposals, the X3’s wedged, angular flanks look even more dated than when the X3 was introduced for the 2004 model year. But there have been improvements. The new bumpers are no longer the masses of black plastic that made early X3s look as high-end as a base Kia Sportage. Out back, the messy taillights have been cleaned up nicely. Up front, the grille slats are now a sporty silver hue, and with the option of xenon headlights comes BMW’s now ubiquitous “crown ring” glasses. That’s better than nothing, we suppose.
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Inside, the updates are subtle but effective in increasing the perceived quality of the cabin. Previous X3 interiors never felt up to par with other BMWs, but that’s not the case anymore. Softer-to-the-touch materials and a fair amount of lustrous wood trim compellingly dress things up, though BMW’s button-heavy ergonomics are maintained. the navigation system is a joke, making us almost wish for idrive.
on the plus side, our x3 came with the $800 (and worth every penny) comfortable seats, which feature no fewer than 16 ways of adjusting, including separate upper-back angle adjustment, as well as three memory configurations. even better is the standard two-row, two-panel panoramic moonroof that bathes the cabin in natural light.
As always, we appreciate the impressive interior design that provides a near-perfect driving position while offering rear passengers the kind of legroom they might expect in a larger one-size ute. The leather upholstery was upgraded from last year’s mediocre “Montana” leather to a higher quality “Nevada” leather. And as always, the 71 cubic foot cargo area (with rear seats folded) gets a gold star as one of the most spacious of all compact SUVs.
the 3.0si engine: valvetronic and 260 horsepower
Best news of all for the 2007 X3 is the installation of BMW’s lovely 3.0-liter inline-six in the form of an “if.” This engine differs from last year’s 3.0i by a magnesium-aluminum composite block and the installation of BMW’s innovative Valvetronic variable valve lift system, which meters intake air so precisely that the conventional throttle body is bypassed. completely once the vehicle warms up. Horsepower increases to 260 at 6,600 rpm, and torque increases to 225 pound-feet at 2,500 rpm, compared to the 3.0i’s 225 horsepower and 214 pound-feet. We have enjoyed this engine in all BMWs so equipped. it has crisp initial throttle response and acceleration that builds and builds the more you put your foot down.
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The x3 is available with a six-speed manual transmission (unlike the new x5) or a six-speed three-mode automatic transmission as a no-charge option. Our test vehicle came with the latter, and upshifts felt quick and decisive, particularly in Sport mode, bringing the shift points almost where we’d put them. kickdowns, however, were often delayed. We would have spent more time using manual mode to manually shift if sport mode wasn’t as good as it is. Maybe if it came with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, like the Z4 3.0si, the story might be different.
The only other minor disappointment was with the engine speed sensitive variable power steering, which felt a bit sluggish just off center. Other than that, though, the steering feel was meaty and communicative, and the rest of the chassis was flawless. Gone is the pitiful ride quality of the previous models, reminding us of when our older brothers took us sledding on the sidewalk, without snow. However, it wasn’t lost on us how BMW left the optional Sports Package out of this particular test vehicle, an equipment group that features more aggressive suspension tuning, attractive 18-inch wheels and low-profile tires. As it turns out, despite leaving us with the less-appealing 17-inch wheels, the base setup is more than gifted at maintaining body control in all driving circumstances, making the Sport Package all but unnecessary. our advice: avoid it and upgrade the wheels if necessary.
oh yeah, there’s the money thing
skipping options is a good thing, considering that even without the sport package, our montego blue x3 came with a eye-popping sticker price of $47,975. Sure, it came with front and rear park distance control, navigation, cornering xenons, and a $2,500 premium package containing items like auto-dimming mirrors and HomeLink; But frankly, they should have been included in the X3’s $38,000 base price. Adding the sport package would have shot the price over the $50,000 wall. still, 48 grand for a x3? wow.
shortly after our first encounter with the x3 in January 2004, we wrote: “we like the idea of the x3 more than the car itself.” After three years and a major update, this still holds true. On paper (not counting the window sticker), the X3 3.0si is everything we’ve ever wanted in a vehicle like this. And in terms of driving dynamics, it’s a BMW through and through. Overall, though, it’s still pricey and still lacks the overall charisma we love in its big brother, the X5. And while the X3 can still drive rings, even crown rings, around some of its newer competition, it’s not much better than justification for the price.
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