Performance

For 2009, there's just one engine: a 3.0-liter six-cylinder that's good for 260 horsepower. It teams with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. All X3s have all-wheel drive. In our 2007 review, we thought the automatic's shift quality was imprecise and a bore. I also drove a family member's 2005 X3 and remember thinking the transmission wasn't the best. The 2009, however, shifted flawlessly and was much more enjoyable to drive around town. Power has never been a problem in the X3; even though we love BMW's twin-turbo six-cylinder, the X3's normally aspirated six is no slouch.

Steering is tremendously heavy and laborious, as is often the case in BMWs. While I appreciate such weighted steering in a performance car — and in the X3 when I'm driving at high speeds — I found it burdensome when navigating parking lots in this meant-for-the-suburbs SUV. That said, the steering is spot-on precise.

Ride comfort is a mixed bag. While highway driving was comfortable, the X3 hiccups around the pothole-strewn streets of Chicago and its suburbs at even the lowest of speeds. Believe it or not, this tester felt like an improvement compared with X3s I've driven in the past. I hopped into the XC60 after my X3 test week was over, and it had very similar road sensitivity. To my mind, the GLK350 is better in this regard. I haven't yet tested the Q5.

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