With the 2011 X3, BMW is hoping to fully make amends. This redesigned X3 is about the same size as the first-generation model but features notable mechanical revisions. Under the more dynamic looking sheet metal is a redesigned suspension that softens the stiff ride of its predecessor. The X3 is still plenty taut and inspired in corners, aided by all-wheel drive, but now provides a more compliant ride. An optional adaptive suspension allows the driver to select from three different modes calibrating suspension, throttle, transmission and stability control settings.
This year also brings a second trim level to the lineup. The xDrive28i ostensibly replaces last year’s xDrive30i, and offers slightly less power, but also a slimmer entry fee. The xDrive35i, with its turbocharged, 300-horsepower six-cylinder engine, is the target to which to aspire. Both models get a new eight-speed transmission, which rows through gears in a quiet fury to reach cruising speed. And when you need maximum acceleration in an instant, the transmission can drop from 8th to 2nd gear in a single direct snap, bypassing the gears in between.
Overall, BMW’s refinements make the X3 a prime contender in the small luxury crossover SUV segment. But it’s not without peer. The Infiniti EX35, for instance, drives with similar power and agility. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is less athletic, but feels more solid. The 2011 Audi Q5 is smoother around the edges, while the 2011 Volvo XC60 is more family-friendly. As you’ve probably gathered, each of these others offers a slightly different take on what a luxury crossover should be. But if you want one with performance leanings, the 2011 BMW X3 is a fine pick.