Skip to main content

Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

BMW X3

Stepping into BMW's X3 from the X1, you immediately notice a size increase. The 2013 X3 is actually close to the same size as the first-generation X5, from 14 years ago. Our X3 test mule came with the smaller 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four instead of the turbocharged inline-six found in the already-discussed X1. Power is only down about 60 hp, but the tradeoff yields better city fuel economy.

In comparing past generations, that 2.0-liter turbo engine replaces the 3.0-liter inline-six from previous years, making identical power. Not all of the changes go over smoothly, though. BMW equipped the X3 it submitted with engine start-stop capability that we weren’t particularly fond of. When you're stopped, the motor shuts off. Then, when you press the gas pedal, it fires back up and you're on your way. It's not a transparent technology, though. The stop and then start is very noticeable because the engine shudders a bit as it shuts off and then fires back up.

Luckily, turning this "feature" off was as simple as putting the X3 into sport mode, yielding a side-effect of improved shift points from the eight-speed automatic transmission. The X3 employs the same xDrive AWD system as the X1, experiencing the same oversteer sensation before sending power to the front wheels. As you might expect, the turbocharged four-cylinder is adequate, but certainly not as fun as the bigger six-cylinder. With that said, the X3 is still an enjoyable crossover.

The X3 employs a similar infotainment setup as the X1, utilizing the same control knob we like so much. Functionality was largely the same, so we didn't spend too much time reconfirming that the same features worked.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 BMW X3
Trim levelxDrive28i
Engine3.0 L BMW TwinPower inline-six (N55B30)
TransmissionEight-speed Steptronic automatic
DrivetrainxDrive
InfotainmentBMW iDrive Navigation
Notable featuresEngine start-stopRear-view cameraPark distance controlBMW Assist with BluetoothBMW AppsServotronic vehicle speed-sensitive power steering
Fuel economy21 city, 28 highway, 24 combined MPG
MSRP$52,345
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply