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2009 BMW X3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 BMW X3 was new.


Performance: 8.6

The majority of test drivers are very pleased with the BMW X3's performance, which offers plenty of power and pleasantly sporty handling.

  • "The steering is simply the best, the engine is joyous to use, the suspension is nimble and the brakes are effective." -- Edmunds 
  • "Responsive and carlike in any driving condition. Generally good steering feel, but some testers complain effort is too heavy at low speeds. Tight turning radius a help in close quarters. Good brake pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Like BMW's cars, the X3 offers top-notch road manners. Some may find the steering wheel too difficult to turn, but its heavy rotations render spot-on directional control." -- Cars.com

Acceleration and Power

For the most part, critics feel the engine in the BMW X3 offers plenty of power. It comes with a 3.0-liter, 260-horsepower inline-six with either a six-speed manual transmission (unique in this class) or a six-speed automatic. According to the EPA, automatic models achieve 17/24 mpg city/highway, while manual models achieve 16/23 mpg.

  • "It has crisp initial throttle response and acceleration that builds and builds the deeper you plant your foot." -- Car and Driver
  • "Engine makes a classy growl while accelerating, is muted while cruising." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The X3 power plant delivers spirited power over the majority of its rpm range, while the transmission's gearchanges seem positively caffeinated in their eagerness. It's a bright, responsive pairing." -- Edmunds
  • "We drove only the 3.0i, which, with either transmission, had punch aplenty for merging onto the Costa del Sol's autovias and chasing goats through narrow mountain switchbacks." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The standard manual transmission is one of the best stick shifts on the market, moving between ratios with a well-weighted accuracy. But BMW USA's prediction that more than 95 percent of buyers will opt for the smooth-shifting six-speed autobox sounds on the money to us." -- AutoWeek

Handling and Braking

Test drivers find the X3 to be an extremely competent vehicle on the road, handling and braking in a manner that is consistent with BMW's other products -- sporty and firm-riding.

  • "Its 260 horsepower is less than that of most rivals, and its ride is slightly stiff-legged, though last year's suspension tweaks create a somewhat softer ride than with previous models." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Sporty and firm even with base suspension, but bumps are absorbed without undue harshness or unwanted body motions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The optional Servotronic steering is flat-out wonderful. It's speed-sensitive, adding more assist at low speeds, and invisibly altering the steering ratio, so the car turns more with less steering input. Parallel-parking is a breeze, as are quick, mid-block U-turns." -- Automotive.com
  • "Its suspension is tuned to tackle long stretches at speed or twists and turns with pinpoint precision and agility." -- Chicago Tribune

All-Wheel Drive

The 2009 X3 features a standard xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD) system, which electronically varies front-to-rear torque and traction control to optimize grip. However, the X3 AWD is not considered by most testers as a serious off-road system, rather an excellent system for on-road foul weather and for modest off-road excursions. 

  • "With limited ground clearance and all-season tires, the X3 has few off-road aspirations but one of the best all-weather all-wheel-drive systems on the market." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Beyond the pure performance numbers -- where the X3 simply runs away from the [Land Rover] LR2 -- the BMW is a much more engaging vehicle to drive every day, and it also dispatches all but the roughest terrain with surprising agility." -- Edmunds
  • "BMW insists that the X3 AWD system is meant for on- or off-road use but, without a low setting, we'd probably skip any Baja adventure." -- Chicago Tribune

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