Ride & Handling

One of my lasting memories of the prior-generation X3 was its extremely firm ride, which led to a choppy driving experience on rough roads. It was disappointing, to say the least, because BMWs often strike an impressive balance between decent ride comfort and top-tier handling. In the old X3, such comfort was nowhere to be found.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the new X3, and the experience is significantly better. The redesigned X3's suspension is much more forgiving on potholed pavement Ч much the same way a 3 Series is Ч but maintains the balanced handling that earns BMW respect in enthusiast circles. Toss the X3 into a corner, and after some initial body roll it steadies itself and gives you confidence to go faster. There's no getting around the fact that the X3 isn't as rewarding to drive as are BMW's cars Ч its taller stance degrades the driving experience Ч but it's one of the most fun-to-drive compact luxury crossovers available today.

Contributing to the driving experience is the X3's standard rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive. The system does a good rear-wheel-drive imitation when accelerating out of a corner; the X3 squats a little over its outside rear wheel and holds the line it's on.

There was a time when you could bulk up your forearms just by commuting in a BMW, but today they have much more power-steering assistance, resulting in lighter, easier steering; driving up and down the spirals of a parking garage is a breeze. While this comfort-oriented nature may draw scorn from BMW purists, it's the right choice for a luxury crossover.

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