Drive Time: Sub-zero morning tests BMW’s new X3 |

Drive Time: Sub-zero morning tests BMW’s new X3

Bud Wells
For The Tribune

A three-dimensional grille adds to newness of the 2018 BMW X3.

Bundled appropriately early Tuesday morning, Jan and I backed the 2018 BMW X3 out of the garage and into the minus-6-degree cold, heading for Denver. As we crossed the South Platte River on Colo. 60 north of Platteville, the temp reading had dropped to minus-8. Snow and ice remained on the lesser-traveled roadways, though U.S. 85 on into Denver was fairly cleared.

Our drive ended out east off I-70 at the Manheim Denver auto auction facility, and temperatures soon climbed above zero. The dealer crowd I mingled with was smaller than normally, due, I'm sure, to the extreme cold.

The 2018 model, which went on sale barely more than a month ago, inaugurates the third-generation X3 for the German automaker. A three-dimensional, twin-kidney grille is out front, the compact-sized SUV rides on 19-inch Pirellis and power is from a twin-power turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.

The xDrive all-wheel drive marks the X3 as a competent handler in the snow and on the ice, yet retains the definite rear bias, for which BMW has long been known. Dynamic damper control enhances the rear-wheel bias.

Though BMW became an automobile manufacturer nearly 90 years ago, it has been over the past 40 years it has developed into a fierce luxury competitor of Mercedes-Benz.

While BMW's storied history is based in Germany, its X3 is tied to the U.S., built in Spartanburg, S.C. In fact, the X4, X5 and X6 are also assembled at the large South Carolina plant.

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The X3 3.0i's 248-horsepower (258 lb.-ft. of torque) 4-cylinder performs with low-range strength and yields efficient fuel averages; its EPA estimate is 22/29 miles per gallon. My overall average was 24.8. Throttle and shift responses are altered through choice of Eco, Comfort or Sport drive modes mixed with paddle shifters at the steering wheel.

Also available is an X3 4.0i version with a twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine and 8-speed transmission with launch control.

Extreme performance aside, the 2-liter Bimmer is the better buy, base-priced at $42,450. That swells to $57,620 with optional items, including M Sport brakes, panoramic moonroof, heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, navigation system, Harman Kardon surround sound, enhanced Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay compatibility and dark oak wood interior.

The crossover's head-up display is 75 percent larger this year, and for the first time on the X3, BMW offers a factory-installed trailer hitch with a 2-inch receiver.

The X3 is sized closely to the popular Audi Q5. At 185.9 inches in length and 112.8 in wheelbase, the BMW is 2 inches longer than the Audi and about 100 pounds heavier. The X3 has a slightly larger cargo space at the rear.

Other luxury compact SUVs and crossovers include the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Volvo XC60, Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC, Acura RDX, Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC and Buick Envision.

— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at