Built for Curves

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. The meaty steering wheel has minimal numbness when pointing straight ahead — a place where responsiveness goes slack in many vehicles — and the setup yields more road feel than many cars, let alone SUVs, impart.

The suspension is tuned for handling, so the ride can feel brittle at times. The payoff comes on curvy roads, where body roll is minimal. Cornering over rough surfaces reveals an impressively flat ride, with the 17-inch wheels glued to the road. Many SUVs and even some cars come undone over the same surfaces, skittering sideways as their wheels dance over each bump. The optional Sport Package, which wasn't on my test car, includes bigger wheels and a tighter suspension. Expect even better cornering but a harsher ride.

The X3's brakes are surefooted at their limits, though the pedal is on the grabby side. After a week's driving, I had grown used to it and was able to make smooth stops.

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